Wednesday, September 28, 2005


I did not intend to write another blog on Katrina, but some disturbing information continues to come out.

The school buses could have been used if the mayor and the Governor had issued the mandatory evacuation order a day and half before Katrina hit. If they did not have the will, the federal government should have stepped in quickly. These buses became useless. Many poor African Americans, in particular, relied on public transportation. They had no automobiles.

One of the most disturbing stories not covered by the main stream media was found on Amy Goodman's daily hour long news program, Democracy Now!>>>

"Human Rights Watch has also revealed that hundreds of prisoners were abandoned in New Orleans Parish Prison during Hurricane Katrina. Flood water rose to chest-high levels in the cells. Prisoners were given no food for days. Some inmates from the section of the prison known as Templeman III said they saw bodies floating in the floodwaters as they were evacuated from the prison on September 1 - four days after the storm hit. It remains to be seen how many prisoners may have died. According to Human Rights Watch, over 500 prisoners are missing from the list of people evacuated from the jail."

Corrine Carey, researcher for Human Rights' Watch told Amy the following:

" Well, it's clear to us from talking to inmates in that facility, and other lawyers in Louisiana have talked to well over 1,000 prisoners at this point, that by Monday, when the storm hit, guards were no longer in the facility. The inmates were left to fend for themselves during the storm. The most disturbing thing is that the water began to rise in many of the buildings. Some inmates tell us that the water had come up to their chest level, and they were still in locked cells. Some other inmates helped them get out of those cells and escape the floodwaters to higher levels of the facility. They were also left there without any food or water for up to four days. There was no air circulation, and the toilets had started to back up. So the stench was unbearable for these prisoners. They started to break windows to let the air in, but also to let people outside know that there were still people in this building that had begun to flood."

Neal Walker, Criminal Defense Lawyer, Director of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center told Democracy Now the following:

"Orleans Parish Prison, for your listeners, is really not a prison. It's a jail. It's a temporary detention facility. Other parts of the country you refer to county jails. We call them parish prisons in Louisiana. Orleans Parish Prison is, in fact, one of the country's largest jails, although New Orleans was far from one of the country's largest cities before the storm. At any given time, there would be 7,500 to 8,000 prisoners being held at Orleans Parish Prison.

Now, some of these prisoners were in fact serving misdemeanor sentences, and others were picked up for parole violations, but the vast, vast majority of the prisoners being held at Orleans Parish Prison were pretrial detainees. They had only been charged. They had not been tried and convicted.

Now, the complex itself includes not only the facility known as Orleans Parish Prison, the original old jail facility, but it describes a complex of other detention buildings, as well, including the house of detention, Templeman I, II, and III, and central lockup, which is a one-story facility where prisoners are processed after their arrest. And I heard accounts of that building being completely underwater. The prisoners were looking at it from the windows at Templeman III and could see that central lockup was completely underwater."

Amy also interviewed a prisoner that had been held in the Orleans Parish Prison. His name is Dan Bright. She asked him what assistance did the prison guards provide for the prisoners to escape the rising waters:

"DAN BRIGHT: None. It was like, if you get out, you get out. It's not too bad. So when we got out, they took us to a bridge, what’s called an overpass bridge, and they just put us on these boats, brought us to this bridge and left us there for maybe like three days without food or water or anything. They just left us there.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Dan Bright, when did you make it to the overpass? What night was it? Or what day?

DAN BRIGHT: It was Tuesday morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Tuesday morning. How long did you stay on the overpass?

DAN BRIGHT: It was Tuesday night. Sunday, I went down.

AMY GOODMAN: So you broke out on Tuesday?

DAN BRIGHT: Right. After the storm had passed. And when we got out to central lockup area, back to the central lockup area, these were the other guards waiting for us outside with the boats. So they took us from central lockup area to the bridge. It was nighttime. The city was completely dark. We stood on the bridge until maybe like two days, two-and-a-half days.

AMY GOODMAN: Two-and-a-half days.

DAN BRIGHT: Yeah. No food, no water. We couldn't stand up. They made us sit down. We couldn't even get up and urinate. We had to urinate on ourselves. They didn't even want us standing up."