A number of them reported that they were locked in cells as the water rose to their chests, and that they were largely abandoned by the guards and left without food or water:. When the hurricane hit, Inmate 1 says her dorm quickly filled with chest high water. She states she was next moved to a smoke-filled dorm where she was housed with male prisoners. She says that the deputies locked her and the other prisoners inside the dorm. I thought I was going to die. Inmate 1 says she was next moved into a room filled with water and made to stay there for 24 hours prior to being moved onto the Interstate 10 overpass.
On the overpass, she states she was ordered not to move on threat of being shot by the guards. While on the overpass, she states that fellow prisoners were losing consciousness from hunger and dehydration; she herself was pepper-sprayed. OPP guards left Inmate 5 locked in his cell in rapidly rising water for 3 days.
He was locked in a cell with other inmates where water rose to chest level. Deputies were not at their posts and he had no way to communicate with anyone besides other trapped inmates. After he was eventually released from this cell, he and others were evacuated to a higher floor of the building and locked and abandoned for two days.
The OPP inmates were eventually evacuated to other prisons around the state. Human Rights Watch compared a list of inmates at OPP from just before the storm to a list of the evacuated inmates compiled by the state Department of Corrections and Public Safety and found that inmates were unaccounted for.
When the Orleans Parish Prison was evacuated during Hurricane Katrina, the inmates wore colored armbands that indicated the nature of their offenses. But by the time they arrived at temporary holding facilities scattered throughout the state, some were missing their armbands. The state corrections officers receiving the prisoners had no idea what the color codes meant.
Visiting Hours at Orleans Correctional Facility:
While some of the missing individuals may be explained away by accounting mistakes, several OPP inmates said they witnessed dead bodies floating in the flooded prison waters and reported that some prisoners had escaped during the storm:. Eventually Inmate 20 was evacuated to the Interstate 10 overpass. There she witnessed the result of one escape attempt.
He says that he saw dead people in the water. Sheriff Gusman later claimed that these reports were exaggerated :. They lie. But when you put it in the paper it becomes more credible and it frustrates the hell out of me. While the specifics of what occurred at Orleans Parish Prison during Hurricane Katrina in may never be publicly known, the general gist of this viral message is accurate: Thousands of inmates suffered through horrendous conditions as they awaited rescue after officials decided not to evacuate the prison before a hurricane.
We investigate as thoroughly and quickly as possible and relay what we learn. Then another question arrives, and the race starts again. We do this work every day at no cost to you, but it is far from free to produce, and we cannot afford to slow down. Proponents for the money bail system, however, argue that judges consider a person's criminal history when setting bail and that overall it's effective at getting people to show up in court.
Since his mid-May bailout, McGhee has lived in a substance-free home, sponsored by a pastor and his wife, where he receives job training and constant support. Hoping to begin to address the issue, the East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office has developed a new process to quickly review criminal cases in time for a hour arraignment — greatly shortening the current five- to week wait. Within three days, everyone arrested for a crime would be heard in court.
In most cases, defendants would find out then whether they are being formally charged with a crime or if their case is being dropped.
Moore said his office reviewed practices across the country, determining that filing formal charges within 48 hours is the "gold standard" for prosecution. That's more than 20 times faster than Louisiana law dictates and his office has done. The state law supposed to ensure the right to a speedy trial allows prosecutors 45 days to file formal charges for a misdemeanor, 60 days for a felony and days for any offense that carries life in prison, like murder and aggravated rape, for people held continuously in jail.
After those deadlines, attorneys can begin filing motions, meaning time in jail can drag on months longer until a disposition of the case for those who can't afford to make bail. Moore and his team determined 48 hours would not be immediately feasible in Baton Rouge, but believe 72 hours is possible once they get commitment from all the relevant players.
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Historically, attorneys with the public defender's office — which represents the majority of defendants who cannot make bail — don't see a case until the arraignment hearing months after an arrest. While recently the office's new "bond team" has improved how quickly they jumped on such cases , the faster arraignments would allow both prosecutors and defense attorneys to begin working cases even sooner.
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Dumaine says the new system will take a lot of effort by his office, as well as by police and judges. Since November, he has worked with local law enforcement to speed up the arrest process and get paperwork to prosecutors immediately. Moore said that as of late August, about 50 percent of arrest documents were coming in quickly enough for a hour system, and local law enforcement agencies said they're doing their part to provide reports as quickly as possible.
Blouin, Baton Rouge's deputy district defender, called the hour arraignment proposal a "significant improvement," but not one without risk. She said prosecutors will need to avoid "over-charging" defendants simply to meet the new deadline.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell
But getting the criminal court judges to agree to the new system has proven the largest hurdle, as they have repeatedly tabled the discussion since January. In early August, the new arraignment setup was again on the judges' meeting agenda before being removed days before the possible vote. Judge Johnson has said he supports the change, especially because it would give everyone their next court date upon arrest, both those in jail and those who post bail. Sometimes defendants don't receive notices or they need to be tracked down months later, he said. However, he said it's been a challenge figuring out how the new process could affect judges' schedules, made more difficult by a large number of recent judicial retirement announcements.
Sheriff's Office officials said they have no immediate issues with the change in court procedure. But Grimes, the warden, and Sheriff Sid Gautreaux say their most pressing challenge is the jail's s-era building, which they say is structurally unsafe and unsuited for useful new technology. So far, their attempts to get money to build a new jail have been unsuccessful.
A new pre-trial diversion program received a boost in funding Wednesday to help pay for continued efforts to place qualified offenders in trea…. In the last few months, he has helped establish a pretrial diversion program that identifies candidates who could be released on a non-monetary bond into treatment and is working to start a criminal justice coordinating council to bring together all the important players. He said he supports the faster arraignment process and hopes to pursue a pretrial risk assessment tool to help inform judges who is safe to be released from jail without having to post a monetary bond.
Csonka said he hopes that within a year, if progress continues the jail population could be cut by 20 percent. These efforts also fall in line with parish plans to form and operate a new bed mental health center, which leaders hope will also help relieve some burden on the jail, which has become one of the few places for local authorities to take those struggling with mental illness and addiction. Voters resoundingly passed a new parish-wide tax at the end of to support such a facility.
Orleans Parish Corrections Information
Officials hope that once the center opens, it will be able to serve about 5, people a year. Bright became one of the lucky ones to even meet a judge. Bright says after suffering such an emotionally trying experience, "you start to ask yourself, Why not suppress that? If I continued to dwell on it I would go crazy. The suit was meant to address the total lack of an evacuation plan, but also sought "to fix ongoing unconstitutional conditions at the jail, particularly safety and security issues, especially for men, women, and kids with special mental health needs," according to Schwartzmann, who has continued her work on the issue as co-director of the New Orleans branch of Chicago's Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center.
She won her case, and the resulting page federal consent decree against OPP , enacted in June , requires changes to almost every aspect of the facility: increased staffing and training, better mental health facilities, improved food and sanitation, revision of prisoner grievance process, and much more. But besides that, Schwartzmann admits there has been precious little justice for the individual prisoners who survived Gusman's lethal mistakes.
Nor has the consent decree been a cure-all. The guard we spoke to agrees OPP is changing for the better.
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The deputies and officers are more conscious now, which I don't think has to do with Katrina so much as technology, and being watched—bad apples make front-page news now. Plus, new employees go through psych evaluation. It's a more strenuous hiring process and if you manage to make it through that, if you're not in it to help people and you just like the authority, you're gonna get weeded out.
Still, you'd have a hard time convincing Dan Bright, who is currently staying in the Lower 9th Ward while a writer is working on a book about his tumultuous life. He revisited New Orleans's jail about a year ago on further misdemeanor charges, and did not agree that OPP is changing for the better. I went back in for misdemeanor charges and I was in our tent city.
Guys living in tents. The Times-Picayune reported last year that Gusman did purchase four new backup generators for the prison, and in June he promised The Advocate that he would be ready for another Katrina. His office would now theoretically evacuate all of OPP by bus 60 hours prior to the landfall of any hurricane category 2 or greater.
In the case of a category 1 hurricane or a tropical storm, Gusman said the jail staff would likely relocate inmates out of its most vulnerable areas, including the remaining tents. In conjunction with other parish prisons, he said, the Orleans Sheriff's Office would bus inmates to three or more separate state Department of Corrections facilities north of Interstate Inmates would now enjoy a mobile, solar-powered booking facility that would help track them with bar-coded armbands. This incarceration binge we're on [is tough to sustain]. The bigger the prison system, the harder it is to run.
Schwartzmann explains that when she filed the class action suit in , there were 3, prisoners in the jail. Now, "that number has dropped because the city has been working to reduce its incarceration numbers. It has adopted policies such as citations for marijuana offenses , refusal to hold prisoners on out of parish warrants , and implementation of the Pretrial Services Program. Policy changes have driven down our incarceration numbers. And now we're down to 1, people in that jail, and hopefully they'll all be in one facility soon.