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Advocates ask federal judge to keep prisoners out of Angola fields on the year's hottest days

3 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2024 Jun 18, 2024 June 18, 2024 4:07 PM June 18, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE — Advocates for inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary asked a federal judge Tuesday to keep prisoners out of the Angola complex's massive agriculture fields during the hottest days of the year.

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson did not immediately rule on the request for a temporary restraining order. 

"We know men are being forced to work in the fields with their bare hands without proper (equipment), without shade, without sunscreen, without clean water, under threat of serious harm," said Lydia Wright, the associate director of civil litigation at the Promise of Justice Initiative. 

She said the combination of heat and humidity amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Ronald Marshall, one of several plaintiffs, said this was the first time a federal judge had considered restrictions on the farm line, on which inmates work on acres and acres of agricultural fields.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs ask that field work not occur when the temperature is 88 degrees or higher.

The Louisiana Department of Corrections says the inmates' request exceeds that which is required under the Constitution.

"The Farm Line, which is operated in accordance with constitutional and industry standards, is solely used to harvest fruits and vegetables for inmate consumption and is an integral part of the operation of LSP," the state wrote in response to the lawsuit. It also says that its current heat policy is sufficient.

"Contrary to plaintiffs’ unsupported allegations, the heat policy ... includes monitoring of temperatures every two hours, issuing heat alerts if the heat index exceeds 88 degrees, (and) providing rest and water breaks every 30 minutes once a heat alert is issued. This policy, and the operation of the Farm Line, is constitutionally appropriate," it said.

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