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With this letter, Human Rights Watch and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. (LDF) formally request the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice to con¬duct an investigation into credible allegations of widespread abuse at the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DOC) facility in Jena, Louisiana that holds Katrina evacuee detainees.

In light of these claims, our organizations are gravely concerned about the physical safety of the Katrina evacuee detainees being held in Jena. The state department of corrections has shown little interest thus far in investigating whether staff have abused detainees at Jena. The DOC is allegedly investigating whether staff have abused detainees at Jena and yet none of the inmates who spoke with HRW and LDF had been in contact with any DOC officials regarding this investigation. Furthermore, past history also leads us to doubt whether such an investigation would, in any event, be impartial and
sufficiently thorough. A federal investigation is warranted to determine if the detainees' civil and human rights have been violated and whether the viola¬tions constitute crimes that should be prosecuted.

A federal civil rights investigation should not be limited to the nature of any mistreatment inflicted on inmates and who engaged in it. It should also include whether the staff at Jena have been properly instructed in department policies, whether they have been properly supervised, and whether detainees had or have any access to grievance procedures. The investigation should also assess whether the department had in place appropriate plans to provide safe and humane hous¬ing to thousands of inmates in the event of a massive evacuation such as just occurred.

Human Rights Watch and LDF would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the situation at Jena and our concerns. We will call your office to follow up on the pos¬sibility of such a meeting.

Please feel free to contact Jamie Fellner at (212) 216-1212 or Ted Shaw at (212) 965¬2246 if you have any further questions.


Jamie Fellner
Director, U.S. Program
Human Rights Watch

Theodore M. Shaw
NAACP Legal Defense Fund


Albert Moskowitz
Judy Preston
Bobbi Bernstein

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