Ice, cold showers and now heat sensors as Louisiana addresses steamy conditions on death row _lowres

Photo provided by U.S. Distric Court -- Fans low into cells in death row at the Louisiana State Penitenary at Angola. Some inmates have complained about the conditions at the prison.

Modified ice chests known as "Cajun coolers" and other remedial measures are succeeding in curbing the heat index where three ailing death row inmates are housed at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

So says the latest report from a federal court-appointed special master in a 2013 civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of condemned killers Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code and James Magee. The three men have high blood pressure and other health conditions their attorneys say are exacerbated by high heat.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson, of Baton Rouge, ordered state corrections officials in late 2013 to prevent heat indexes — a measure of temperature and humidity — from topping 88 degrees on death row. The judge said anything above that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans later said any remedy should be limited to Ball, Code and Magee. The appellate court also invited the state to provide relief without installing air conditioning. Under protest, the state eventually came up with a plan that included "Cajun coolers," and Jackson last December ordered prison officials to continue using them along with other new measures.

The state, however, is appealing Jackson's order, arguing that the state should have to provide only cold showers, an individual fan and unlimited access to ice and water to the three inmates. The state contends Jackson erred in mandating an 88-degree heat index threshhold.

"Cajun coolers" are ice chests equipped with fans and ducting to blow cool air. Another remedy in use includes diverting cool air from a guards' area to the three inmates' cells. The inmates also are provided personal ice containers and fans.

Special master Paul Hebert, in his latest report dated Sept. 14, said the plan is "working effectively" to prevent the heat index from exceeding 88 degrees in the area of Tier C where the three men are incarcerated.

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.