A federal lawsuit has been filed demanding that Texas taxpayers shell out potentially hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars to retrofit all of the state's prison units with air conditioning, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Jeff Edwards, an attorney who represents four convicts in the Wallace Pack Unit near Navasota, which is northwest of Houston, says inmates have died and have been seriously sickened by conditions which he describes as 'like living in your attic' during the summertime.
He says the state knows that the situation amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, but has failed to act.
"They've made a choice to keep inmates in danger," he said. "They know people have died, and they know people have suffered from heat cramps and heat exhaustion. They know this."
Edwards pointed out that Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials made the decision to install air conditioning in a hog barn it is buildings on a prison farm near Huntsville, but won't air condition the prisons.
"If you ask a Texan, should a 69 year old man who is in jail for DWI be entitled to the same protections that a pig is granted, there is not a person in the entire state of Texas who would tell you, oh my gosh, no," he said.
Texas aid conditions hospital units, infirmaries, and offices at prison units, but generally does not air condition the cell blocks.
Officials say they provide fans, ice, and water to inmates.
The state has also been hit by suits by prison guards, claiming the cell blocks are too stiflingly hot for them to properly do their jobs.
The TDCJ says air conditioning existing prison units would be 'prohibitively expensive.'