Prisons - Hurricane Katrina and Criminal Justice (CERD Shadow Report, 2008)

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the world watched as thousands of people, the
majority poor and Black, were abandoned in the Gulf South. Many of those left to die were
locked inside the flooding Orleans Parish Prison. While some of their stories, and the stories of
those incarcerated at New Orleans’ “Camp Greyhound” post-Katrina, have been exposed, the
vast majority of those imprisoned before, during and after Katrina—collectively, known as the
“Prisoners of Katrina”—suffered, and continue to suffer, silently. Moreover, discussion of an
appropriate remedy for the egregious violations of human rights suffered by the “Prisoners of
Katrina” has not been prominent.
While much of the post-Katrina discourse has spoken of the Government’s failure to
respond, this report documents a few predominant ways in which the City, State and Federal
government entities did respond: 1.) through unparalleled levels of policing, 2.) arrests, and 3.)
the cruel abandonment of those locked up in Orleans Parish Prison.
Critical Resistance (CR) is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to end
society’s use of prisons and policing as responses to what are social, political economic
problems. CR’s Southern Regional Office has been located in New Orleans since 2002. This
report is published as part of CR’s Campaign for “Amnesty for the Prisoners of Katrina” which
seeks to challenge the imprisonment, prosecution, arrest and conviction records of people whose
cases were impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
CR’s campaign seeks the release, dropping of charges, and expungement of records of
those arrested during Katrina, for trying to take care of themselves and their loved ones, and
those whose cases were impacted by the storm. Those whose cases were impacted by the storm
include not only those arrested for trying to survive, but also those held past release dates after being transferred from OPP to prisons around the state; those who have had their fundamental
constitutional right to defend themselves dramatically impacted by lost evidence and witnesses;
and those who were awaiting court appearances in fall 2005 who were unaware that the courts
restarted prosecutions of their cases and may have outstanding warrants for their arrest.
The following report details why the call for Amnesty for Prisoners of Katrina is not only
a necessary step to rectify injustices, but also how amnesty has been used historically and is an
appropriate remedy under International Human Rights treaties signed by the United States. In
Post-Katrina New Orleans, amnesty is a logical solution to minimize the long term consequences
for the “Prisoners of Katrina”. Further, amnesty can fundamentally change the ways in which we
approach true public safety.