Just before Katrina hit the fucked up state of Louisiana, the police there were doing what they do best, protecting everyone by arresting poor folks for minor offenses, like sleeping in public, begging, dealing Tarot cards and being drunk where others can see them. Thousands were in the slammer awaiting initial hearings before local judges when Katrina hit.
Six weeks later. Hundreds are still there, yet to come before a judge. Most should have been free long ago after their 10 day sentences, even if found guilty. Instead they're still locked up.
Local parish prisons—the equivalent of a county jail—in six Louisiana parishes hit hardest by the hurricane held more than 8,500 people when the storm hit. These detainees were evacuated to 43 state and local facilities across the state. Several hundred were sent to Florida as well.It turns out this isn't just the usual Louisiana dysfunction, either. It's deliberate.
Local courts that have the authority to release the detainees remain closed. Although criminal defense attorneys, on October 6, asked the Louisiana State Supreme Court to grant jurisdiction to a single judge to hear all cases originating from the six affected parishes, the court has not yet ruled on the request. If denied, lawyers will be forced to file separate actions in the 26 separate judicial districts where the arrestees are now being kept, a monumental task for the lawyers who are working as volunteers—many of whom are New Orleans evacuees themselves. (Human Rights Watch)
Prosecutors and department of corrections officials have not simply dragged their feet, however. They have also actively sought to impede the release of those who should be free. In habeas and civil rights proceedings brought on behalf of some 200 prisoners, the state’s attorney general, the district attorney, and the department of corrections all argued that the court should delay releasing those who served their time until they could demonstrate that they had somewhere to go when they were released. There is no requirement under Louisiana law, however, that those released after serving their sentence inform authorities of where they intend to go.No wonder energy and chemical companies love this state.
A spokeswoman for the department of corrections told the Times-Picayune last week that the department was concerned about the “wave” of prisoners being released into communities throughout Louisiana with “no place to go.” In habeas proceedings in one municipal court, the corrections department has said it would release people in alphabetical order, 35 or so a day, excluding weekends.