Covering Louisiana

May 25, 2014 12:03 AM by AP

Judge orders Angola to implement immediately

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A federal judge has approved the state's plan to cool down death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

The Advocate reports Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson issued the order Friday. Jackson also ordered the immediate implementation of the plan, which includes installing air conditioning at the Angola prison.

Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde said in a statement that the agency will ask a federal appeals court to put Jackson's order on hold while it is appealed.

"Given the significant issues involved in this litigation which have far-reaching effects on many correctional institutions in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, the department intends to seek a thorough review of the trial court's decision with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals," Laborde said.

Jackson toured the Angola prison last summer and ruled in December that heat indexes recorded on death row amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Jackson mandated that heat indexes - or how hot it actually feels - not exceed 88 degrees on death row.

The state is appealing that Dec. 19 ruling.

In February, the state proposed lowering the summer heat 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.

Also Friday, Jackson appointed Lafayette civil lawyer Paul J. Hebert as special master to oversee the plan's implementation and monitor conditions on death row. Jackson said the state must record temperature, humidity and heat index data from each death-row tier every two hours from June 1 through Oct. 31 and report the data to Hebert weekly.

Hebert will report his findings to Jackson every 30 days, beginning July 1.

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