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Family of inmate sues after heat death

With the hot summer sun still beating down on Texas, exposure to extreme temperatures can be deadly. One Texas family is mourning the loss of a loved one because the high temperatures led to their relative's death.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the family of a 36-year-old inmate at the Beeville prison, McConnell Unit, died during the July 2015 heat wave after guards seized the man's inhaler and refused to return it, despite calls for help during an asthma attack. Due to the man's diagnoses of both asthma and hypertension, he should have been treated as heat sensitive. His records also noted that he should be allowed to keep his inhaler with him for use throughout the day.

There have been previous high-profile deaths due to heat stroke at this prison in the past. Inmates died in both 2004 and 2011, which garnered attention from the national press at the time. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice denies that this was a heat-related death, and they maintain that while there have been 23 inmates who have died in Texas prisons from heat stroke since 1998, they maintain that the last death occurred in 2012.

In fact, the heat is such a concern that according to CNN, Texas prisoners at one facility filed a lawsuit in 2014 demanding cooler temperatures, and a federal judge recently ruled that inmates at one prison need to be relocated. This prison, Wallace Pack Unit, will be moving about 1,000 heat sensitive prisoners to air-conditioned facilities and cannot let the temperature rise above 88 degrees. There were 13 days in 2016 where the heat index was above 100 degrees, the judge noted in the decision.

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