Covering Louisiana

Jun 6, 2014 10:07 PM by KATC

Appeals court halts Angola death row temp changes

A recent order by a federal judge in Baton Rouge requiring the state to immediately begin lowering the temperature at Louisiana State Penitentiary's death row was postponed Friday by a ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Advocate reports the decision means the state will not be forced to quickly implement a court-ordered plan to cool down the death row quarters at Angola until an appeals panel has had a chance to review U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson's decision.

Three death row inmates - Elzie Ball, 60; James Magee, 35; and Nathaniel Code, 57 - sued the state in June 2013 alleging that heat indices, or measurements of how hot it feels, on death row had reached 172 degrees last year and 195 degrees in 2011.

Jackson ruled in December that the sweltering conditions at the prison amounted to a constitutional violation of the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment in prisons.

In February, the state proposed lowering the temperatures inside death row by adding air conditioning, providing chests filled with ice and allowing inmates once-daily cold showers. The death-row tiers are only heated and ventilated.

The state is appealing Jackson's ruling, having said previously it could result in required changes at correctional facilities in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, and not just facilities that house death-row inmates.

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