While some prisoners in Texas enjoy the freedom of having guns in their cells, others less fortunate have been without the basic human necessity of potable drinking water.
What’s worse, the prison in question has known that their drinking water has been contaminated since 2006 and have done nothing about it. In fact, they are still denying that the water is undrinkable.
The 1,400 prisoners locked up in the Navasota Wallace Pack Unit, 70 miles northwest of Houston, won a legal ruling on Tuesday that dictates that the prison must replace their water supply within the next 15 days. The Pack Unit is a lesser security for geriatric prisoners, most of whom are sick or have disabilities.
The Pack inmates had been complaining that the water wasn’t quenching their thirst and despite prison authorities being aware that the drinking water contained arsenic, they didn’t do anything about it.
In order to counter living in extremely hot conditions, the Pack Unit inmates were being forced to drink the poisoned water, which left them feeling thirstier.
U.S. district judge Keith Ellison ruled that the inmates’ drinking water contained between 2 to 4.5 times the amounts of arsenic permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The victory in federal court has come two years after the inmates lodged a legal complaint to the federal court which alleged that they were being subjected to unlivable heat at the unit, which does not have air-conditioning.
The lawsuit held that they were being subjected to living in inhumane conditions as a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Since 1998, at least 20 Texas inmates have died from overheating in non-air-conditioned prisons.
Jeff Edwards, an attorney for some of the prisoners, stated that the living conditions were unacceptable. He highlighted that inmates have constitutional rights to be treated in a humane manner.
He said, "When you take away people's liberty, you have to provide certain protections. Some people may have the mentality that if you've committed a crime, you lose all your rights. That is simply not the case. You do not give up your constitutional right not to be treated cruelly."
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice plans to appeal the ruling, according to spokesman Jason Clark, and denied all of the federal court’s allegations that the water wasn’t potable.
Photo credit: Reuters