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Angola Farm Line case remains in legal limbo as temperatures soar

1 week 5 days 11 hours ago Tuesday, July 09 2024 Jul 9, 2024 July 09, 2024 10:31 PM July 09, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Angola inmates who work on the Farm Line, where they tend crops by hand, are caught in a battle between advocates and state officials over how to handle Louisiana's dangerous heat.

Advocates for some of the inmates sued the state in federal court in an effort to force more protections for them during the most sweltering seasons.

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson issued a temporary restraining order July 2 limiting inmate work once the heat index reaches 88 degrees. Three days later, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals put that order on hold until July 19.

According to News 2's Storm Station data for the past 30 years, the heat index in Baton Rouge gets to or above 88 degrees between 8 a.m. and noon about 20 percent of the time. But between May and September, during that time of day, Baton Rouge hits that heat index 48 percent of the time.

Lydia Wright, associate director of civil litigation at the Promise of Justice Initiative and one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said she will fight to create permanent change.

Wright said the temperature threshold is the point at which severe damage to a person's body can occur.

Wright also questioned the value to the work on the line, which she said seems intended to perpetuate the work enslaved people were once forced to perform.

"If their farm line was intended to support the institution and intended to provide fresh produce for people to eat, wouldn't the prison use modern agricultural equipment tractors for instance to cultivate those crops? They would, and they don't," she said.

The Department of Corrections refused to answer questions about the Farm Line work, citing a policy against discussing ongoing litigation. Court paperwork filed by the department says the penitentiary grows fruit that is harvested for inmate consumption and that the inmates enjoy fresh vegetables at least twice a day.

The document also states in 2023, more than 200,000 pounds of fresh vegetables are issued to the LSP kitchens and states that the vegetables are not sold on the open market and LSP does not profit from the farm line.

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