Extreme Danger Zones

Last week the Mississippi newspaper, The Clarion Ledger, headlined ‘Miss. prisoners on death row lack air conditioning’. It states that in Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP), where Willie Manning is incarcerated, no temperature records have been kept since March last year, with the expiry of a decree that obliged the prison to keep a temperature log. The Clarion Ledger report confirms that the maximum temperature allowed at MSP is 85 degrees. Yet without monitoring it is impossible to know if this maximum has been exceeded.

In neighbouring Louisiana, a lawsuit has been brought by three death row inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, claiming that the extreme heat in their cells amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI) explains that:

“The injunction, supported by declarations from two experts on thermoregulation and environmental safety, alleges that prisoners on death row have been exposed to heat conditions reaching into what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration considers the “Danger” or “Extreme Danger” zones (making heatstroke increasingly likely and even imminent), every day for two months straight. Conditions often remain in that range for hours on end and into the night.”

Mercedes Montagnes, PJI lawyer, is quoted in an earlier press release:

“Because they are confined to these block cells, their ability to take any step to maintain their health is severely limited.”

If conditions have been similar at MSP the inmates, including Willie, must be relieved that summer is now at last drawing to a close.

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