Thursday, August 30, 2007

Disaster, Inc. Part IV

And from the ACLU :

On Katrina's Second Anniversary, Ongoing Civil and Human Rights Violations on the Gulf Coast Still Reported

A new report by the ACLU, Broken Promises: Two Years After Katrina, exposes numerous civil rights violations that have occurred in Louisiana and Mississippi since the storm, including reports of heightened racially motivated police activity, housing discrimination, and prisoner abuse.

"Politicians made promises, but they failed to fix the problems that Katrina's fury made painfully clear,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “The government must be held accountable for its mistakes rather than allowed to perpetuate the systemic racism and discrimination that only added strength to the storm."

The report highlights the ongoing abuses since the storm, including:

Violence and neglect run rampant behind the walls of the jails. Some conditions in the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) have even worsened since last year. The House of Detention, the largest of four jail buildings reopened since the storm, is severely overcrowded and conditions are squalid. Prisoners are forced to sleep on the floor without mattresses for weeks at a time in areas where up to 18 prisoners are held in cells designed for 10 people. There is no air-conditioning in most of the overcrowded facility despite excessive heat. These inhumane and dangerous conditions are exacerbated by severe understaffing at the jail.

Medical and mental health services at the jails are grossly inadequate. There reportedly have been several recent outbreaks of "staph" infections, a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease caused by filth and unsanitary conditions, and efforts to provide treatment are deficient.

Prisoners who are identified as needing mental health care after being taken into custody have been sent to a unit where they are strapped down to a bed in five-point restraints. The ACLU has received reports of prisoners being left there, largely unsupervised, for days at a time without any breaks, even to use the restroom.

In light of the findings in the report, Congress should pass legislation to address post-Katrina injustices, including racial profiling, voter disenfranchisement, and the dearth of health care facilities and low-income housing. The Department of Justice should investigate severe problems at OPP, the New Orleans jail system where prisoners were abandoned during the storm.

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