Excerpts of letters written to Human Rights Watch and Corinne Carey regarding accounting first-hand experiences in the Orleans Parish Prison before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
October 10, 2005
Dear Human Rights Watch; Corinne Carey
I’m a inmate from New Orleans Parish Prison, housed at Conchetta. This facility only housed women. I read your article from the Website and I would like to tell you my story. We women inmates were also left to die, without medical attention, no food, no water. We lived in high waters, the building is 3 floors, “the first floor flooded to the top, that force us to move to the second floor. Inmates were beaten by Deputy’s it was a panic situation. Gas lines broke. Living in contaminated waters for 3 long miserable days. The reason I’m writing this letter is because we women would like to be interviewed also to tell our version. I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter. We women hope to hear from Human Rights Watch soon.
[Forwarding address redacted]
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[Name redacted], I too was a victim of Katrina. Orleans-Parish Inmate.
To: Whom it may concern;
I am one of the surviving inmates from Hurricane Katrina! I was housed in the CTA Building. One of the last, last, female facilities to evacuate. We were without food, water, lights, and medical attention for over 4 days. I watched a lot of my fellow inmates pass out. We were ingesting all sorts of noxious gasses. To the extent they made you nauseous and lightheaded. I’ve been incarcerated now over 11 months never been convicted or sentenced. A lot of the officers left us there to die. The sheriff stated on national T.V. that the inmates are to remain where they belong! Such a cruel and unjustifiable statement. Besides all of that madness they sprayed some inmates with mace. We have to use the restroom out in the open. They drew guns on us as if we were trying to escape! All I wanted to do was get to safety. Some of us may be guilty of crimes, and some may not. But each life is still precious and all people should be treated equal. We weren’t allowed to bring anything with us such as family pictures! Probably the only ones that could have been salvaged. There is one woman however, stayed with the inmates to the bitter end. Her name is: Colonel Joseph. She was a god sent Angel. So many deputies abandon us. It was a very scary ordeal. So many times I saw my life flash before my eyes. I’ve never been a vengeful person, but something needs to be done because that was definitely cruel and unjustifiable the actions they took in our safety. We had no alternative but to end of drinking toilet water!
[name and inmate number redacted]
Letter also signed by:
[29 other Angola women inmates, names and inmate numbers redacted]
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[name and inmate number redacted]
Camp F D4-L
Angola, LA 70712
A Inmate From Templeman Four
“To Whom it may Concern”
My name is [name and inmate number redacted] an inmate that was housed at Orleans Parish Prison, and my location was at Templeman 4. Let me tell some of what I what through well for starters it started Aug, 28, 2005 when the lights went out but the generator came on it was hot we had no water or food we were locked on our dorms with no air for 24 hours. Monday on the 29th the day of the hurricane still no food or water, and no air and on top of all that the water started to rise and rise!! And yet we are still locked down like dogs. The water got as high as to the second bunk before they decided to move us out of the building. That’s when sheriff Marlin Gusman came took us out the Templeman 4 building, and move us to Templeman 2which was no better. That building was dirty where the man had set fires to get out we suffered there until from 4:00am until maybe 2:00pm Thursday evening still no food or water. After that we walk through water up to our chest where we stood in the front of I.P.C. for at least 12 hours!! We were just standing in them infested waters all those hours. Still no food or water. After that we walk through more water to board the boats after standing in that funky infested water at about 12:30 am midnight that is!! From there they brought us to the Broad Overpass where some of the male inmates were out there. We had to sleep on top of the Bridge overnight still no food or water. So then we had to use the rest room right there in the open in front free would people and the male inmates and I think that was truly cruel and don’t talk about the shot guns they were holding on us we couldn’t talk or else we are going to get shot. Wednesday morning some of us started passing out from no water or food for at least four days. So from there the people from D.O.C. came got us from the overpass and brought us to I-10 interstate where we had to wait for transportation. And that’s just the beginning of that horrible nightmare, and just like the make inmates from Templeman 3 said they left us to die they didn’t care what happen to us I believe they wish we would have died. But thank God these people here at Angola La. especially warden Burl Cain if it wouldn’t have been for him and the rest of D.O.C. we would have!!! Oh there’s more but I guess you know already.
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[Letter undated, postmarked October 15, 2005]
On September 22, 2005 a petition was written and signed by these evacuated inmates of Orleans Parish Prison plus myself. Concerning our health, well being, also horrific conditions in which we had to survive as opposed to being housed at Avoyelles Corrections Center (Auto Mechanic Garage). Here is a list of the various conditions in which we had to live under.
Signs of all sorts indicating the surrounding as well.
Chemical storage, no fire extinguisher, Caution flammable gas, a car painting and body & fender shop, compressed air, Danger High Voltage, sandblasting shop, Danger No Smoking, oxygen, acetylene, open gated tool shed and supplies, use eye protective equipment in designated area, caution wear eye protection, 120 inmates sharing 2 port-o-let, severely infested with big mosquitos and other insects, limited 4 minutes to eat at least, also 4 minutes to phone call/1 per week, being confined to isolation for talking, walking also speaking, on conditions asking legit questions, and consequences very brutal also severe, physical beating, being gased and left that way for days, put in a cell 85% naked wearing only a hospital gown to be belittled among other men, 3 to a 2 man cell without matts, pillows, or even cover, and personal hygiene items, violating our constitutional rights, add to that the wardens participates as well in just about every event that takes place, only to find it exciting, and amusing, not to mention exciting. We are literally suffering and being treated as if we are animals rather than humans let alone inmates. Justice haven’t been served neither has our rights. Many correction officers played favoritism to the fact that, because we all are from New Orleans that we are all menaces to society. They find any and every reason to manipulated the inmates that require medical attention don’t get it at they time of need. Some of the officers even with held mail outgoing and incoming. They also with held out messages from family members which could have been important just like the mail. They only allowed us 30 minutes for recreation for all 428 inmates. 30 minutes for 2 sides each. Meals are half done. Because we are eating at Culinary Arts. Where our food is experimental meals. When inmates go to the block (isolation) they take our shoes. And the inmates whoever working as the cell block orderly keep them. On sell them to other inmates whoever within there center grounds. One night a bat flew in the Auto Mechanic Garage. There is no clean air circulating also no ventilation very unsanitary and inhumane. And that how our experience as Orleans Paris Prisoners where and still is at Avoyelles Correctional Center (K/A) Cottonport. And these thing shouldn’t be this way.
Can you help in appointing us a lawyer, if you can my phone number is [phone number redacted]
Or if by anyway you need me for more information my address is:
* * * * *
[Name, inmate number, and dorm location redacted]
Angola, LA 70712
Saturday, October 15, 2005
To Whom it May Concern:
I had received your address regarding a class action lawsuit against the city of New Orleans and all parties involved from several Katrina Evacuees Inmates who had encouraged me to write to your organization now instead of later.
I had been arrested for bad checks, on my own checking account, at [location and date of the offense redacted], and taken to central booking on Tulane Avenue and Broad Street. I was booked on one charged and stripped of all personal belongings; I wasn’t given my pills for diabetes or any of three pairs of prescription eyeglasses, where I now sit at LSP with blurred vision. I also had my expired [name of ID card redacted] and social security card stolen in my presence while in central booking. I was taken to late night court and bail was set for $2,500.00, then transported to jail (Orleans Parish Prison, aka Concheta or CTA, 3600 Perdido Street), arriving early Tuesday morning, August 23rd. I had never been arrested before and found the whole experience very humiliating.
Bad goes to worse. Hurricane Katrina hits Sunday, August 28th, leaving most of New Orleans under five feet to nine feet of water. From that time on until our rescue on Wednesday afternoon, August 31st, by a three-man team from Angola, O.P.A. population was not evacuated, and there was no talk heard to evacuate. No preparations for food or water were made for us. We went without food, and some inmates found out that on the third floor of the building, there was still water running from a sink; it was warm but drinkable. No food, little water, no electricity, a couple of women broke out two of the three “dormitory” windows for air on our second day of abandonment by the city (we were given a full meal of two sandwiches, apples, cookies, bottled water, and other assorted snacks after our rescue by a three-man Angola team by boats). The toilets had stopped working the second day and the women used the showers for toilet needs. The first floor flooded out and was evacuated to the second and third floor dorms, resulting in overcrowding and “dramas” caused by tempers and not knowing if we would be rescued or not at this point. I was taken to the hospital on LSP grounds within twelve hours of our rescue, suffering severe hemroids caused by an impacted colon and heavy menstrual bleeding, as well as dehydration and treated. We’ve been here since our arrival on Thursday, September 1, 2005. Out of 1,500 O.P.P. inmates, only 750 inmates/”Katrina Evacuees” have been released over the seven weeks since Katrina from this all male penal institution.
Please, add my name and statement to this class-action lawsuit a.s.a.p.