I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…
I´m so hot´n dry
Can´t you hear,
Can´t you hear me crying?
— Harry Belafonte
There were 16 executions in the state of Texas in 2013. But that’s not all the prisoners who died by state action last year. Last year, and every year since at least 2007, the state of Texas allowed a few more to be roasted alive.
A new report from the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law reveals that Texas wardens continue to expose inmates (and staff) to “dangerously high temperatures and extreme heat conditions” killing at least fourteen prisoners in the past six years and incapacitating hundreds more from heat-related injuries and illnesses. Many of these prisoners are serving time for nonviolent crimes. With heat indices sometimes reaching 150 degrees Fahrenheit-plus, all of them are victims of 8th Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.
Texas coroners reported that two of the inmates who died of heat stroke had body temperatures above 109 degrees Fahrenheit at the time of their deaths.
The report notes that not only is Texas’s failure to provide safe conditions a violation of the United States Constitution, but also of international human rights law.
Texas authorities defend the heat deaths, saying prisoners are given ice water during hard times. The prison guards’ union has joined with inmates to sue for a little air conditioning to go with the ice water.
Cruel and unusual? Not in Texas.