What We Know: The Status of Prisoners and Policing Post Katrina

Critical Resistance
Date Published: 
October 11, 2005

What We Know:



What happened to prisoners in flooded Louisiana prisons?

•  Around 8,500 Louisiana prisoners were moved from flooded prisons and jails to 35 different Louisiana prisons and jails. Lists of names of evacuate prisoners can be found at http://www.lidab.com/ (scroll down to find the link).

•  Federal prisoners were moved to a Federal prison in Florida. For more information on specific issues for federal prisoners, contact Rebecca Hudsmith at rhudsmith [at] aol [dot] com (rhudsmith [at] aol [dot] com). There is still not a full accounting of what happened in the evacuation of Old Parish Prison in New Orleans (OPP), although troubling reports have been received. According to a September 22nd Human Rights Watch report, 517 prisoners who were being held at OPP remain unaccounted for. Prisoners who had been housed in Templeman III, a building in the OPP complex, told HRW workers that they were left without food or water in rising flood conditions, with water as high as their necks. While some were able to save themselves, they said other prisoners below them, left locked in their cells, were crying and asking for help.   

•  Another, earlier story explained that guards moved people up floors & then into a gym, leaving them for two days without food and water. Most were able to break windows and escape rising water, swimming out of the jail. There are reports, thus far unconfirmed, that people who were locked in holding cells were left to drown. According to these reports, those who escaped from the flooding prison turned themselves in and were eventually transferred.

•  Reports about prisoners who were evacuated indicate that they were held at gunpoint on New Orleans overpasses awaiting transport for hours, even days.

•  In some areas affected by the storm, prisoners are being used as a labor force, providing relief services and clearing debris.

•  Prisoners reported being refused the right to call home to check on loved ones.


How to find and contact prisoners moved after Katrina:

•  Attorneys have been working over the past months to contact and interview every adult prisoner moved in the wake of Katrina. Information from their work (including some specific lists of evacuated prisoners and their locations) updates, and further links can be found at: http://www.lacdlinmatetracking.blogspot.com.

•  The Department of Corrections (DOC) established hotlines to call for locating family members moved from Orleans' area prisons and jails. They are: 225-342-3998 and 225-342-5935 and are supposed to be staffed from 7:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m. Hunt Correctional Center, where many male prisoners from OPP may have been transferred, also set up a hotline: 225-352-5924 . DOC staff will only tell family members where their loved one is located, and no other information (release date, case status, etc.). Family members should be allowed to give a message to their loved one.

•  Youth who were in Bridge City Center for Youth (BCCY) were moved to Jetson Correctional Center and can be located by calling Jetson at 225-778-9000; ask for John Anderson, Michael Gaines, Ricky Wright, or Linda London. Demand the child be brought to the phone to speak immediately with their family member.

•  Young people held at the Youth Study Center, Plaquemine Detention Center, St. Bernard Center, Terrebonne Detention Center, and Riverde Detention Center have been routed to placements in other parts of the state. Family members should call Perla at (225) 287-7988 or (225) 328-3607 (cell) or Stacey at (225) 287-7955 to find out where their child is located. Ask Perla for a phone number, call, and demand that they be permitted to speak to their child immediately on the phone.

•  As of Friday, September 17th, a coalition of attorneys in Louisiana secured releases for nearly 500 prisoners held beyond their sentences — mostly people on parole violations and “municipal” charges. The attorneys state that this should be the beginning of a process of getting people out who were “overdue for release.” As of November 18th, lawyers working for the release of a number of categories of prisoners have been making progress in the filing of habeas corpus petitions on behalf of prisoners who were held in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, St. Charles, and St. Tammany Parishes.   They are also working on other possibilities for release, and are looking for family members who might be able to post bail for those eligible and working on contacting the parole offices of prisoners on parole hold. See http://www.lacdlinmatetracking.blogspot.com/ for more information.


Criminal background checks for survivors headed to shelters:

•  Some American Red Cross shelters accepting evacuees from the areas affected by Katrina are refusing entry without a criminal background check. This has been confirmed in at least three states, and according to one Red Cross spokesperson, the practice is “supported” by the organization.

•  The FBI opened its criminal database to a wider number of people, providing access to that information through local police and sheriffs departments.   Some local departments are processing criminal background checks of Katrina survivors, people volunteering to do relief work, and people volunteering housing free of charge to requestors and, based on that record, judging if the person is “suitable” or “unsuitable” as a volunteer, host, or new resident or guest.

•  According to National Public Radio and other sources, many of the offers of housing require that the survivor have no criminal record or record of eviction.


The use of prisons and police post Katrina:

•  A makeshift jail has been established in the New Orleans Greyhound station. Angola Prison Warden Burl Cain, brought in to run the jail, has declared that the construction of this makeshift jail is a “real start” to rebuilding New Orleans.

•  Over 900 people were arrested for offenses related to feeding and clothing themselves post Katrina.  


This fact sheet was compiled by Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization seeking to end the use of imprisonment as an answer to social, political and economic problems. Critical Resistance’s Southern Regional Office, located in New Orleans’ mid-city neighborhood, was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Critical Resistance is working with Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children and Communities United to assist prisoners and their loved ones attempting to reunite after Katrina. For more information or to support this and other work, please call CR at 510-444-0484 or email crnational [at] criticalresistance [dot] org