I cross-posed our piece at DailyKos yesterday on the Galveston County jail's decision to not evacuate 1,000 inmates despite a mandatory evacuation order for the city and warnings that those who remained in the area faced "certain death."
The story became a top-ranked diary and has so far generated 585 comments. It also inspired some grassroots journalism, with contributor IngeniousGirl getting in touch with one of the Galveston deputies and delivering this report:
I just talked to the Deputy on duty at the jail, yes they do answer the phone, and they are all ok ... I grilled the Deputy very hard, and she was professional.
If true, that's reassuring news. Facing South is still waiting to hear back from Texas officials we have contacted for comment, including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot.
What isn't reassuring is that IngeniousGirl's report confirms that the Galveston County jail inmates and staff were NOT evacuated in the face of deadly Category 2 hurricane and were somehow exempted from the mandatory evacuation in place for the area.
In other words, Galveston officials -- specifically, the sheriff who apparently had authority -- deliberately placed the inmates and staff in harm's way.
As I noted yesterday, this directly violates the United Nations human rights standards regarding those affected by natural disasters [pdf], which has strong language about protecting the rights of those who are incarcerated. It also stipulates that there cannot be discrimination in the hurricane response -- for example, evacuating one group and leaving another in harm's way.
It's also reminiscent of the horrible treatment of inmates in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Jordan Flaherty described the situation New Orleans:
When Hurricane Katrina hit, there was no evacuation plan for the 7,000 prisoners in Orleans Parish Prison, the New Orleans city jail, generally known as OPP, or the approximate 1,500 prisoners in nearby jails. According to first-hand accounts gathered by advocates, prisoners were abandoned in their cells while the water was rising around them. They were subjected to a heavily armed "rescue" by state prison guards that involved beatings, mace and being left in the sun with no water or food for several days, followed by a transfer to state maximum security prisons. Although their treatment brought national attention to the condition of prisoners in Louisiana, and comparison to prison abuse scandals from Attica to Abu Ghraib, local government officials have attempted to dodge accountability and continue with business as usual.
Apparently we didn't learn after Katrina.