Thursday, October 13, 2005

ACLU Files Emergency Motion for Access to Orleans Parish Prison

ACLU Files Emergency Motion for Access to Orleans Parish Prison

NEW ORLEANS -- In legal papers filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union, two men detained on minor charges recount disturbing details of being abandoned without food or water in over-crowded, flooded cells for days at the Orleans Parish Prison during

Hurricane Katrina. The ACLU submitted declarations from the men, who have since been released from prison, along with an emergency request to allow attorneys to inspect the prison before officials remove evidence.

"First-hand accounts of the horrors within Orleans Parish Prison raise serious concerns about the treatment of people held in custody,"

said Eric Balaban of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, which filed the emergency motion. "There was a complete breakdown in the system during Hurricane Katrina and we need to engage in a thorough investigation to ensure that something like this never happens again."

According to the ACLU, the Orleans Parish Prison fell into chaos in the five days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans on
August 29. As the water rose in the prison buildings, deputies deserted en masse, leaving behind prisoners in locked cells. Prisoners broke windows and either leapt out or set fire to pieces of clothing and held them outside the windows to signal to rescuers. The prisoners spent days without power, food or water, some standing in sewage-tainted water up to their chests or necks.

More Here:

~John Byrne

A July 24, 2005 article in the New Orleans Times Picayune (not available online) reveals just how unprepared officials were for a hurricane, especially as it affected the city's poor, RAW STORY has learned. The first sentence alone reveals how little support the city expected to have for the poor in the event of a disaster, saying, "City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own."

The article was first discovered in a detailed piece by the Philadelphia Daily News' Will Bunch.

The local Red Cross executive director was quoted as saying, "You're responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you. If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you. But we don't have the transportation."

~Selected excerpts from July Picayune article by Bruce Nolan appear below.

In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an
estimated 134,000 people without transportation...

Officials are recording the evacuation message even as recent research by the University of New Orleans indicated that as many as 60 percent of the residents of most southeast Louisiana parishes would remain in their homes in the event of a Category 3 hurricane.

Their message will be distributed on hundreds of DVDs across the city. The DVDs' basic get-out-of-town message applies to all
audiences, but the it is especially targeted to scores of churches and other groups heavily concentrated in Central City and other vulnerable, low-income neighborhoods, said the Rev. Marshall Truehill, head of Total Community Action.

"The primary message is that each person is primarily responsible for themselves, for their own family and friends," Truehill said.

Production likely will continue through August. Officials want to get the DVDs into the hands of pastors and community leaders as
hurricane season reaches its height in September, Katz said.

In an interview at the opening of this year's hurricane season, New Orleans Emergency Preparedness Director Joseph Matthews
acknowledged that the city is overmatched.

"It's important to emphasize that we just don't have the resources to take everybody out," he said in a interview in late May.


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