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Old 10-01-2005, 03:04 PM
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Exclamation Left to Die in a New Orleans Prison - Interviews after Katrina w/inmates!

Ok everyone, I have been waiting for this information to start surfacing after what all we have already known / found out about Louisiana inmate abuses during the Hurricane Katrina crisis.
It appears it is even more shocking than many of us thought. I wish I could go back in time and really lay into that guard I called before Katrina hit. Idiots..


Left to Die in a New Orleans Prison
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Posted on
September 28, 2005, Printed on September 28, 2005

Thousands of prisoners were abandoned for days when Katrina hit New Orleans; more than 500 are still missing.

Editor's Note: The following is a transcript of an interview between
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, and members of the group Human Rights
Watch.

Amy Goodman: It has been nearly one month since Hurricane Katrina
ripped through the southern coast of the
United States, decimating
communities in
Mississippi and Louisiana. These past weeks, we have
reported on the horrors faced by people in
New Orleans, in particular
as they struggled to survive. One story we have looked at is the fate
of those held in prison as the hurricane hit the city. Weeks later,
there are still serious questions about what happened inside
facilities like the Orleans Parish Prison.

The group Human Rights Watch has just issued one of the first
independent analyses investigating what happened in the jails. The
group alleges that in one facility the sheriff's department abandoned
hundreds of prisoners.The group also says that there are some 517
prisoners unaccounted for and is calling on the U.S. Department of
Justice to conduct an investigation into the Orleans Sheriff's
Department.

We're joined now by Corinne Carey. She's a researcher for Human
Rights Watch. Welcome to Democracy Now!

Corrine Carey: Thanks. It's great to be here.

Goodman: Well, you've just recently returned from
Louisiana. Tell us
what you found?

Carey: We went down to investigate claims that we had been hearing
that prisoners were abandoned in one of the facilities -- Templeman
III is the name of the building -- and that some inmates had seen
inmates left in their cells while they were on their way out, when
they were finally evacuated Thursday and Friday of the week after the
storm.

So the first thing that we did was [ask] for a list of prisoners that
were held at Orleans Parish Prison prior to the storm hitting, and
then we also obtained a list from the Department of Corrections of
all offenders that had been evacuated from New Orleans. We went
through that list and came up with 517 people who were still
unaccounted for.

We're certainly not saying that those people drowned in the facility,
but there are credible reports from inmates of being left in that
facility in locked cells. And so we'd like to know from the Orleans
Sheriff and from the Department of Corrections what happened to those
517 people.

Goodman: What are some of the stories that you have heard in your
questioning?

Carey: 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.

Goodman: We're joined also on the telephone by Dan Bright. He's a
former resident of New Orleans, detained in the Orleans Parish
Prison, building Templeman III, the night before Hurricane Katrina
struck, now relocated to Grand Prairie, Texas. Can you tell us what
the Templeman III building is, Dan?

Dan Bright: The Templeman III building is a receiving cell. You go
there, and they hold you until they put you into a steady housing
development. And like she was saying, we were strictly abandoned.
They just left us. When we realized what was going on, it was too late.

It was total chaos. The water was up to our chest. You had guys
laying in the water trying to climb to the top of their bunks. You
had older guys who didn't have any medicine who we were trying to
help. And the way we got out was we had to kick the cell door for
maybe like an hour or two. And the cell doors, they sits on this
hinge. You have to kick it off the hinge. And when you kicked it off
the hinge you have to slide out the door.

And Templeman III is...two levels. You had an upper level and bottom
level. The guys on the bottom level was totally stuck in this water.
Lights was out. So we had to get out on the top level and come down
and help those guys. And the police, they had left.

Goodman: Wait a second. You're saying that the police, the guards,
were gone?

Bright: The guard was gone.

Goodman: There were only the prisoners?

Bright: There was only -- that's us.

Goodman: And you were locked in.

Bright: Right. Correct.

Goodman: And so how did you escape?

Bright: Well, we had to kick -- like I said, we had to kick the
cells, maybe [for]hours. You had to squeeze out of the cells. We
found pipes, anything that we could find to pry the cells open
downstairs to help the guys downstairs. We broke the windows to try
to signal for help. No one came to our rescue.

Goodman: So you made your way out of the windows?

Bright: We made our way out of the cells and to...the lower levels
where most of the water was at. And we broke that window and climbed
out. The dorm was made strictly like a college dorm, just like two
cells into one. You have to forgive me -- I'm kind of still groggy,
because I'm just getting up. So I'm trying to explain myself the best
I can.

Goodman: Thank you. So, some of you made it out. What about people
who were locked in cells?

Bright: They couldn't get out. We couldn't help all of them.

Goodman: Could you hear them?

Bright: Yeah, they were trying to get them out. We couldn't help
everybody. The water was constantly rising.

Goodman: So when you got out, what did you do?

Bright: When we got out, they had maybe like ten deputies outside the
building with boats.

Goodman: They had deputies outside the building but none of the
deputies inside the building to help you?

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.

Goodman: Could you see the jail from where you were on the overpass?

Bright: Right. Yeah. You stare at guys in the windows trying to get
their attention. They wasn't even paying attention. They had guys
burning stuff, putting up signs, trying to get any kind of help they
could get.

Goodman: They were burning things to get people's attention?

Bright: Right.

Goodman: What were the signs they were putting up that you could see
from the overpass?

Bright: Help signs.

Goodman: Saying "Help?"

Bright: Yes. You had guys burning blankets trying to get their
attention. The helicopter would pass over. Guys would burn sheets up
or blankets or something to try to get their attention also.

Goodman: So you're saying helicopters would fly over. They would see
the burning sheets. You were with deputies on the bridge. They could
see like you could see?

Bright: Right.

Goodman: So what did they say, when you said there are men still in
there?

Bright: They didn't say anything. These -- most of the deputies had,
you know, just gone. They didn't even bother to try to help us. And
not only that, they had -- these same deputies were stealing
property, our personal property. My daughter was trying to telephone
me and find out where I was at, and a deputy answered my phone.

Goodman: Your daughter called, and the deputy answered your cell phone?

Bright: Correct.

Goodman: Did you ever get your personal property back?

Bright: No.

Goodman: Did any of the men?

Bright: No, ma'am.

Goodman: Did you --

Bright: All of the guys was complaining about what was missing.
Phones, their jewelry. You know. Watches. Stuff like that.

Goodman: Dan Bright, we're also joined by Neal Walker. He is a
Director of the
LouisianaCapitalAssistanceCenter, speaking to us
from
Houston. He interviewed 48 prisoners last Wednesday. Can you
describe the whole facility, Neal? Dan Bright, locked in Templeman
III, but describe what is the rest of it, Templeman I and Templeman II.

Neal Walker:
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.

Goodman: Completely underwater?

Walker: Right.

Goodman: How many men?

Walker: I don't know how many men were in central lockup at that
time. Again, that's -- you know, if you get booked where they bring
you, the booking officers will bring you to central lockup, where
you'll be fingerprinted, and as Dan was saying, your property will be
removed and inventoried and then stored. And apparently, according to
what Dan was saying, the prisoners don't go to their cells with their
property. It's put in lockers, but it sounds like these deputies got
into the lockers and got the prisoners' property. But those prisoners
are only held at central lockup for, you know, a matter of hours as
they're being processed. And then they go off to one of the other
detention centers.

Goodman: And so, the story that you have heard Dan Bright tell, that
you've just heard the report from Corrine Carey, in your talking with
scores of men, how much does that resonate? How many times did you
hear that same story?

Walker: You hear a very similar story from everybody who was housed
where Dan was held. I mean, there were other prisoners held in
different places. You know, they were locked into their cells, not
able to get out. I understand in the house of detention that the guys
were literally not able to get out their cells at all, and in
Templeman, prisoners were able to grab shower rods and break out the
windows in an attempt to gain some attention from whoever they could
get to see them.

But I -- you know, the stories are very consistent that floodwaters
were rising, that the deputies had fled the jail, that there was no
food, there was no water. The power went off, I think, sometime early
Monday morning when the storm hit, and they went Tuesday, Wednesday
and Thursday with no food.

I heard one prisoner who said that water was being distributed in
basins, but it looked to be as polluted as the water that was coming
out of the faucets. I heard accounts of some prisoners being
interviewed with ugly white sores all over their -- the skin that was
exposed, and these prisoners had reported drinking the floodwaters,
although I didn't see any prisoners with those sorts of infections
myself.

Goodman: And Neal Walker, we're going to break for stations to
identify themselves, and we'll come back to this discussion about
where have all of the prisoners gone? Human Rights Watch has
calculated over 500 are at this point unaccounted for, just judging
from the dockets before and after the hurricane. We'll also be joined
by Phyllis Mann, who has been investigating this story and speaking
to scores of prisoners, men who were farmed out to different prisons,
and women as well, hundreds, who were brought from the jail to
Angola, the maximum security prison for men.

[break]

Goodman: We continue the investigation into where have all of the
prisoners gone after Hurricane Katrina. We are talking specifically
about the Orleans Parish Prison. Our guests are Corrine Carey,
researcher for Human Rights Watch. They have just put out a report
"Imprisoned and Abandoned." We are also joined by Dan Bright, one of
the people who was detained in the Orleans Parish Prison the night
before the hurricane struck, now relocated to Texas. Phyllis Mann
will join us in a minute, of
Alexandria, Louisiana, criminal defense
lawyer, also Neal Walker, director of
LouisianaCapitalAssistance
Center. Corinne Carey, from your investigation, when were the
authorities called to evacuate the Orleans Parish Prison?

Carey: The Orleans Parish sheriff, Marlin Gusman, didn't call for
assistance from the State Department of Corrections until
midnight on
Monday after the eye of the storm had hit and the prison had already
began to flood. Other area parish prisons had called for assistance
on Saturday and Sunday to start evacuating their inmates. And all of
their inmates have been -- had been evacuated safely at that point.

Goodman: Now, the position of the sheriff, the
Orleans sheriff, is a
very powerful one in
New Orleans.

Carey: In every parish it's one of the most powerful positions to
hold, yes.

Goodman: And the attorney general is the former parish sheriff?

Carey: Yes. Charles Foti was the Orleans Parish sheriff before he
became attorney general.

Goodman: Did he design the evacuation plan?

Carey: We have not been able to find the evacuation plan. We heard
reports that the evacuation plan was on a website. A Department of
Corrections spokesperson told us that it was on the website, but it
has since been removed. So we actually, though we have made
inquiries, don't know what the evacuation plan was. In any event, the
Orleans Parish sheriff didn't follow any evacuation plan, nor did he
fortify the institution to allow people to ride out the storm with
food, water and other supplies.

Goodman: So, he called on Monday night, and then what happened?

Carey: Monday at
midnight. The Department of Corrections then began
to start evacuating prisoners. It seems to us they started on
Wednesday and finished on Friday although things are very confusing,
and there are a number of different buildings in that complex.

Goodman: We're talking about thousands of prisoners?

Carey: Over 6,000 prisoners. And prisoners from area -- other parish
prisons were evacuated to Orleans Parish Prison.

Goodman: To the flooded prison?

Carey: Prior to the flood. Yes. They were evacuated to the prison.
And so, you had people -- you had a prison that was already at
capacity, and then you had maybe 2,000 more prisoners from area
prisons brought in. So, that's why when you hear Dan Bright talking
about breaking out of cells, there were prisoners in common areas.
They were in recreational areas, they were in visiting areas. So they
were not locked down, and they were able to grab pipes and break them
in the absence of guards and help the other inmates break out of
their cells and break the windows.

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

Bright: It was Tuesday morning.

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

Bright: It was Tuesday night. Sunday, I went down.

Goodman: So you broke out on Tuesday?

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.

Goodman: Two-and-a-half days.

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.

Goodman: You said you urinated on yourselves because you couldn't
stand. Were you chained?

Bright: Excuse me?

Goodman: Were you chained?

Bright: No. They didn't have any chains. They didn't have anything.
They were just rushing us -- as we broke out and thought we were
trying to get to our families or whatever. We weren't trying to
escape. We were just trying to get away from that prison. When we got
out, they snatch us, put us on airboats and bring us to the bridge.

Goodman: So you stayed there for two days, no food. Water?

Bright: No water. No food. They had water. But they wasn't giving us
any.

Goodman: And how many of you were there?

Bright: It was a lot. I would say maybe like -- I couldn't tell. It
was over 400. It was a lot of us.

Goodman: And then after those two days, what was it? Thursday or Friday?

Bright: It was Thursday when they moved us. They put us on the buses.
And they brought us to this place, another jail called Hunt's
CorrectionalCenter.

Goodman: Near
Baton Rouge.

Bright: Right. And they just put all of us in this one huge gate and
made us sit on a field. And they left us there.

Goodman: Sitting on the field?

Bright: Right. You had to sleep on the wet grass. They didn't have
anywhere we could urinate or defecate. We had to do that out in the
public. You know. They gave us one blanket. We had -- that was it.
You had to sleep on the wet grass. You had -- we didn't have hot
food. We didn't have cold water. In fact, they come once a day and
throw peanut butter sandwiches over the gate. They wouldn't even come
in the gate. They would just throw it over the gate.

Goodman: They threw the sandwiches at you.

Bright: Correct. They were throwing them over the gate.

Goodman: And then you would race for them.

Bright: Right, we would fight over sandwiches. You know, it wasn't --
there wasn't any order in this yard. In fact, you had -- the entire
prison system was in there. You had guys with life sentences. You
know, all kind of guys that wasn't supposed to be around one another.
You had federal prisoners in there. They even had this guy Len Davis
in there.

Goodman: Who is Len Davis?

Bright: He was convicted -- he was a cop. He was an NOPD police
officer, convicted for all the murder of a female. He was on death row.

Goodman: He was a New Orleans Police officer on death row, and he was
in there in the field with you?

Bright: Right. He was back down here trying to get some time back,
and he got caught up when the storm came. So they drove him in there,
too.

Goodman: Neal Walker, what do you know about this?

Walker: Well, the first thing I can tell you is that the New Orleans
Police Department is one of the most violent and corrupt police
departments in the country, and Dan's absolutely right. There are two
police officers on the New Orleans Police force who are actually on
death row, and I have heard other accounts that Len Davis, the police
officer he is referring to, was in fact on that football field, if
that's what it was, where the prisoners were evacuated to upriver at
the Hunt's Correctional Facility.

Goodman: I want to bring Phyllis Mann into this conversation,
attorney from Alexandria, Louisiana, who has been working non-stop
since the hurricane, identifying people who were brought up to the
Rapides Parish Prison in your area. These stories that you are
hearing, you have been interviewing hundreds of people, men and then
women at
Angola. Are these similar to what you have heard?

Phyllis Mann: They're completely similar to what I have heard. I have
personally interviewed or overseen the interviewing of over 2,400 men
and women between September 7 and as late as last night. And these
are men and women who were at the various facilities in
Orleans and
the others, as Corinne referred to, that were brought to
Orleans from
other affected parishes. These people didn't have a chance to talk to
each other.

Like Dan describes, it was complete pandemonium in
Orleans. As people
got out of the various buildings that comprised the Orleans Parish
complex there, you know, some of them spent one day on the bridge,
some of them spent three days on the bridge. From there, they were
randomly loaded into buses, and there was no rhyme nor reason as to
who got on what bus. And they -- most of them went through Hunt
Correctional and spent time on that football or soccer field or
whatever it was. Some of them were there for two or three days. I saw
large numbers of people who were badly, badly sunburned as a result
of being out in the elements at Hunt Correctional while they waited.

And then these people again randomly got distributed to in excess of
35 facilities throughout the state, and some of them are prisons,
some of them are private prisons. Many, many of them are parish jails
operated by local sheriffs in each parish. And as I have gone from
place to place and talked to different people who had been held, they
are all telling remarkably consistent stories. And many of these
people have not even seen television at the point that I have talked
with them. You know, it would be a week or two weeks after the
hurricane, and they still had not been able to watch television to
know what had happened there. So, for all of these people to tell
such remarkably consistent stories, to me, is a very serious
indication of the truth of what they're saying.

Goodman: Dan Bright, what happened after you left Hunt? When were you
taken from there somewhere else? Or were you?

Bright: They took me to Rapides Parish. You had to wait in line in
this football field to try to get on the bus. So, it took up to maybe
like two days to a week. Fortunately, I was able to get on the bus
like two-and-a-half days after. I went to Rapides Parish, where I met
Miss Mann. And I can tell you it was a whole lot better.

Goodman: Was it around Sunday that you made it there?

Bright: Yes. It was a whole lot better living conditions from where I
just came from.

Goodman: And how did you ultimately get out?

Bright: Out of the
RapidesCenter?

Goodman: How did you get out of jail? How did you end up being free?

Bright: Ms. Mann and a bunch of more attorneys, Ben Cohen, filed a
habeas corpus for all of your misdemeanor charges, because they were
violating our rights. We hadn't seen the judge. You know, most guys
had served the sentence that was no more than 30 days, so they had to
let us go. The D.A.s were still trying to fight that. That's another
issue, though.

Goodman: Phyllis Mann, explain that process. Filing the writ of
habeas corpus. And who were these men who were in there?

Mann: Sure. There were 199 people who had been evacuated to the
RapidesParishDetentionCenter. The warden and the sheriff here in
Rapides Parish quickly allowed us to come in and sit down and
interview those men and gather their case information. And then that
was compiled into a list of the people who had already served
whatever time they were supposed to serve. For example, there was one
man who was in jail for reading tarot cards without a permit and was
supposed to have been released prior to August 29th when the
hurricane occurred, but did not get out and was still sitting there.
Dan was another of those men. Some of them were in on what we call
municipal charges, which are basically city violations. They're not
even misdemeanors.

And Ben Cohen and Marcia Widder filed a state habeas corpus action,
which is the kind of pleading that you file -- it basically means,
you know, to produce the body. You're requiring the person who is
holding someone to produce them in court and then prove whether or
not they are legally holding them. That action was filed on behalf of
quite a large number of men. Nineteen of them were released when the
hearing was held. But this is a long, slow process for us to have to
do this on behalf of each of the over 8,000 people who are currently
being held.

Goodman: Corrine Carey of Human Rights Watch, your final comment?

Carey: Sure. I just wanted to add that we have also spoken with
corrections officers who say the same kinds of things. They saw
prisoners hanging out of the windows. They saw the signs. And they,
too, have concerns. It's hard to describe, but the corrections
officers, many of them, feel that that were abandoned at the jail, as
well. It's really a failure to evacuate. The corrections officers and
the inmates were put in jeopardy. The inmates happened to be locked
in their cells.

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.

Goodman: And guards, any missing guards?

Carey: Not as far as we know, but the thing about the guards is that
they were left on the overpass bridge. They were not transported to
other facilities. They made their way in small groups of their own to
shelters, to the stadium, to the Convention Center. They were not --
there's no keeping track of where the guards went from there. They
didn't go with the prisoners.

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news
program, Democracy Now!


View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/26073/
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Old 10-01-2005, 04:11 PM
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OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!

Everyone needs to write to the Louisiana Government on this one. I am outraged and I don't even know anyone in LA.

Good luck to you all and to those unaccounted for souls I hope that you are at peace wherever you may be.

Sheila
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Old 10-01-2005, 04:45 PM
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OMG, I don't even know what to say!!!! I can't believe that they left those poor men in there!!! Then they left them on the bridge...THEN on the field WTF!?!?! I can't even think of what to say!!! I am soo sorry to hear about these poor men and their families!!! White sores on some of their bodies??? My thoughts are with ALL of these guys and their families!! And for the one's that have passed b/c of this HORRIBLE, Just HORRIBLE
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Old 10-02-2005, 08:12 PM
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Every single guard that abandoned their jobs at that jail should be CRIMINALLY prosecuted. That is complete endangerment of human beings.. And if ANY inmate died because they were locked in their cells, they should be brought up on AT LEAST manslaughter charges..

They are scum.. Cowards and scum..
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Old 10-02-2005, 08:18 PM
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Take a look at

http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=149508

It includes a link to a radio broadcast that was a personal account of the situation for prisoners locked in their cells, abandoned by the guards for days whilst the water reaches the 3rd floor.
It is an interview with a man who was incarcerated in Orleans Parish Prison until he escaped after the guards left them there to fend for themselves as the waters rose.
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"I learned that familiar paths traced in the dusk of summer evenings may lead as well to prisons as to innocent, untroubled sleep." (Albert Camus, The Stranger)

Last edited by titantoo; 10-02-2005 at 08:31 PM..
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Old 10-02-2005, 08:30 PM
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I second that David!! They are definetly scum!!
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Old 10-02-2005, 08:40 PM
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I'm so angry I can't see stright. OMG I can do nothing but cry for them. God please be with all of them hear my prayer! May theyfind thier peace. Prayers go out for all of them
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Old 10-07-2005, 02:22 PM
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Hey ya'll that's my state! Home of the corrupt! You'd be surprised at some of the things the 'law' gets away with here!!!
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Old 10-07-2005, 06:42 PM
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How corrupt is/was Louisiana? Was there any PTO members who lost anyone because of this insanity? I couldn't finish the entire article because I kept getting mad!!! What are the conditions of the prisoners now?
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Old 10-13-2005, 04:19 PM
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Iam a previous employee of Orleans Parish prison(OPP). Everything I just read is absolutely true. It was more devastating to be there than to just read about it. My heart went out to those inmates. I have never seen such inhumane treatment. God be with those who were responsible for leaving them to die. We as employees were also left there to die.
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