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At overcrowded Florida prisons, some inmates may just camp out

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Walter McNeil, secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, insists that the move is temporary and that the tents are "a precautionary measure" that he hopes not to have to use.

Prisoner advocates skeptical

However, his claims cut little ice with prisoners' advocates, who say that the state has taken a stride backwards by erecting the structures and that Florida's notoriously high summer temperatures will make conditions intolerable for those housed within.

"However many they build, they're going to fill them," says Bill Sheppard, a Jacksonville attorney who has represented inmates in numerous actions involving prisoners' rights and conditions.

"In August, in a tent, with the heat in Florida, your brain's going to boil, and that ain't a very good thing," Mr. Sheppard says. "They've tried this before, and were made to take the tents down, now they're trying it again and it will fail again."

"The technology of the type of tent may have changed, and the law may have changed, but it didn't work then and it won't work now," he says.

The US Supreme Court addressed the issue the last time that the Florida Department of Corrections used smaller tents to temporarily house inmates coming into the prison system before their assignment to a permanent facility.

Although not specifically mentioned in the justices' decision at the time, the tents were among a number of measures adopted by Florida to tackle overcrowding that were ruled unconstitutional in the 1977 Costello v. Wainwright case.

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