Louisiana no longer needs to provide air conditioning to its inmates on death row, a federal appellate court ruled Wednesday, July 8 — however, three inmates who claimed the extreme heat in their cells make them more susceptible to heat-related illness will get some form of relief.
According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled against the three inmates, all of whom are convicted killers, who claimed the triple-digit temperatures of their cells violated the Eighth Amendment.
While the court agreed with the state of Louisiana that prisons shouldn’t be obligated to give air conditioning to every death row inmate, as air conditioning is “unnecessary to correct the Eighth Amendment violation,” the court did argue that extreme temperatures qualified as cruel and unusual punishment.
As a result, the three plaintiffs will be able to receive relief from the sweltering heat in any of a number of ways. These could include diverting cool air from the guards’ office into their cells; allowing the inmates access to cool showers or providing adequate amounts of ice-cold drinking water at all times.
These remedies should only be made available to inmates with documented medical problems, the 5th Circuit’s ruling stated.
For most Americans, air conditioning is a luxury that has slowly become a necessity over the years. Today, approximately two in three homes across the U.S. have air conditioning installed in order to keep indoor temperatures regulated. Studies have shown that an ideal room temperature should hover around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Elzie Ball, 60, Nathaniel Code, 57, and James Magee, 35, originally sued the state in 2013, saying their living conditions on death row were unconstitutional. Their suit alleged that the heat indexes — the measurement of hot hot it feels — in their cells had reached 172 degrees in 2012 and 195 degrees in 2011. However, evidence presented in court proved that the heat indexes of these cells never reached temperatures higher than 108 degrees.
All three have health conditions that can be exacerbated by high temperatures, such as diabetes and hypertension, NOLA.com reported.
In a statement following the ruling, the Louisiana Department of Corrections noted that the plaintiff’s attorneys have declined to accept the proposed heat remedies for their clients.