In April 2015, the Clinic published the report “Reckless Indifference: Extreme Heat in Texas Prisons” and revealed the ongoing, dire conditions that inmates and guards alike are exposed to in Texas prisons, which have claimed the lives of at least 14 inmates since 2007. This report expanded on the Clinic’s previous work by adding inmate testimony as well as inmate grievances, and it established that pleas to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) have been largely ignored. The Clinic urges the TDCJ and the Texas Legislature to implement the recommendations enumerated in the report before the federal government inevitably intervenes. In doing so, the Clinic joins the calls of other national and international organizations that consider these dangerous conditions to be a violation of the inmates’ constitutional and human rights.
Human Rights Clinic
The Human Rights Clinic brings together an interdisciplinary group of law and graduate students in a course that incorporates both classroom study and hands-on participation in human rights projects and cases.
Working from the advocate’s perspective, students collaborate with human rights organizations worldwide to support human rights claims in domestic and international fora, to investigate and document human rights violations, to develop and participate in advocacy initiatives before the United Nations, regional and national human rights bodies, and to engage with global and local human rights campaigns.
By taking on primary responsibility for their cases and projects and working under the guidance and mentoring of Clinic Director Ariel Dulitzky, students develop both theoretical and practical skills. The range of cases and projects handled by the Human Rights Clinic illustrates the breadth of human rights practice, including fact-finding, reporting and using the press, and other public advocacy. Through this work, students learn substantive human rights law, develop important professional techniques, and explore different models for ethical, responsible, and effective promotion and protection of human rights.
Cases and Projects
In 2014, the HRC published a report, entitled “Deadly Heat in Texas Prisons” (below), challenging the current situation in Texas prisons and on domestic and international standards addressing extreme heat. The HRC concluded that extreme heat in prisons endangers the health of inmates and employees, that such conditions are a violation of inmates’ constitutional and human rights, and makes short- and long-term recommendations on how to solve this unacceptable, ongoing problem.
USA: Freedom from Domestic Violence as a Human Right in Travis County and Austin, Texas (Spring 2014)
The Clinic, in partnership with the Domestic Violence Clinic, the Legislative Lawyering Clinic and the Austin/Travis County Family Violence Task Force, is promoting the adoption of City of Austin Council and Travis County Resolutions on Freedom from Domestic Violence as a Human Right. On April 8, 2014 the Travis County Commission and on April 17, 2014, the City of Austin Council approved those resolutions. The City Council Resolution was introduced by Council member Laura Morrison. The resolutions seek to declare that the local governments have an obligation to “respect and ensure” the right to be free from domestic violence on behalf of their residents. This project is part of a national movement to encourage local authorities at state, county, and city levels to adopt similar resolutions. Among others, Baltimore, Seattle, Albany, and Miami have adopted such resolutions. Clinics nationwide have been engaged in these initiatives. This movement, in part, builds on the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the case of Jessica Lenahan v. U.S.