Federal Judge Needs Evidence Louisiana Prison Gets Extra Hot in July

Judge denies preliminary injunction that would protect death row inmates from extreme heat. Says he needs more evidence

By Brentin Mock Jul 03, 2013

A federal judge denied a preliminary injunction filed by attorneys for death row inmates in Louisiana’s notorious Angola state penitentiary who are suing the prison for subjecting the prisoners to cruel and unusual punishment due to extreme heat conditions there. The Promise of Justice Initiative attorneys were simply asking for Angola prison officials to control temperatures to more tolerable levels. In 2011, the heat index rose as high as 195 degrees.

The judge’s denial of having the prison turn up the fans is temporary, and contingent upon the attorney’s bringing him evidence that the prison will, in fact, get unbearably hot this month. Judge Brian Jackson asked the inmates’ lawyers and prison officials to record temperature data from inside the facilities over the next three weeks.  

Lawyers for the prison said heat complaints were "not scientifically valid," according to a Nola.com report, and based on "generally incompetent evidence." 

On death row, the inmates, who all have hypertension, remain in cells for 23 hours a day experiencing dangerous and potentially life threatening heat conditions in the summer — this according to two experts on thermoregulation and environmental safety provided by the inmates’ attorneys. 

Federal courts have already ruled that extreme heat conditions count as cruel and unusual punishment, as seen recently in lawsuits successfully filed against Texas prisons. It’s also a matter of fact that American cities that currently suffer heat waves are expected to suffer even more of them, and at higher intensities, throughout the century according to the best available climate change information.