State Prison System Proposes Moving Inmates From Pack Unit In Grimes County

State Prison System Proposes Moving Inmates From Pack Unit In Grimes County”

The proposal is part of the state's 12-page response to a federal judge's order for a plan to spare "heat sensitive" inmates from sweltering conditions inside a Southeast Texas prison.

The judge's order, resulting from a lawsuit by six inmates who argued the intense heat at the Pack Unit threatened their health and violated their constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment, covered hundreds of the unit's almost 1,500 inmates who already have a variety of health conditions or are at least 65 years old.

Wallace Pack Unit prison recorded indoor temperatures upward of 88 degrees, and 1,000 of its inmates who are deemed "heat sensitive" will be moved to cooler facilities. Previously, Texas required temperatures to be kept between 65-85 degrees, but with 80 percent of inmates living without A/C, the regulation is often weather dependent.

Ellison said last month that the prison system was "deliberately indifferent" to the heat risks. The ruling is only valid through October as the underlying lawsuit remains in appellate court.

Prison system officials argued they provide inmates with showers, fans and ice water, other ventilation, unlimited rest periods in air-conditioned areas and education concerning heat precautions. Ellison also pointed out that his ruling wasn't ordering cooling for the entire prison or even the areas where the medically sensitive prisoners are now housed. On Thursday, it was in the mid-90s with a heat index of more than 100.

Other options were considered but determined not to be practical or their effectiveness could not be guaranteed.

It is possible to temporarily transfer these offenders but it is not sustainable in the long term because of the lack of required infrastructure. Ellison also called for a prison heat wave policy to determine what should be done and when in the event of extreme temperatures and a fix to the prison's "respite area" program. In the court filing, the state also swears that it'll make some posters to educate inmates about hear-related illnesses and remind them to go to that air conditioned room every once in a while.

Texas said for temporary relief, it would tape mesh screens to the outside of the existing metal screens on windows to protect against insects.

State officials have said they plan to appeal the ruling, but in the meantime, they have to comply with the injunction.

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