‘The philosophy is if the heat don’t get you the arsenic will,” explains a former inmate from a Texas prison cited for arsenic in the drinking water.
Mint Press, an independent watchdog group, reports a federal judge ordered a Texas prison to stop poisoning inmates’ drinking water with arsenic. Well, they didn’t actually poison the water, but they’re not doing much to remove the arsenic either.
On June 21, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison gave prison officials 15 days to replace the arsenic-laden water supply at the Wallace Pack Unit, a minimum security facility northwest of Houston that houses mostly elderly and chronically ill inmates. In his decision, Ellison said the tainted water “violates contemporary standards of decency.”
A Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) spokesman told reporters they plan to appeal the ruling because of course, they do. And Texas prison officials insist the water is not “lethal or likely to cause harm,” because that’s how they roll.
“Not lethal?” But Gabrielle Banks from The Houston Chronicle begs to differ.
[t]he prison’s water currently registers between two and four-and-a-half times the amount of arsenic permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA].
Wow. Yet, according to the federal lawsuit, the TDJC recommends that prisoners drink two gallons of this arsenic-laden water per day on those “extremely hot days” that happen so often in Texas. Ooops.
Texas prison conditions are so appalling, they’ve been put on a UN watch list.
The United Nations concerns itself mostly with crises in desperately poor third-world nations run by brutal dictators. But, apparently, the beating heart of Republican America has attracted their attention. How embarrassing.
WFAA’s Brett Shipp reports conditions are so bad in Texas prisons the UN has put them on a watch list for human rights violations. Way to go, Texas. We’re right there with North Korea and Sri Lanka.
And here’s the kicker: The UN doesn’t even know about the prisoners who’ve been drinking arsenic-laced water the past decade. Seriously, WFAA reports the Texas prison in question has been cited by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) every single damned year for the past 10 years.
When it comes to Texas prisons, It’s not just the water, it’s everything else.
At Wallace Pack, the poisoned drinking water isn’t the only problem. As is true with most corrections facilities in the state, this Texas prison has no air conditioning. And air conditioning is a necessity here, where the temperature often climbs over 100 degrees F.
Keith Cole, the inmate who filed the lawsuit, told WFAA:
“It’s like you can’t breathe at all, you feel like you’re suffocating all the time, especially when it’s extremely hot.”
The recently released Ray Watson adds:
“When you open up a window, all you got is a jet blast of air coming through, the hot air coming in.”
Austin Attorney Jeff Edwards, who’s filed several lawsuits against TDCJ over the “inhumane and deadly conditions” of Texas prisons adds:
“It’s in the constitution. You do not have a right to treat someone who’s imprisoned in a cruel and unusual manner. And what’s cruel and unusual about subjecting them to extreme heat is that you can kill them.”
And he has a point. There were 14 heat-related deaths in the Texas prison system since 2005 — 10 in 2011 alone — and 21 asthma-related deaths since 2005.
Watch: This Texas prison refuses to remove arsenic from prisoners’ drinking water as ordered by a federal judge.
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