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Texas inmates dying of heat exposure, lawsuits filed

Inmates are at the mercy of guards when it comes to almost every aspect of their lives. From medical care to temperature control, inmates rarely have any say. A recent report shows that incarcerated individuals in Texas are being exposed to extreme heat conditions that are deadly. A recent report claims that a minimum of 14 inmates have died due to heat in the prisons since 2007. Wrongful death lawsuits have been filed in some prisoner deaths caused by heat exposure dating as far back as 1998.

The Human Rights Clinic Director at the University of Texas School of Law says that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has the responsibility of keeping prisoners safe while they are incarcerated due to the control the prisons exert over the inmates. He claims that the prison system knows extreme heat exposure is responsible for inmate deaths since 1998.

In a recent report, it was noted that cooling procedures for inmate cells aren't adequate in many cases, but the TDCJ does have cooling procedures for pig stables. A representative for the prison system says that there are indeed procedures in place for inmates, however. He says the prison provides ice water and fans, and he asserts that these are appropriate measures. There currently is no limit for how high the temperatures inside of Texas prisons can be. The report recommends that the prisons install air conditioners and that the temperatures in the housing areas be kept between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to the report, a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed for an inmate death caused by organ failure that was the result of heat exposure. Other lawsuits, some for wrongful death and others for heat exposure dangers, are also pending. For prisoners, relying on others to handle preventative medical issues can be difficult. Anyone who has a family member who died in prison because of heat exposure might have the right to seek compensation for their death.

Source: Huffington Post, "People Are Dying From The Heat In Texas Prisons: Report" No author given, Apr. 22, 2014

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