Prisoners and Hurricane Katrina
Since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast last week, many \
people have asked if WPBP had any information on the status of \
prisoners in the affected states. We do know that at this time, the \
New Orleans Books to Prisoners group has been wiped out, their \
office is underwater. There are reports that several core members \
had stayed behind during the evacuation to try and save the office, \
and we have not yet had word that those folks are okay.\
Since the health and well-being of folks in prison is not a very \
high priority for state and local officials during the best of \
times, the reports we have heard from area jails and prisons come as no surprise.
Below are two articles, one based on a report by a \
guard in the New Orleans city jail, and one based on an account from an inmate in
that same jail.\
\f3\b0\fs26\fsmilli13280 \cf0 New Orleans prison inmates desperate to get water fell
out of cell windows onto razor wire where they hung for hours waiting to be rescued,
according to a sheriff's deputy.
\f3 Luis Reyes, who guarded a prison during Hurricane Katrina and the days after,
said that some detainees drowned in their cells as flood waters rose.
\f3 In an interview with AFP, Mr Reyes said many prisoners broke out of their cells
because there were just not enough guards to control the Community Correctional
Centre during the chaos after Monday's storm.
\f3 It took three days to evacuate the prisoners and for most of that time no food
or water was given to the inmates, Mr Reyes said.
\f3 There were about four floors to the building with 100 prisoners on each floor.
The crisis reached a peak after the levees protecting New Orleans broke on Tuesday
and flood water poured in.
\f3 "At one stage the inmates at the bottom tier had water up to their chests. There
are dead inmates in there still. When the guards were doing their last sweeps there
were one or two here and there," said the 33-year-old deputy.
\f3 Thousands of people are believed to have died along the US Gulf Coast following
\f3 Troubles erupted in the correctional centre on Wednesday, according to Mr Reyes.
\f3 "The inmates said they did not want to take over the jail they just wanted food
and water. We had nothing to give them because basically everything was under
\f3 He said that in a nearby prison building, "the inmates started jumping out of
the windows onto the razor wire and they were hanging there until we could get to
\f3 "But the scary thing for me was running up the buildings because the inmates
were breaking out of the cells and were tearing holes in the walls.
\f3 "They had been escaping throughout the night because we were so shorthanded.
People just did not come in. There was no plan for this situation.
\f3 "They were hanging out of the windows and trying to get water. Some of the
inmates were so desperate for water that they tied their t-shirts together and
lowered a boot into the diseased water that they had just relieved themselves into."
\f3 Eventually the prisoners were grouped together on a bridge where at one stage
there were between 4,600 and 5,000 inmates waiting to be evacuated out of the city.
\f3 The detainees were eventually driven away in trucks on Thursday with the help of
prison officers brought in from other towns. But the New Orleans officers and their
families were left behind, Mr Reyes said.
\f3 "They were left with food and water but they were angry at being abandoned. They
spent the night sleeping on the concrete overpass with about 100 other people who
had been stranded," he said.\
Relief eventually arrived on Friday, Mr Reyes said.
\f3 He said he survived on a handful of cereals each day for five days.\
\f0\fs25\fsmilli12948 \cf0 ---------------------------------------\
Ahmad Nelson, a native of New Orleans, was in the\
Orleans Parish Prison on\
the day the Hurricane hit. He was there on trumped up\
charges of trespassing\
(he is a black male, and this happens to him all-too\
A really good friend of mine is close friends with him\
(they have a baby boy\
together) and just talked to him over the phone. Ahmad\
is in Houston now,\
with a portion of his family.\
Ahmad told Maga (my friend) that he was LEFT IN\
ORLEANS PARISH PRISON, along\
with every other prisoner, when the Hurricane hit and\
the flood waters rose.\
The prison guards and other staff left, evacuated the\
prison and left the\
inmates there to fend for themselves - most of which\
were locked in their\
cells (the cell doors were stuck due to power\
Ahmad tells of riots and total panic within the prison\
as it started filling\
with water. He says "the whole prison is going to have\
to be rebuilt" as the\
inmates literally tore the place apart, trying to\
escape anyway they could.\
Ahmad went four days and nights locked in the prison\
WITHOUT ANY FOOD OR\
It is unclear to me how he escaped, but he did, and\
swam what he said seemed\
like MILES in flood waters feet above his head (he is\
over 6" tall) until he\
finally came to an interestate bank above the flood\
waters... Along his\
swimming path he tells of seeing people throwing their\
themselves into the water, starved and tired after\
being alone, stuck on\
their rooftops for over four days and nights in the\
summer sun without any\
food, water or shelter - or any relief in sight.\
Ahmad is safe now, miraculously. He is in Houston and\
has found many members\
of his family their. I am not sure where they are\
going next, but am told,\
amazingly that they are in good spirits and are very\
positive and happy to\
be with eachother.\
My friend Maga and I are working with friends in\
Houston to ensure that\
Ahmad and his family find proper care, etc.\
I am writing this to those I know, as this is a story\
that I have yet to\
hear on the media - and it is a story that must be\
It is one of the more disturbing stories outlining the\
governmental neglect and racism towards the people of\
I thought I would write friends and collegues to share\
this story, as I know\
many of you do work within independent (and public)\
media. If anyone would\
like to learn more about Ahmad's story and the story\
of the New Orleand\
prisoners left behind in the rising flood waters,\
please feel free to\
contact my good friend Maga. Her e.mail is :\
She is on contact with Ahmad and his family on a\