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Four Texas prison inmates die due to extreme heat

The Texas Civil Rights Project and a Texas lawyer have filed wrongful death suits on behalf of four prison inmates who died of heat stroke while incarcerated. All four men, who were serving time for nonviolent crimes, had known medical conditions that made heat a greater threat.

According to the report, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) knowingly put the men at risk by housing them in locations with high temperatures. According to a family member of one of the victims, the victim had not been feeling well the week before his death. The victim described the prison as being extremely difficult to live in due to the heat.

Many of the TDCJ facilities were built before air conditioning units were commonly installed. Many newer facilities skip installing the air conditioning due to the cost. While TDCJ officials would not comment on the pending litigation, they did state that the authorities are committed to the safety of all inmates and staff during the extreme heat. The TDCJ does not believe that tax payers would agree to pay for retrofitting the prisons with air conditioning units. However, the medical, psychiatric and geriatric units do have air conditioning.

This is only one of several lawsuits facing the TDCJ. Last year, another inmate had perished due to heat-related complications. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled last year that extreme heat conditions can violate prisoner's rights.

A wrongful death occurs when an individual is killed due to someone else's negligence. An experienced Texas attorney may be able to help the families of the victims obtain compensation that can help pay for funeral services and for financial stability while they grieve for their loved ones. Under Texas law, compensation can be awarded to the spouse, children or parents of the deceased.

Source: The Texas Tribune, "Inmate Families Sue Over Heat-Related Prison Deaths", Elizabeth Koh, June 13, 2013

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