Trial in Store for Prison Over State of Showers

     CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) – A federal judge advanced the claims of an inmate who says he tried bathing in his toilet to avoid electrocution in a rundown prison shower.
     Chester Lowe Huff claims that he experienced unsafe conditions in an administrative segregation shower at the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas.
     The shower allegedly had a broken light fixture and exposed wires, was dirty, and smelled like a sewer.
     Huff says he alternately bathed in his sink and toilet, but that the shower’s unsanitary bathing conditions resulted in an eye infection that produced a sty.
     Despite multiple complaints over a five-month period, Huff says the prison repeatedly denied him meals for refusing to use the shower.
     Such deliberate indifference to inmate health and safety constitutes a violation of the Eighth Amendment, according to the federal complaint Huff filed against correctional officers Kimberly Pundt and Frances Ellison-Cook.
     Adopting the recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington on Friday, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos refused to grant summary judgment for either side.
     “The objective evidence shows, inter alia, that for the better part of five months the shower at issue had no working light and that bare electrical wires extended from the broken light fixture,” Gonzales Ramos noted. “The same issue appearing on inspection after inspection is some evidence that reasonable measures were not taken to repair the shower. Plaintiff also demonstrated that the shower was in service and he was, personally, expected to use it in its unrepaired and hazardous condition. Defendants have offered no evidence to overcome the plaintiff’s testimony and the inspection records in this case. Given that the defendants’ jobs involved assuring the safety of the facility and that they were provided with the inspection reports, the record contains some evidence of their failure to ensure that repairs were made and that the shower was placed out of service until the repairs were made.”
     Gonzales Ramos ordered the case to proceed to trial on the merits.

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