Prisons in New Orleans During Hurricane Katrina

Perhaps you have thought that all of the prisoners in prisons in New Orleans after Katrina were evacuated. That is incorrect. The hurricane brought out the best and worst in people. For example in the detention facility Templemen III in the Orleans Parish Prison. The Templemen III building is a receiving area. Prisoners go there and are held until they are put in a steady housing development. Orleans Parish Prison is a temporary detention facility. In other parts of the country it is called a jail but in Louisiana it is called a Parish Prison. The facility is one of the country’s largest jails. In the jail there would normally be 7,500 to 8,000 prisoners. Some of the prisoners were serving misdemeanor sentences or parole violations but most were people who were charged but not tried and convicted.

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Some inmates saw other inmates left in their cells. When they were finally evacuated Thursday and Friday, a week after the storm, some investigators went through a list from the Department of Corrections of all offenders evacuated from New Orleans. They came up with 517 people who weren’t accounted. Six thousand of the inmates had been safely evacuated without any death or serious injury. Lawyers talked to over 1,000 prisoners and discovered on Monday when the storm hit, guards were no longer in the Templemen III building of the Orleans Parish Prison. This is because they left the area immediately when the hurricane hit. Inmates were left to fend for themselves during the storm. Some inmates had water up to chest level and were in locked cells. They were left without food or water for up to four days. There was no air circulation and toilets started to back up.

There were old men with no medicine in the building. The cell doors of the Templemen III building sit on a hinge. They had to kick the door off the hinge and then slide out the door. Prisoners kicked cells for hours and when they got out, they got pipes or anything they could find to pry cells open. They got to the lower level broke a window and climbed out of the building. Not everybody could be helped out and there were 10 deputies outside of the building with boats. The deputies then brought the prisoners to bridge and were left them three days without food or water. The people who remained in the jail burned things and put up signs to get attention. Most of the deputies stole prisoner’s property and none of the prisoners got their property back.

There had also been rumors about people seeing brothers who are prisoners on the street. One example is a woman in New Orleans saw her brother who had two life sentences for seven murders, on the street. Also, a man saw his brother in a restaurant; the brother had been in prison for stabbing his lawyer.

There have also been stories of riots in prisons. For example in a juvenile detention center, prisoners rioted because they were not fed. In this juvenile detention center the guards went out with the inmates to a roof and were given life jackets by soldiers. One guard said "I really didn't think we were going to get out of there alive," Since some of the prisoners couldn’t swim they tied the life jackets together. Altogether they lost two kids to drowning, and one of the kids was pregnant.

Sources:

http://www.alternet.org/katrina/26073/
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4782449.stm
http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl_escaped_prisoners_Katrina.htm
http://papers.ssrn.com/SOB/papers/cfm?abstract_id=1300971
http://confederateyankee.my.nu/archis/117073.phpl//
Dangerous Weather Hurricanes by Michael Alloby

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