A Thousand Prisoners Are Getting Air Conditioning After A Judge Called Their Old Jail Unconstitutional

Our daily roundup of news headlines from across the state.

By Becky FogelAugust 4, 2017 11:31 am

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Texas says it will move 1,000 heat-sensitive prisoners to facilities with air-conditioned housing areas to comply with a judge’s order.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to come up with a way to cool down the Wallace Pack Unit to at least 88 degrees.

That prison – which is in Navasota, about an hour North of Houston – primarily houses elderly inmates.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Pack Unit prisoners testified in court about heat-induced vomiting and passing out when temperatures surged past 100 degrees.

Judge Ellison found the lack of relief from these searing temperatures amounted to “cruel and unusual punishment,” but Ellison stopped short of ordering the state to install air-conditioning at the facility.

The TDCJ ultimately decided the solution was to temporarily move inmates to the Travis State Jail in Austin and a correctional center in Diboll. The state submitted its plan to a federal court in Houston Thursday.

In a statement, the TDCJ says “adding temporary air conditioning in a prison not built for AC would be costly and it’s unknown whether untested equipment would bring the heat index to the level required by the court.”

Ellison will review the plan in a court hearing next week.

Applause broke out in the Texas House yesterday as members approved a bill that is not on the special session agenda Gov. Greg Abbott set.

State representatives voted unanimously to temporarily restore funding to a program that provides at-home therapy for young children with developmental delays and disabilities. They paid for it by taking $70 million out of the governor’s disaster relief grants.

Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, was one of the authors of House Bill 25.

“We are ending up doing the right thing,” she said. “At the end of the day we all do want to make sure these therapy rates are restored.”

Gov. Abbott’s spokesperson John Wittman says once the House and Senate pass all 20 items on the Governor’s agenda, he’ll be happy to consider adding other items to the call.

If you’re planning to spend part of your weekend watching home improvement shows like HGTV’s “Flip or Flop,” you should know that flipping can be a risky business.

But the least risky place to flip a house is apparently in Texas.

The finance website WalletHub found that El Paso is the best place to revamp a home.

Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst, says El Paso topped the list of 150 American cities for several reasons. “Renovation and remodeling costs are some of the lowest in the country,” she says. “A bathroom would cost somewhere around $5,000 – typically a bathroom costs three times that to remodel. A kitchen is more like $10,000 on average to remodel. Again, on average that’s more like $20,000. So all of these things are substantially lower in El Paso, and part of the main reason there is that construction is a lot cheaper to come by as well as contractors.”

The next highest Texas city on the list for house flipping success was Lubbock.