AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced July 19 that he is disappointed in a federal judge’s decision to rule in favor of state inmates who sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) over summer heat conditions at the Wallace Park Unit northwest of Houston.
U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison granted a preliminary injunction that forces the TDJC to lower the temperatures in housing areas where heat-sensitive inmates reside to no more than 88 degrees.
The judge also ordered the TDJC to allow all inmates access to unlimited periods in air-conditioned respite areas. Not all plaintiff requests were granted, as the judge denied the request for a retrofitting of the unit with a permanent air conditioning system.
“The judge’s ruling downplays the substantial precautions TDCJ already has in place to protect inmates from the summer heat,” Paxton said.
“Texas taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars to pay for expensive prison air conditioning systems, which are unnecessary and not constitutionally mandated. We’ll appeal the decision and are confident that TDCJ is already doing what is constitutionally required to adequately safeguard offenders from heat-related illnesses.”