Texas inmates offered cold water, showers

State is under excessive-heat warning

July 20, 2018 - 6:20 pm

Texas prison officials are offering cold water, cold showers and opportunities to cool off in air-conditioned chapels and offices to thousands of inmates in lock-ups without central air-conditioning in a wide swath of the state under an excessive-heat warning.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel says the policy was expanded statewide for the first time in the agency's history on Friday.

The measures come after a class-action settlement in May filed by six inmates who contended the oppressive heat at the Wallace Pack Unit in southeast Texas was unconstitutionally cruel punishment.

A federal judge ruled last summer the nation's largest prison system was "deliberately indifferent" to the heat risks at the Pack unit. The settlement ordered the agency to come up with a plan to keep the heat index there no higher than 88 degrees.

Including Pack, Texas has 29 air-conditioned prisons. Another 75 are either partially cooled or have no cooling. About one in five beds overall are considered air-conditioned. Texas has about 145,000 inmates.

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