Angola's Heat Remediation Plan Fails to Keep Heat Index Below 88 Degrees

May 20, 2016 --

PJI attorneys and co-counsel appeared before the federal district court in our ongoing litigation around the excessive heat at Angola’s death row.  Because the prison’s heat remediation plan has conclusively failed to maintain a heat index below 88 degrees, attorneys for the three plaintiff prisoners are asking the court to order a more substantial remedy that will actually correct the problem of extreme heat.  The Associated Press attended the hearing and offered this account:

JR Ball, a Times-Picayune Op-Ed writer commented on the case here by saying: 

"A federal judge has ruled prison officials must keep the heat index on death row from exceeding 88 degrees. Is it really worth hemorrhaging taxpayer cash to fight the notion that those on death row don't deserve AC? Especially when it's regularly proven by mandatory heat sensors at the prison that fans, ice and cold showers aren't doing the trick."





Excessive Heat on Death Row- UPDATE


PJI is now seeking to modify the remedy in Ball v. LeBlanc, our ongoing lawsuit regarding excessive heat on death row.  

As summer approaches, the heat index on death row has ALREADY exceeded the 88-degree threshold that the District Court identified as the bright line at which the heat conditions become extreme enough to violate the Constitution.  

Below, read our request to the Court to modify the relief so that the ongoing constitutional violation is corrected.

Louisiana’s Public Defender System is in Complete Crisis

 The Louisiana and U.S. Constitutions’ promise that anyone who cannot afford an attorney will be provided one without cost has become a myth.  Around the State, poor people charged with crimes, some minor and others serious, languish in jail without attorneys to represent them.  No attorneys visit these incarcerated indigent men and women, work on their cases, or investigate the charges against them.  

The system got to this point because, rather than being properly designed or funded to begin with, it tried to hoist the entire cost of indigent defense system on the poor themselves.  Public defender offices around the state were funded by the erratic and unstable revenue generated from traffic tickets and court costs.  In recent years, as these sources of revenues of sharply declined for a variety of reasons, these public defender offices find themselves unable to even begin discharging their constitutional and ethical duties.  Districts across the State have been forced to restrict their services to varying degrees, including some offices simply no longer having the money to provide an attorney for all people charged with a crime.  Gideon v. Wainwright’s promise of counsel for criminal defendants regardless of their means has been rendered utterly hollow in Louisiana.

The 16th District, which consists of St. Mary, St. Martin, and Iberia parishes, is one of the districts in disrepair.  Though census data shows that African-Americans comprise approximately 32% of the population, public defenders there estimate 80-85% of their clients are people of color.   Poor people of color, charged with crimes by law enforcement departments with sordid racial histories, now sit in cages and in chains, without attorneys, in all of the parishes. 

Marquez Hurst is one such individual.  Mr. Hurst has been incarcerated without an attorney for over four months.  The Public Defender Office has told the trial court now on five occasions that it simply does not have the money to provide Mr. Hurst a lawyer.

PJI represents Mr. Hurst on his habeas action to either finally give him a lawyer, or cease holding him in jail.  We brought a habeas action on Mr. Hurst’s behalf, which was denied in the trial court even though it is beyond dispute no attorney actually is enrolled or represents Mr. Hurst.  The reason: because the judge previously appointed the public defender’s office, even though they have told the court they are unable to represent Mr. Hurst or provide him a lawyer at this time.

Last week, PJI filed an interlocutory appeal in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals challenging this trial court’s decision.  Readers can see that briefing at the bottom of this post.


Download this file (2016.04.02 Hurst Writ STAMPED.pdf)Hurst Writ

Statement Regarding the Death of Terrance Carter

Terrance Carter’s untimely death has shocked and saddened us all. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. 

A lot of questions about what happened on Saturday remained unanswered. 

Mr. Carter’s death raises important questions about the conditions of Angola’s disciplinary camps. It also raises concerns about how prisoners with grave mental health concerns are treated within Louisiana’s prisons.  Angola recognized his issues relating to mental health as early as October 2014.  It is unclear whether Mr. Carter’s reported requests for assistance, including asking to be placed on suicide watch, were addressed.

Mr. Carter’s attorney reached out to Angola’s mental health service as recently as last week.  Her phone calls were not returned.  

These events follow decades of documented concerns from loved ones, advocates, and public servants regarding the provision of mental health care and the excessive use of solitary confinement at Angola.  In 2013, for instance, Congressman Cedric Richmond and four other members of Congress called for an investigation into “the egregious and extensive use of solitary confinement and other troubling detention practices” throughout Louisiana’s prisons but especially at Angola.  As far back as 1991, the state knew of serious issues in the provision of mental health care at Angola.  The state’s failure to address these long-standing and well documented concerns has led to this tragedy.

Read this letter from Reverend William Barnwell to learn of Terrance Carter's life, commitment to change, and redemption.