Judge Rules Texas Prison Unit Must Keep Temperatures Below 88 Degrees

Inmates housed in the state’s Pack Unit won a suit in which they cited the prison’s excessive heat. The prison isn’t required to provide air-conditioning, but must control excessive heat.

By Alexandra HartJuly 21, 2017 12:31 pm

Walking outside lately, you’ve probably noticed Texas’ triple-digit temperatures. For those living or working in some of the state’s prisons, going outside isn’t even required to feel the heat, because some units do not have air-conditioning. Inmates have sued to get some relief, and this week they were handed a victory of sorts.

Jennifer Laurin, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law who specializes in issues of civil rights and criminal justice, says heat-related deaths and illnesses prompted a group of prisoners from the Pack Unit in Navasota to bring a case against the state of Texas. Prisoners say the unbearable heat violates their Constitutional rights.

In his ruling, the federal district judge states the prison, which was built long ago, isn’t required to install costly air-conditioning. The judge set an upper temperature limit for the unit of 88 degrees, and his ruling specifically addressed  prisoners with medical conditions that could be worsened by excessive heat. The prison is required to adhere to the temperature limit and can do so through a variety of means, whether by installing air conditioning units or expanding facilities that already have air conditioning.

Written by Louise Rodriguez.