As the result of a 2013 lawsuit that alleged that just over a dozen inmates had been killed by extreme heat while serving their time in a Texas prison, the state is being ordered to release the number of heat-related deaths to the public.
U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison (no, not that one) has given the state 30 days to comply with the order.
Of course, thanks to false record-keeping and a desire to cover their own asses, Texas is likely to move around a few victims of the heat into other less terrible categories like “natural causes,” and “unknown.”
The lawsuit that brought this order about was a civil rights case which made the case that at least 13 inmates had died of heat-related deaths in the state since 2007. 11 of those were in 2011 alone during a major heat wave.
The cause of this is clear: in some facilities across the state, little to no air conditioning is provided, meaning that elderly or disabled inmates are exposed to extreme temperatures with little chance of relief. The lawsuit argues that that qualifies under “cruel and unusual punishment” and should be rectified.
In fact, in all but 30 of the state’s 109 prison facilities, there is at least some part of the prison that is not air conditioned.
Of course some would argue that air conditioning is not a required necessity for someone being punished in prison – but when we see individuals dying from the heat and lack of care, it is time to take action.
The first step is transparency, which the state will hopefully provide in the coming days so that the court system and the nation can fully grasp this quietly growing issue.