Louisiana judge blasts overheated prison for trying to hide ‘cruel and unusual’ conditions

By Scott Kaufman
Friday, December 20, 2013 12:28 EDT
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A federal judge in Louisiana ruled on Thursday that the living conditions in Louisiana’s infamous death row amount to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

United States District Judge Brian A. Jackson visited the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in August, he had issued an order prohibiting prison officials from altering the conditions of the prison prior to his visit. And yet, according to his ruling, prison officials “installed awnings over the windows [and] attempted to wet and/or mist the ceiling and/or outside walls [of the facility] using water hoses.”

Despite violating the court’s order, when Judge Jackson visited the facility on August 12, 2013, he found “that the walls of the housing tiers were hot to the touch, and that the security bars separating the cells from the tier walkway were very warm to the touch.”

The judge’s observations accorded with readings taking by United States Rick Management (USRM), which found that inmates “were subjected to heat indices as high as 110 degrees” for upwards of 10 hours a day.

Judge Jackson repeatedly chastised prison officials in his ruling, calling them out for both attempting to manipulate the USRM’s data collection and for lying about the conditions in the facility. “While the Court questions [Warden] Cain’s motivation for taking such actions for the first time during the Court ordered data collection period, it defies logic to conclude that he would have taken such action if he did not have knowledge of the heat conditions in the death row tiers.” He characterized the testimony of Warden Cain’s deputy, Angela Norwood, as “illogical and riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies.”

“For example,” Judge Jackson wrote, “despite instructing her subordinates to not tamper with the tier windows ‘to ensure accurate and consistent temperature recording[s],’ Norwood attempted to convince the Court that it ‘didn’t occur’ to her that the [prison's] installation of the window awnings and use of ‘soaker’ hoses may interfere with the data collection.”

Judge Jackson concluded by ordering the state to ensure that the temperature in the facility be reduced and maintained at 88 degrees.

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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