U.S. judge to decide if death-row inmates need air conditioning

Death row inmates in Louisiana State Penitentiary have been fighting for air conditioning since 2013

A U.S. District Judge is to decide if the state of Louisiana should be legally obliged to install air conditioning at Louisiana State Penitentiary to protect inmates who are awaiting execution from the stifling summer temperatures.

The state of Louisiana has been fighting the request to install air conditioning in its three-tier death row building since 2013. The request was made by three death row inmates with medical conditions, who complained that the souring temperatures in summer months are triggering their health issues.

Officials from the penitentiary claim that ice buckets, cold showers and electric fans are sufficient cooling methods for the death row inmates. However, in 2013, U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson decided in court that not providing sufficient temperature control technology for inmates was in breach of the Eighth Amendment.

In July 2015, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that inmates can be cooled efficiently enough without air conditioning.

The death row inmates fighting the state of Louisiana said that cold showers and fans are not good enough to protect them in the summer months. On May 12 this year, temperatures inside the prison reached 31C, but in the height of summer temperatures exceed 37C.

Judge Jackson spoke of his shock that the state of Louisiana had spent millions of dollars in legal costs and heat monitoring costs fighting the request, when it could have simply installed an air conditioning system in the death row building for less than $1 million.

Judge Jackson is to make a final decision following a hearing on June 15. If he rules in favour of the inmates, Louisiana State Penitentiary will be forced to install the air conditioning.

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