Prisoners in New Orleans

They Left Us There To Die

Revolution #016, October 2, 2005, posted at

It was like being a “low class” passenger on the Titanic—locked down below while water rushed in and the ship sank.

As Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans, sheriffs and guards abandoned Templeman III, one of several buildings in the Orleans Parish Prison—leaving hundreds of prisoners locked in their cells with no food or water. When generators died there was no light or air circulation and toilets backed up. Some prisoners in ground-floor cells were not evacuated until four days later—after they found themselves standing in water up to their chest or neck.

One prisoner told Human Rights Watch, “They left us to die there.”

A prisoner who was in a cell on an upper floor said, “We was calling down to the guys in the cells under us, talking to them every couple of minutes. They were crying, they were scared.”

Many of the prisoners had been arrested for things like criminal trespass, public drunkenness or disorderly conduct. Many had not even been brought before a judge and charged, much less been convicted.

Officers said there had been no evacuation plans.

Corinne Carey, a researcher from HRW who interviewed prisoners, guards, and state officials, said, “At best, the inmates were left to fend for themselves. At worst, some may have died.”

Some prisoners said they saw bodies floating in the floodwaters as they were finally evacuated from the prison. 517 prisoners are now listed as missing.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, the system delivered a sentence of cruel and extreme punishment and possible death to hundreds of prisoners.

Sources: Human Rights Watch and AFP