Disasters / Emergencies, Police, Prisons

Hurricanes Make Strange Bedfellows

plaquemines parish levee prisoner inmates.jpgAs was widely reported in yesterday’s coverage of Hurricane Gustav, quick thinking and brute manpower relieved the pressure on a private levee in Plaquemines Parish. The levee protected a subdivision of a couple of hundred homes.
Nearly 400 people participated in saving the levee. Their ranks included residents, first responders, the Army Corps of Engineers… and an unconfirmed number of prison inmates who were pressed into service.
Most of the prisoners from New Orleans and surrounding areas were evacuated well ahead of Gustav’s landfall. In Orleans Parish, about 300 municipal prisoners were simply delivered out of bondage. Only violent municipal offenders were kept in custody and moved with the 2500 inmates held on more serious charges.
Yet there were still enough prisoners on hand to help out when the Plaquemines Parish levee weakened.
We spoke with Pam Laborde, a spokeswomen for the Louisiana Department of Corrections. She could not tell us which parish’s prisoners were involved in the levee saving efforts. However she was not surprised that there was extra muscle on hand.

It’s not unusual in those types of emergencies to hold a few people on a work crew back so that they are able to help perform certain functions keeping the city government working. Whether they run the kitchen or as a work crew for cleaning the roads or that type of thing.

It’s one thing to scrub a latrine, but prisoners who helped to save a levee that protected homes — and potentially saved lives — should merit a “get out of jail free” card.
Laborde did not know the specifics involving efforts of these particular inmates (or their crimes), but she said that generally no such special consideration is given for state prisoners who stay behind and in harm’s way. She did say that if they were municipal prisoners, any time off would be given at the discretion of the individual Sheriffs’ departments.
Not surprisingly, Plaquemines Parish Sheriff “Jiff” Hingle could not be reached for comment.
Lawlessness can be a common occurrence during natural disasters, but apparently not all of it is bad.
Concerns about New Orleans-area levee ease [CNN]

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