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Federal Court Says Texas Prisons Without Air Conditioning Violates Eighth Amendment

Monday, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a Texas case that extreme heat can violate prisoners' rights.

The case, which involved a 64-year-old former Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate suffered from hypertension and other medical ailments, claimed that the extreme heat the prisoners endured amounted to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

A federal court in New Orleans held that allowing an inmate to be "exposed to extreme temperatures can constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment." The case was remanded back to the district court for a new trial.

"This is a huge victory for all Texas prisoners," said Scott Medlock, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project's Prisoners' Rights Program. "Hopefully this decision will force TDCJ to reconsider housing prisoners in such dangerous conditions." 

TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark said agency officials had not reviewed the opinion and could not comment. 

Only 21 of the 111 TDCJ units are fully air-conditioned.  An additional 90 units are partially air-conditioned in the offices, medical and education areas but not in the housing areas.

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