State Prison Inmates Ask Judge to Order Prisons be Air Conditioned

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It's hot outside, but it's really hot in inside the state's maximum security prisons.

News Radio 1200 WOAI reports that as the mercury hits triple digits, a judge in Houston is hearing arguments in a case that claims the fact that the state's prisons are not air conditioned amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Gerald Treece, a Constitutional Law expert at the South Texas College of Law, says they have a point.

"If you have given up your liberty through the legal system, the government has a responsibility to provide you medical care," Treece said.  "It also has a responsibility to make sure that this heat doesn't cause heat stroke."

Treece says he expects the inmates to win the case.

"You've gotta have some air conditioning.  This is not the thirties or forties any more.  And I think there is a great deal of sympathy in the courts for this."

With the exception of medical units and facilities built for guards and administrators, none of the state operated prisons, even the newly-constructed ones, have air conditioning in the inmate areas.

If the judge rules in favor of the inmates, the real losers will be the taxpayers.  The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has repeatedly estimated that the costs of retrofitting the state's prison units, especially ones that are a century old, with air conditioning, with all of the ductwork necessary, would cost in excess of a billion dollars, and would probably require some sort of tax increase.

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