Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) July 14, 2021 – A recent news story revealed that Texas prisons are hot and deadly. According to state Representative Terry Canales, “… we are cooking people in prisons.”
Currently, roughly 70 percent of prisons in Texas do not have air-conditioning in the living areas. Over the last ten years, 13 men have died of heatstroke while in prison. Hundreds of other prisoners and guards regularly get sick when prison temperatures rise to over 100 degrees.
Texas has passed a bill that will require all Texas prisons to be cooled over the next seven years. The costs for the updates are to be capped at $300 million.
This debate began in 2017 when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stated that, “Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars to pay for expensive prison air conditioning systems.” Instead, the state spent millions in legal skirmishes while declining to install air-conditioning.
Over the years, Texas Democrats have proposed measures to require state prisons to have cooling systems. But legislators have balked at the costs.
The overheating problem continued and culminated in 10 prisoners dying in the 2011 summer heatwave. Said Rep. Canales: “I think we have a don’t give a damn problem.”
In 2021, Canales introduced House Bill 1971 to install air-conditioning in increments over two-year periods. Although the Bill was introduced and overwhelmingly passed the Texas House with bipartisan support, the Bill died in the Senate. As a result, the only way to protect those prisoners who are killed or hurt by the lack of air conditioning remains through the civil justice system, including wrongful death claims for the families of those who die.
“Wrongful death lawsuits are difficult for everyone involved, no matter what the circumstances,” indicated Austin wrongful death attorney Brooks Schuelke. A plaintiff filing such a claim may seek compensation for actual and exemplary damages.
Actual damages include mental anguish and emotional pain and suffering due to the death of a loved one. Financial losses include the loss of the deceased’s earning capacity; loss of their counsel; advice, support and services; loss of inheritance; and loss of the benefits of companionship, comfort and love.
“Exemplary damages may be recovered in a wrongful death claim when the individual’s death was the result of a defendant’s gross negligence, omission or as a result of a willful act,” Schuelke outlined. “When it comes to deaths in prison due to overheating, it is possible there may be an argument that not providing cooling was a willful omission and/or gross negligence.”
Schuelke Law PLLC
3011 N. Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78705
Call (512) 476-4944
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