Texas inmates offered cold water, showers
Texas prison officials are offering cold water, cold showers and opportunities to cool off in air-conditioned chapels and offices to thousands of inmates in lock-ups without central air-conditioning in a wide swath of the state under an excessive-heat warning.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel says the policy was expanded statewide for the first time in the agency's history on Friday.
The measures come after a class-action settlement in May filed by six inmates who contended the oppressive heat at the Wallace Pack Unit in southeast Texas was unconstitutionally cruel punishment.
A federal judge ruled last summer the nation's largest prison system was "deliberately indifferent" to the heat risks at the Pack unit. The settlement ordered the agency to come up with a plan to keep the heat index there no higher than 88 degrees (31 Celsius).
Including Pack, Texas has 29 air-conditioned prisons. Another 75 are either partially cooled or have no cooling. About one in five beds overall are considered air-conditioned. Texas has about 145,000 inmates.
Scorching heat is spreading across much of the South, where temperatures are expected to soar over 100 degrees.
The National Weather Service posted heat advisories and warnings Friday from the New Mexico-Texas border eastward to parts of Alabama.
Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi and west Tennessee were all under heat advisories or warnings Friday morning.
Forecasters say the hot temperatures will combine with high humidity, which could be lethal to some people. They warn that children, older people, those without air conditioning and outdoor workers will be particularly at risk.
There's also a threat of severe storms, which could spawn tornadoes in parts of the South. The national Storm Prediction Center says the area at greatest risk of storms Friday includes parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.