Tuesday, August 20, 2013

USA: Air conditioning rare on Death Row in Southern states

Louisiana Death Row
Triple-digit heat indexes experienced by three convicted murderers suing officials at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola are similar to the conditions endured by inmates on Death Row in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

But condemned prisoners in Arkansas have air conditioning, and prison policy calls for summertime cell temperatures ranging from 74 to 78 degrees in that state, according to prison officials.

“We started putting air conditioning in our older units in the late 1970s,” said Shea Wilson, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Wilson said all state prisons in Arkansas now have air conditioning for all inmates.

“I’m glad to know that at least one state recognizes the need to treat prisoners like human beings,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana.

The Death Row suit was filed by the New Orleans nonprofit The Promise of Justice Initiative on behalf of three Louisiana inmates.

According to the inmates’ suit, a heat index of 195 degrees was experienced on Death Row at Angola in 2011, and an index of 172 degrees occurred last year.

Angola Warden Burl Cain testified last week that prison officials believe inmates deliberately manipulated Death Row thermometers in ways that falsely enhanced temperature readings in past years.

Cain said he does not believe the super-high heat indexes are accurate.

Temperatures recorded at Angola in July and August 2011 “consistently ranged from 88 … to 100 degrees,” according to a court filing by Mercedes Montagnes, deputy director of the New Orleans nonprofit.

Actual temperatures generally are lower than heat indexes.

This year, court-ordered monitoring by an independent company revealed heat indexes as high as 110 degrees in July and early August, according to filings by inmate attorneys.

Such temperatures and heat indexes could violate the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, according to a July 30, 2012, decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 


Source: The Advocate, August 19, 2013