Prisoners of Katrina

n the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while thousands fled New Orleans, the city’s prisoners were trapped. Fresh eye-witness accounts reveal what really happened to those left behind, and how crucial forensic evidence was simply washed away. In September 2005, long after most people had fled a devastated city, inmates of Orleans Parish Prison – many of them shackled – were still waiting to be rescued from the blazing heat and the stinking floods.

“They basically abandoned the prison,” says Vincent Norman, a chef arrested for an unpaid fine who found himself locked in a cell for days. Norman should have been there no more than a week. Instead, abandoned without food, drink or sanitation as the waters rose, he was in prison for 103 days.

In the days before the hurricane, when other citizens of New Orleans were ordered to leave, city leaders were asked: “What about the prisoners in the jail?” “The prisoners will stay where they belong,” replied Marlin Gusman, the criminal sheriff in charge of the city jail. But it was a gamble he would regret.

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  1. Might be a good idea to stay out of trouble so you don’t end up in New Orleans Parish jail before a hurricane.

  2. I really enjoyed this documentary. It shed light on the human condition during times of strife. History tells us that prisoners and the downtrodden always face the burden of disasters the hardest. Katrina revealed to all of us that civility is fragile and easily shattered when immediate survival becomes priority.

    The penal system has become tainted by capitalism. It was founded on justice, but its become a business; Its owners are making lots of money. Soon they will simply tag us with electronic bracelets under house arrest for even more petty crimes. They still make the money, but we adopt their burden. Maximize profits, minimize expenses.

    Realize that soon, the difference between US (the free) and THEM (the prisoner) will be non-existent. We will all become the victim.