Judge Says Texas Must Provide Safe Drinking Water to Inmates

Poisoned-waterA federal judge ordered the Texas prison system to provide safe drinking water that doesn't violate "contemporary standards of decency" to inmates in a Texas prison.

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison gave the Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota, Texas 15 days to replace the water supply for prisoners.

A lawsuit filed by a group of inmates in 2014 alleges prisoners are kept in conditions that are inhumane enough to violate the U.S. Constitution's protections against cruel and unusual punishment  with exposure to extreme heat and arsenic contaminated drinking water.

Judge Ellison wrote the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has been deliberately indifferent to the ongoing risk inmates at the unit face from prolonged exposure to extreme heat and from having to drink arsenic-laden water in order to reduce the risk from the heat.  The drinking water at the unit tested 2 to 4 1/2 times the amount of arsenic permitted by the EPA.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice claims the water is safe to drink according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

TDCJ has refused to pay to extend a water line from the city of Navasota to the Pack unit, preferring to use well water they knew was contaminated.  A filtration system was installed in 2007 which constantly breaks down for days or months at a time. 

The Wallace Pack Unit is a low-security facility that hold 1,400 mostly elderly and sick inmates.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice plans to appeal the ruling