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Thousands of sweltering prisoners to be moved to air-conditioned units

In Houston, a federal judge approved moving more than one thousand prisoners to various private prisons that have air conditioning, reports the Texas Tribune.

 

The judge signed off on Texas' court-ordered proposal to move medically sensitive prisoners from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) Pack Unit, which has no air conditioner. The proposal was ordered in July following a judge’s ruling that air conditioning must be provided for vulnerable inmates. The judge also stated that TDCJ was "deliberately indifferent" to the risk of harm prisoners face at the scorching prison.

 

In Texas, almost 75 percent of prisons and state jails do not have air conditioning in prisoners’ living areas. Some prisons, including the Pack Unit, regularly reach above 100 degrees. Prisoners filed a class-action lawsuit against TDCJ that points to at least 23 heat-related deaths since 1998. The prisoners argue that housing should be kept at 88 degrees maximum.

 

The majority of these prisoners will be moved to the Diboll Unit, which is operated by Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private prison company. Others will be transferred to the Travis County State Jail. Two hundred other prisoners will be transferred to nine different units across Texas. Unfortunately, the transfer of prisoners means that some prisoners will be transferred from facilities with air conditioning to those without it, such as the Pack Unit.

 

Jeff Edwards, lawyer for the prisoners at the Pack Unit, believes the transfers could happen more quickly than the two to three weeks TDCJ planned. He also said that the case was not over, hopes to find relief for all prisoners and staff in the Texas prison system, not just at Pack Unit. "It’s our hope that [TDCJ] will join us in the 21st century."

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