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After Lengthy Lawsuit, This Texas Prison Is Finally Getting Air Conditioning

“I never dreamt we’d get the Pack Unit air-conditioned,” the federal judge said at a Houston hearing.

“This is a new day in Texas prison history.”


With those words Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison ended a years-long lawsuit over prison heat conditions and finalized a settlement proposal that includes permanently installing air conditioning at the Wallace Pack prison southeast of College Station.


In 2014, several inmates at the prison sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice over the lack of air conditioning, citing nearly two dozen prisoners who died from heat stroke in the last two decades and temperatures at the unit which routinely exceeded 100 degrees. Of Texas' more than 100 state prisons and jails, nearly 75 percent are uncooled in inmate housing areas.


For years, the state fought back against the suit, claiming it took adequate measures to deal with the sweltering Texas summers, like providing ice water and fans. But their arguments didn’t sway Ellison, who issued a sharp ruling last year, saying the department was deliberately indifferent to the harm it was causing inmates and ordering the state to place medically vulnerable inmates in air conditioned units. 

Natalie previously covered immigrant communities and environmental justice as a bilingual reporter at CityLab and CityLab Latino. She hails from the Los Angeles area and graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in English literature.
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