Texas transfers from hot prison OK’d
A federal judge who found that the oppressive heat at a Texas prison threatened the health of many of the inmates has agreed to the state’s plan to temporarily move about 1,000 prisoners to cooler lockups.
U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison ruled last month that the conditions inside the Wallace Pack Unit amount to cruel and unusual punishment, and ordered that inmates with certain health conditions or who are at least 65 years old be transferred or housed elsewhere in the prison where temperatures don’t exceed 88 degrees.
The heat index inside the prison about 65 miles northwest of Houston sometimes exceeds 100 degrees. Six inmates filed the lawsuit.
While Ellison didn’t require that the Pack Unit, built in 1983, be air conditioned, state officials said installing temporary cooling would be cost-prohibitive and couldn’t guarantee a temperature that would comply with the judge’s mandate.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice proposed housing the inmates in climate-controlled state prisons in Austin and Diboll until the summer heat subsides.
Ellison endorsed the plan at a court hearing Tuesday, and state attorneys said the transfers would take about three weeks and begin before daybreak today.
For Pack Unit inmates considered healthy and not subject to transfer, Ellison has ordered managers to develop a heat wave policy and install screens for open windows to keep out insects.