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September 29, 2005

NOLA prisoners left to drown

When our blogger team was in New Orleans we were bombarded with rumors about the botched evacuation of the Orleans Parish Prison. We were told that some prisoners had drowned in their cells and that other violent offenders had escaped to prey on the community. We tried to corroborate these stories, but we didn't have the expertise or the access to unearth any new evidence. When we hit dead ends, we urged various professional reporters to investigate. We didn't have much luck there, either.

Thankfully, the pros at Human Rights Watch sent a crack team of researchers to investigate the situation. Here is their report: New Orleans: Prisoners Abandoned to Floodwaters.

On September 28, Amy Goodman did an outstanding report on the Orleans Parish Prison scandal. Goodman interviewed HRW researcher Corrine Carey, Orleans Parish inmate Dan Bright, Director of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center Neal Walker, and attourney Phyllis Mann.

As of September 28, 517 prisoners from Orleans Parish Prison were missing, despite intensive searches by authorities and human rights advocates.

Goodman: And so, now what happens? How does the accounting take place. For example, have the authorities gone into the prison at this point to look into the cells where men perhaps couldn't get out?

Carey: A spokesperson from the Orleans Parish sheriff's office said that the sheriff had gone into the jails to inspect for damage. We don't know. We contacted FEMA to see whether anyone from the federal agencies had been in, and we haven't gotten response from them. The State Department of Corrections has not been in, as far as we last knew, to inspect the facility. What we would like is we would like the Department of Justice to do an investigation of their own. We need to know what happened in that jail, whether there were bodies left and whether there were any casualties.

Goodman: Again, the number of unaccounted-for prisoners?

Carey: There were 517 the last we checked, 130 of them being from Templeman III, the building that we have talked about today.

Typical. The alleged crimes of evacuees became instant folk legend, but the crimes of the authorities are only gradually coming to light.

Via Body and Soul.


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If I were a prisoner who had been abandoned in New Orleans, left to make my own way out, I certainly wouldn't be reporting my survival to the authorities. They might send me back to jail...

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