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A Scottish judge in Edinburgh has refused to extradite a prisoner back to Texas because prison conditions violate international human rights.
In June 2021, a Scottish judge, Nigel Ross, deliberated on whether a man accused of shooting a security guard in Texas in 2016 would be extradited back to Texas to face trial for aggravated assault.
Expert testimony provided by Michele Deitch, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Texas with over 33 years of experience in prison conditions and independent oversight of correction facilities, was damning when discussing the conditions in Texas prisons.
“This case should be a wake-up call for officials, not just in Texas but all over the U.S., to realize that many routine conditions of confinement in our nation’s prisons do not measure up to international human rights standards,” Deitch testified. “Some of these conditions are really out of step with what are considered acceptable practices in other Western nations.”
International human rights conditions in question
Keri Blakinger is an investigative journalist for NBC News who covers the U.S. criminal justice system, and the conditions she’s highlighted in the Texas prison system are horrifying.
Bad medical care, unidentifiable food, contaminated water, guards who planted contraband, and cells so small and hot that people baked to death are some of the gruesome conditions plaguing Texas prisons.
In his expert testimony, Deitch stated that some of the prison cells in Texas offer as little as 1.86 square meters of free space per person. In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights established a cell size standard of 3 square meters of free space per person.
The Edinburgh-based lawyer, Paul Dunne, representing the potential expedited prisoner said that compared to the European legal system, many of the U.S. legal procedures seemed cruel.
“Every other country in the developed world and even some dictatorships allow international inspectors into their prison systems to monitor them for conditions,” Dunne said. “That is a completely alien concept in America.”
After months of testimony and deliberation, Judge Ross ruled in the prisoner’s favor and denied extradition, making him a free man due to the international human rights concerns.
Ross cited persistent understaffing, forced unpaid labor, over-reliance on solitary confinement, inadequate food, sweltering temperatures, and a lack of independent oversight in his ruling.