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Thread: Air conditioning rare on Death Row in Southern states

  1. #1
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010

    Air conditioning rare on Death Row in Southern states

    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.

    That decision prolonged a Texas civil suit filed by inmate Eugene Blackmon, who was not on Death Row.

    Blackmon complained that high temperatures at his prison represented a threat to his health because of his high blood pressure and medication that reduced his body’s ability to handle heat-related stress.

    A lower-court judge had dismissed Blackmon’s case before it could be decided by a jury.

    But the 5th Circuit — which rules on federal law disputes in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi — reversed that decision and returned the case to the lower court for trial.

    “Allowing a prisoner to be exposed to extreme temperatures can constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment,” the 5th Circuit said in its decision.

    Blackmon’s case was not tried, however. He and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reached an out-of-court settlement in January.

    Connie Durdin, an assistant with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s public information office, said Texas’ Death Row facilities have no air conditioning and no limitation on the heat index to which inmates can be subjected.

    In addition, Durdin said, Death Row officers do not maintain a temperature log.

    On July 24, in Galveston federal court, relatives of three deceased Texas inmates sued the department for the inmates’ alleged heat-related deaths. The suit contends those inmates’ former “prison housing areas are like an oven.”

    None of the three Texas inmates was serving time for a violent offense, according to the suit.

    In their response to the suit, officials said none of the three inmates was mistreated. They denied the department “failed to provide reasonable accommodations.” The case is pending.

    Death Row facilities in Mississippi also are not air conditioned, said Jasmine C. Cole, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

    “The maximum heat index allowed at both (Death Row) prisons is 85 degrees,” Cole added. “This rule is mandated by the prisons.”

    But no temperature logs are maintained on Death Row in Mississippi, Cole said. Temperature logs for the men’s Death Row at Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman were discontinued in March 2012, she said.

    No temperatures at the women’s Death Row at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl have been logged since a reading of 81 degrees was recorded on April 4, Cole said.

    Large floor fans are used at both Death Row prisons in an effort to keep the heat index below 85 degrees, Cole added.

    None of Alabama’s three Death Row prisons is air conditioned, said Brian Corbett, public information manager for the Alabama Department of Corrections.

    At the Florida Department of Corrections, Deputy Communications Director Misty Cash said Death Row is not air conditioned. As in Mississippi and Louisiana, Cash said, large fans are used in an effort to mitigate the heat.

    In Baton Rouge, Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson is expected to rule this summer on the suit filed by the Angola inmates.

    “There’s just no evidence” that Death Row temperatures are endangering the lives of inmates at Angola, Jacqueline B. Wilson, an attorney for Angola officials, told the judge last week.

    The three inmates who sued Louisiana in June are Elzie Ball, 60, James C. Magee, 35, and Nathaniel Code, 57.

    Magee was convicted for the April 2007 shotgun murders of his estranged wife, 28-year-old Adrienne Magee, and their 5-year-old son, Zach, on a street in the Tall Timbers subdivision north of Mandeville in St. Tammany parish.

    Ball has been on Death Row since August 1997 for the fatal shooting in 1996 of beer deliveryman Ben Scorsone during the armed robbery of a lounge in Gretna.

    And Code was convicted and condemned for the 1985 murders of four people at a house in Shreveport.

    Jurors decided Code drowned 34-year-old Vivian Chaney in her bathtub; stabbed and slashed to death Chaney’s 17-year-old daughter, Carlitha; and shot to death Vivian Chaney’s brother, Jerry Culbert, and her boyfriend, Billy Joe Harris.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  2. #2
    Senior Member Member Johnya's Avatar
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    I don't know about Louisiana, but in Alabama both the men's (Holman) and women's (Tutweiler) death row prisons have air conditioning in the medical area and administrative area. If a death row inmate was ill due to the heat, they would be taken to medical for observation where it is air conditioned. I'm thinking in particular the 60 y.o. and the man who takes medication making him "susceptible" to high temperatures.

    If any of these guys are native to the south, they should be used to it. A heat index of 110 is commonplace in the summer. You acclimate rather quickly and learn to drink lots of liquids.

    [NB: I'm sorry to go off-topic, but I am genuinely curious about women who are going through "The Change." I wonder how the women on death row or who are incarcerated who are in that situation handle the heat? I would feel more sorry for them than these three guys. But then again, I'm a woman. I'm biased on the subject.]

  3. #3
    Senior Member Member ted75601's Avatar
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    They need to get used to it. It will be much hotter when they get to where they're going once they have been executed.

  4. #4
    Passed away.
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    The Phog
    Ok, I am not a professional HVAC guy, but these certainly look like AC units at the DR section at Polunsky.

  5. #5
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Please direct all misinformation posts concerning this article to

    Bill Lodge


    but but but tpg it must be hot on TX DR.. remember they get oozy peanut butter sandwiches.
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  6. #6
    Senior Member CnCP Legend JimKay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tpg View Post
    Ok, I am not a professional HVAC guy, but these certainly look like AC units at the DR section at Polunsky.

    Maybe that's how they keep the sodium thiopental fresh.

  7. #7
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Miss. prisoners on death row lack air conditioning

    Death row inmates in Mississippi — along with those in most other Deep South states — don’t have air conditioning.

    A Tuesday report by The (Baton Rouge) Advocate says Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida have no air conditioning on death row. Arkansas has air-conditioned its death row since the late 1970s, the report says.

    “I’m glad to know that at least one state recognizes the need to treat prisoners like human beings,” Marjorie Esman, executive director of the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union, told The Advocate.

    In Mississippi, it’s not only death row inmates whose summer environments are controlled by little else than fans and an occasional draft. The only parts of the three state prisons that are air-conditioned are medical units, Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jasmine Cole said.

    Bear Atwood, legal director for the Mississippi ACLU, said the lack of air conditioning in Mississippi state prisons — not just on death row — is a problem.

    “I’ve been on a cell block in Parchman (when) it was 95 degrees,” Atwood said. “I’ve never been so hot in my life.”

    The Advocate report follows the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of three Louisiana State Penitentiary inmates claiming summer temperatures at Angola, La., where the prison is located, reached a heat index of 195 degrees in 2011, and of 172 in 2012. The article says a court filing shows actual temperatures ranged from 88 to 100 degrees. That lawsuit and other similar ones claim extreme temperatures violate the eighth amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

    Cole confirmed The Advocate’s report that the maximum heat index allowed at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, where male death row prisoners are housed, and Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County, where the state’s two female death row prisoners are housed, is 85 degrees.

    But Atwood said during her visit to Parchman in July 2011, the heat index measured 100. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to live like that.”

    In 2005, a Mississippi inmate filed a lawsuit, Presley v. Epps, against Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps similar to the Louisiana suit.

    The settlement of Presley v. Epps obligated administrators at Parchman to keep a temperature log, but the consent decree expired last year. Cole said because the consent degree expired, temperatures haven’t been recorded at Parchman since March 2012.

    At CMCF, temperatures are usually logged only in March and September, Cole said.

    Atwood said she finds it troubling that inmates are “living in tin boxes in the Mississippi summer heat and they’re apparently not keeping any temperature logs.”

    A number of readers who commented on The Clarion-Ledger’s online version of this article said they had no sympathy for the inmates.

    Tom Robinson, who said he is a former Meridian resident, said in an email he was not afforded air conditioning while on his first two aircraft carriers as a sailor in the Navy.

    “The ones in prison have chosen their lifestyle,” said Robinson, 63. “So I don’t care if they have air conditioning.”

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tpg View Post
    Ok, I am not a professional HVAC guy, but these certainly look like AC units at the DR section at Polunsky.

    I saw another article that says there's no AC on Texas death row and no maximum temperature limitation.

    I'd be surprised if inmates didn't die occasionally from that. There can't be much air circulation and east Texas summer heat is brutal.

    I wonder if those AC units aren't to keep guard stations cooled. Folks that haven't experienced 100 + degree heat with East Texas humidity might not realize what that could do to you. But you'd be sick as a dog at the end of the day, even drinking water non-stop.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Member High Desert Bill's Avatar
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    Jul 2013
    North West Arizona
    Air conditioning - swimming pools and ice cold beer rare on Death Row in all states

    What about the fact of no swimming pool on death Row in any state. How can we expect a condemned person to endure the summer heat without a great BBQ and ice cold beer pool side with fellow death row inmates??? The injustice of it all.................
    Last edited by High Desert Bill; 09-02-2013 at 10:19 AM.
    The inmate "could long ago have ended his anxieties and uncertainties by submitting to what the people have deemed him to deserve: execution."

  10. #10
    Senior Member Member nmiller855's Avatar
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    Apr 2011
    There's a thread on Prison Talk that complains about a building that houses the pigs having air conditioning but inmates can't have it. I wanted to post that the pigs haven't been convicted of any crimes but I don't want to get banned.

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