CONDITIONS ON DEATH ROW: Inmates File Lawsuit Over Extreme Death Row Conditions

On June 10, three inmates on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola) filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Department of Public Safety and Corrections for “appalling and extreme conditions… as a result of extreme heat.” The inmates requested that jail officials address the unsafe conditions in the death row facility. According to the lawsuit, the conditions prisoners suffer each summer constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. The heat index on death row reached 195 degrees Fahrenheit on several occasions during the summer of 2011, and was above 126 degrees on 85 days between May and August. The lawsuit describes cell bars that are hot to the touch and inmates sleeping on concrete floor because it is slightly cooler than beds. During summer months, the showers provide no relief as the water temperature sometimes exceeds 115 degrees. Nilay Vora, a lawyer involved in the case, said, “We don’t expect prisons to be comfortable, but anyone who looked at these numbers or heard about the conditions would find them shocking, beyond what’s conscionable.”

(L. McGaughy, “Death row inmates sue Angola Prison over ‘extreme’ temperatures,” Times Picayune, June 10, 2013). See Death Row. Photo from Flckr by msppmoore.