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Abandoned and Abused: Orleans Parish Prisoners in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

NCJ Number
Date Published
142 pages
This report presents a series of accounts from different perspectives of the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the prisoners in the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) in New Orleans, LA.
During Hurricane Katrina and for several days afterward, men, women, and children were abandoned at OPP while flood waters rose, electricity was lost, and food and water were cut off. Law enforcement and correctional officers left their posts and left inmates to fend for themselves, many still locked in their cells. Once the prisoners were freed from OPP, they were transported by boat to an interstate overpass where they were forced to sit in rows, were not given food or water, and were continually abused by officers. Following the ordeal on the overpass, prisoners were bused to receiving facilities around the State and in neighboring States where many inmates reported that conditions only grew worse. Thousands of OPP prisoners were forced to spend several days on an outdoor field where violence was rampant and medical care was completely absent. Once prisoners were transported to yet other facilities, many reported suffering from racially motivated assaults and systematic abuse at the hands of prison guards and other inmates. Recommendations are offered for moving forward with a jail that is more cost-efficient and humane. Recommendations to local and State officials include the advice to downsize the jail by ending the practice of holding State and Federal prisoners and to implement a coordinated emergency plan for the jail. Federal authorities are urged to launch an investigation into the abuse suffered by prisoners of the OPP. Taken as a whole, the stories of prisoners and correctional officers, gathered through surveys and interviews, point to widespread chaos brought on by inadequate emergency planning and training on the part of local officials and by the racially motivated hostility of prison officials. The ordeal of many OPP prisoners is hardly over as many still remain in facilities around the State awaiting long-delayed trials on minor charges. End notes, appendixes