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Broken Promises - 2 Years After Katrina, ACLU, 2007

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Years after Katrina

2 years after Katrina

2 years after Katrina

years after Katrina



T H E A M E R I C A N C I V I L L I B E R T I E S U N I O N is the nation’s premier
guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities
to defend and preserve the individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by
the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
Nadine Strossen, President
Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director
Richard Zacks, Treasurer

125 Broad Street, 18th Fl.
New York, NY 10004-2400
(212) 549-2500

Paid for by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation.

FOREWORD _____________________________ 4

THE DEATH OF GLENN THOMAS _____________ 28

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ____________________ 7

The Sheriff’s Revised Evacuation Plan _______ 29

INTRODUCTION __________________________ 9

DEFENDER CRISIS _______________________ 30

OF HURRICANE KATRINA _________________ 11

Devastation Brings Change:
Reforms in the Indigent Defender’s Office _____ 30

Police Abuse ___________________________ 11

JAMES TERRY __________________________ 31

STEVEN ELLOIE ________________________ 13

Over-Policing and Racial Profiling ___________ 14

The Legislature Starts Taking
Responsibility for Indigent Defense __________ 32

ANTOINE LEWIS _________________________ 15

A Precarious Balance: The Need for
Increased and Reliable Funding ____________ 32

Housing Discrimination ___________________ 16

The Costs of Inadequate Defense ___________ 32

Voter Disenfranchisement _________________ 16


Human Rights for the Victims of Katrina _____ 35

The Race to Reopen and Rebuild ___________ 18

CONCLUSION __________________________ 37

Significant Problems at Orleans Parish Prison ___ 19
Environmental Hazards ___________________ 19
Medical Care Falls Short __________________ 20
Inadequate Mental Health Care _____________ 21

RECOMMENDATIONS ____________________ 38
Recommendations to Federal Officials________ 38
Recommendations to State Officials__________ 39
Recommendations to Local Officials _________ 40


___________________ 22

KATHERINE MATTES ____________________ 24

Recommendations to the United States
Government at the Federal, State,
and Local Levels Regarding International
Human Rights Obligations ________________ 41

Excessive Force and Unchecked
Prisoner-on-Prisoner Violence ______________ 25

AUTHORS ______________________________ 42



____ 22

MICHAEL BOUSUM _____________________ 26
In-Custody Deaths ______________________ 27

ENDNOTES _____________________________ 44





traveled to New Orleans in early 2007 – my first visit since
Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005 and thrust a
national spotlight on the persistence of racism in the context
of American poverty and American privilege.
I saw painful evidence of that persistence – and of the persistence of American indifference to the plight of poor people of
color – in the Lower 9th Ward. It was nearly eighteen
months after the storm hit and nearly every house I saw was
still deserted. Handmade street signs, put up by local folks so
that they would know which street was which, stood where
official ones had been uprooted. There were front steps to
houses that were no longer there. They looked like tombstones in a graveyard.
Politicians have made promises. After Katrina, President
Bush pledged to “clear away the legacy of inequality,” and
“renew our promise as a land of equality and decency.” I
remember President Carter coming to my native South
Bronx when I was a kid, making a similar promise.
Katrina thrust poverty and race back into America’s face. It
happens every so often in our America. Years ago it was
Newark and Detroit in flames. Now it may be Latino janitors
stopping Los Angeles traffic, demanding dignity. America
looks long enough to see the reflection of its broken aspirations in the faces of poor people of color, only to recoil or flinch
at what it sees. The fury of Katrina should have made it harder to recoil and look away. But look away we did.

2 years after Katrina

With our 53 affiliates nationwide, the American Civil
Liberties Union is uniquely poised to continue the struggle
for racial justice in our country that we forged many
decades ago. Significant battles have been won, but our
fight will persist until we overcome the “legacy of inequality” to which President Bush paid lip service two years ago.
In August 2006, the ACLU released Abandoned & Abused:
Orleans Parish Prisoners in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina –
a groundbreaking report that told the stories of some of the
7,000 men, women, and children who were warehoused at
the jail when the hurricane made landfall.
This report, Broken Promises: Two Years After Katrina,
examines the problems highlighted in Abandoned & Abused
and documents government failures to protect human
rights, civil liberties, and public safety in the year that has
passed. It concludes with recommendations for government actions at the federal, state and local levels to remedy
the mistakes of Katrina rather than perpetuating the problems that only added strength to the storm.

Executive Director
American Civil Liberties Union


In a nationwide address the night of September 15, 2005, President Bush assured the nation that New Orleans would rise
again, that “we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.”
Two years later, residents of the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans are still waiting.




Officers guard
prisoners on a
freeway overpass in the days
after Hurricane


2 years after Katrina


Two years ago, Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf
Coast, devastating the homes and lives of millions of people.
Images seen around the world reflected the reality of what
was happening on the ground, as the storm and its aftermath
revealed deep racial inequalities that have long existed in the
region. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have now
returned to their homes, hoping to rebuild their communities
and resume their lives, while many others continue to live in
the Katrina Diaspora. Their experiences, detailed in this
report, show that the region’s infrastructure is not the only
thing that needs mending. The ACLU, our nation’s largest
government watchdog and defender of civil rights, has been
inundated with reports of racial injustice and human rights
violations that have taken place in Louisiana and Mississippi
since the storm. These complaints have come from families,
business owners, evacuees, and prisoners who have suffered
abuse in the storm’s aftermath. This report details the
increase in police abuse, racial profiling, housing discrimination, and other civil liberties violations that have been
brought to the attention of the ACLU, and the ACLU’s
response to them.
One area of particular concern to the ACLU is the situation in Orleans Parish Prison (OPP), the New Orleans jail.
In August 2006, the ACLU and several local and national
partner organizations released Abandoned & Abused: Orleans
Parish Prisoners in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina.1 Abandoned
& Abused tells the story of what happened at OPP before,
during, and after the storm in the words of prisoners, staff,
and deputies who were present. The report exposes OPP’s
dark history of neglect and abuse, the lack of planning that
preceded Hurricane Katrina, and the chaos that ensued
throughout the New Orleans criminal justice system in the
year following the storm.
With Broken Promises: Two Years After Katrina, the
ACLU brings Abandoned & Abused into the present. Another


year has passed, and OPP remains dangerously ill prepared
to handle a future emergency. OPP’s House of Detention and
Central Lock-Up are both overcrowded and understaffed,
leading to unsafe and unsanitary conditions, the outbreak of
infectious diseases, and widespread violence. Notwithstanding serious deficiencies in the provision of mental health care
at OPP, the absence of community mental health services has
left the jail as the city’s largest provider of psychiatric services.
Although New Orleans has made vast improvements in its
indigent defense system, those changes are extremely fragile
and depend upon increased and reliable funding.




Wrecks like this
were common
in the Lower 9th
Ward after
Katrina. PHOTO

2 years after Katrina



President George W. Bush strode dramatically into Jackson
Square in the center of storm-ravaged New Orleans on the
night of September 15, 2005, two weeks after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast. Despite the heroic efforts
of some, the heavy rains and flooded streets showed America’s government at its worst. The storm’s victims—mainly
poor, black, and disenfranchised—encountered a government seemingly indifferent to their suffering. Escaping their
flooded homes, they found no safe harbor, no sustenance,
and the deluged streets were strewn with not only the flotsam
and jetsam of their lives, but also the uncollected bodies of
families, friends, and neighbors.
So, after two weeks that deeply shamed America, an
apparently chastened president came to a stricken city in the
dead of night bearing promises and offering hope.
“And tonight I also offer this pledge of the American
people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do
what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens
rebuild their communities and their lives. And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know there is no
way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this
great city will rise again,” President Bush said.2
“Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but
to thrive; not just to cope, but to overcome. We want evacuees to come home, for the best reasons—because they have
a real chance at a better life in a place they love,” he added.3
Like everything else that had gone on since the storm
first hit on August 29, 2005, the president’s promises that
night turned out to be a cruel hoax.




Homes in the
Lower 9th
Ward; still in
ruins after two
years. PHOTO

2 years after Katrina


Hurricane Katrina wrought unprecedented havoc on the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, leaving both levees and spirits
broken in its wake. As it turned out, Katrina was not the “Big
One” everyone expected and feared; the devastating hurricane’s eye actually missed New Orleans. But the combination
of nature’s fury with the gale forces of incompetence, indifference, and inertia unleashed a flood that scattered the region’s
population, and unearthed deep racial inequalities. Our nation
is only now, two years later, beginning to grasp the true dimensions of the tragedy.
In the two years since Katrina, countless race-based
attacks on the civil and human rights of people in Louisiana
and Mississippi have tainted the recovery process. Although
authorities have adopted few policies that explicitly discriminate against people on the basis of race, the effects of many
new policies have fallen disproportionately on people of color.
While trying to rebuild their lives and regain a sense of normalcy, African-Americans in the region have faced problems
stemming from police abuse, over-policing and racial profiling, housing discrimination, and voter disenfranchisement.
Latinos have also borne the brunt of excessive law enforcement techniques and racial profiling.
Ultimately, Katrina held a mirror up to our society and
what we saw was hardly flattering. In the reflecting pool of
the angry floods, hungry white victims “found” the food they
needed to survive, while blacks doing the exact same thing
were said to have “looted” it.4 America’s perceptions reflect
the reality that this country remains divided by race and class.


Police Abuse
Although abuse by Louisiana police was rampant long
before Hurricane Katrina, police actions during the evacuation were particularly alarming. During the storm, hundreds
of Katrina survivors, mostly African-American, followed the
instruction of New Orleans authorities and attempted to
evacuate the city by crossing the Crescent City Connection
bridge into the neighboring city of Gretna. When the evacuees arrived at the bridge, Gretna police officers, who reportedly were ordered by the police chief to seal off the
passageway, allegedly fired shots in the direction of the crowd
and held some evacuees at gunpoint.5 Attorney General
Charles Foti has yet to make public the results of his investigation and has declined to pursue criminal charges against
any of the officers involved.6 In a similar incident at Danziger
Bridge, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) officers
gunned down several New Orleans residents, killing two,
including a mentally retarded man who was shot in the
back.7 Seven of the officers have been charged with murder.8
Only days after the storm, the Orleans Parish Criminal
Sheriff’s Office converted a Greyhound bus station into a
makeshift jail to replace the flooded OPP. Louisiana State
Penitentiary Warden Burl Cain referred to “Camp Greyhound” as “a real start to rebuilding this city.”9 Widespread
reports revealed that arrestees were held in small cages with
insufficient bedding, ventilation, and other essentials, and
that they often were poorly treated by National Guardsmen
and Sheriff’s deputies. In addition, detainees were forbidden
to use phones or contact private counsel. When an attorney
from the ACLU of Louisiana attempted to observe court
proceedings at the makeshift camp, she was twice removed
from the room and had her notebook seized and read by
Sheriff’s deputies.10



2 years after Katrina






teven Elloie is the manager of a familyowned-and-operated bar in Central City, a
predominantly African-American New Orleans
neighborhood. On June 23, 2006, six to ten
NOPD officers entered Mr. Elloie’s bar and
forcefully searched the premises without a warrant or permission. In full view of numerous witnesses, and without provocation, the officers
severely beat and twice tasered Mr. Elloie. One
or more of the officers also drew firearms on the
patrons of the bar and yelled profanities at them.
Although aware of the severity of his physical
injuries, the officers took Elloie directly to
Orleans Parish Prison. Jail officials refused to
admit him in his condition and requested that he
be taken to the hospital for treatment. Before
being returned to OPP, Elloie was treated for
injuries to his head, body, and extremities—multiple bruises and abrasions, numbness and tingling of his skin—as well as an elevated heart
rate and high blood pressure. The charges of

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many
Mississippians began to complain about police officers using
excessive force, including tasers, during routine traffic stops.
Many of these stops occurred when people violated cityimposed curfews while attempting to retrieve items from
their homes or check on relatives. The ACLU of Mississippi
recently embarked on a campaign to educate citizens about
their rights, hosting two trainings and a town hall meeting in
the Gulf Coast region. The ACLU of Mississippi and the

resisting arrest and battery against an officer
were ultimately dropped.
Mr. Elloie filed a complaint with the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau (PIB), and provided a taped
statement and additional evidence regarding the
incident. He also provided a list of witnesses to
the incident. Nevertheless, Mr. Elloie later learned
that the PIB classified his allegations as “not sustained” and refused numerous requests for information about its investigation into the complaint.
This finding raises serious questions about
whether any effective oversight of the police
exists, and exemplifies the city’s continued failure
to adequately address complaints against
police. Apparently, the officers were acting in
accordance with a new NOPD policy directing
them to be “very aggressive” and “proactive” in
Central City. In June 2007, the ACLU of
Louisiana filed a lawsuit on Mr. Elloie’s behalf
against the city of New Orleans.11 ■

NAACP are also assisting the family of Robert James
Smith, an 18-year-old who was found hanged in his
Pascagoula County prison cell on May 18, 2007, despite having no history of depression or suicide attempts. The police
department ruled the death a suicide, but police and jail officials have reported conflicting stories about the incident.
Both organizations have requested the death certificate,
autopsy report, and any other pertinent information in order
to discern what exactly happened.12



Over-Policing and Racial Profiling
Over-policing and racial profiling are distinct problems that
are often intertwined. The former refers broadly to excessive
and dysfunctional police practices, while the latter identifies
the unequal application of law enforcement practices against
a given community. Since Katrina, many Louisiana law
enforcement officials have adopted practices that disproportionately affect African-American and Latino drivers, homeowners, and business people. Police checkpoints have
spurred increased complaints because of their effect on predominantly African-American communities. The Latino
community is the target of a recently utilized law that criminalizes undocumented drivers.13 Responding to complaints in
New Orleans, the ACLU of Louisiana filed suit against the
NOPD on September 19, 2006, to obtain previously
requested data on racial profiling and the use of excessive
force.14 The ACLU also filed amicus briefs in two challenges

2 years after Katrina

to the “driving while undocumented” law.15
Concerns of over-policing are particularly striking in
areas such as Renaissance Village, one of the largest Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailer parks in
Louisiana and home to more than 1500 families. Although
designed to be a residential neighborhood, Renaissance Village was run more like a prison: law enforcement personnel
policed the park and required identification just for entry. In
February 2006, the Baton Rouge police force began conducting a series of 6:00 a.m. searches of evacuee trailers in a
“knock and talk” campaign.16 Upon receiving requests from
residents, the ACLU of Louisiana conducted a “Know Your
Rights” training at the trailer park. The ACLU also opposed
on privacy grounds FEMA’s disclosure of residents’ information to law enforcement officials in East Baton Rouge
Parish.17 FEMA ultimately agreed, and refused to turn over
evacuees’ information to the Sheriff, who wanted to perform
background checks on all evacuees in the parish.18

In July 2006, the Sheriff of a parish adjacent to New Orleans warned during a televised press conference that “if
you’re going to walk the streets of St. Tammany Parish with dreadlocks and chee wee hairstyles, then you can
expect to be getting a visit from a Sheriff’s deputy.”19 The Sheriff’s comments routinely equated “trash” and
“thugs” with New Orleans’ “public housing residents” and “evacuees.” 20
The ACLU of Louisiana subsequently received complaints from several Nazarene Christians, for whom
dreadlocks are a religious requirement. In response, the ACLU issued an open letter to the Sheriff condemning
The ACLU’s Open
Letter to the Sheriff
demanding that he
retract his comments

the remarks as indicative of his intent to target African-Americans, with whom the hairstyle is primarily associated, and reminding him that “it is unlawful to arrest a person simply because of his or her hairstyle, and it is
unlawful to arrest someone because of the color of his or her skin.”21 The ACLU of Louisiana and Greater Covington NAACP jointly hosted a series of town hall meetings for others to voice their complaints. Both organizations
demanded that the Sheriff retract his comments and called upon the federal government to investigate his hiring
practices, but neither of these has yet occurred.


As in Louisiana, law enforcement officials in Mississippi
continue to target people of color for search, seizure, and
arrest. Tragically, such practices have also found their way
into schools, where they have resulted in terrible consequences for many African-American children whose lives

were uprooted by the storm. Some principals and teachers
have abdicated their duties, calling on police officers to handle
problems that have traditionally been viewed as school disciplinary matters. In other cases, overly harsh school penalties
have been applied to children displaced by the storm.



onald Jolly, Dorien Jolly, and Antoine
Lewis moved to Jackson, MS after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their New Orleans
homes. Immediately upon entering Provine
High School, the children were subjected to a
hostile and discriminatory environment.
According to Erica Jolly, the mother of two of
the students, “When we walked through the
door on the first day, the school office manager
said, ‘we’re not taking any more of you people.’” Within two weeks, the three students got


into a fight with classmates. Although the usual
penalty for school fights is a ten-day suspension, school administrators quickly recommended that the three students be expelled for
the remainder of the school year. In January
2006, the ACLU of Mississippi represented the
young men at their school disciplinary hearing,
but they were nevertheless expelled from
Provine High and sent to the Henley Young
Youth Detention Center Alternative School for
the remainder of the year.22 ■

“ W E ’ R E N O T TA K I N G A N Y M O R E O F Y O U P E O P L E . ”



Housing Discrimination
Several local ordinances passed in Louisiana since the storm
in Louisiana have also led to the exclusion of minority groups
from post-Katrina recovery efforts. In 2006, St. Bernard
Parish passed an ordinance that permitted only blood relatives of current residents to purchase or rent housing
therein.23 Because 93 percent of St. Bernard Parish homeowners are white, only whites would be able to rent single
family homes in most circumstances.24 The parish has stayed
enforcement of the discriminatory provision pending the outcome of a lawsuit.25 After the hurricane, several parishes also
passed bans or restrictions related to trailer parks, in an
attempt to keep evacuees out.26 A recent report by the Greater
New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center revealed that
nearly 60% of the landlords they investigated discriminated
against African-American testers searching for rental housing in the Greater New Orleans area.27 Recently, Jefferson
Parish passed an ordinance banning mobile food vendors.28
The sudden change in law coincided with the precipitous rise,
shepherded by the storm, in Latino workers and taco trucks
in the area.29 The ACLU of Louisiana is currently investigating a serious complaint of Latino taco truck owners being
harassed and shut down in New Orleans.
In Mississippi, where well over 100,000 homes sustained
damage or were destroyed, at least 27,000 affordable housing
units may need to be rebuilt in the coastal counties to provide
for the area’s substantial lower-income population.30 As
many Gulf Coast communities are in the process of planning
and implementing major housing initiatives, the region needs
transparency in the process to protect the interests of lowerincome communities in need of affordable housing. But the
Mississippi Development Authority initially restricted public
commentary on the Small Rental Assistance Program,
which provides loans to owners of small rental properties to
assist them in offering affordable rental housing in areas
most affected by Katrina. The decision effectively shut the
poorest citizens of Mississippi and those most affected by
Hurricane Katrina out of the debate. Earlier this year, the

2 years after Katrina

ACLU of Mississippi and a coalition of concerned organizations successfully petitioned Governor Haley Barbour to
restore and extend the 15-day public commentary period.31

Voter Disenfranchisement
Many Louisiana residents have also had to cope with the
threat of political disenfranchisement since Hurricane Katrina. On December 9, 2005, Governor Kathleen Blanco
signed an executive order indefinitely postponing the New
Orleans municipal elections.32 When the elections were
rescheduled, officials announced excessively burdensome
and obscure absentee voting procedures that risked disenfranchising displaced persons and disproportionately affected
African-Americans. On top of the confusing procedures, officials released incorrect and misleading instructions that completely failed to properly notify voters of new legal
requirements. In response, the ACLU of Louisiana developed and distributed public education materials that warned
voters of the most egregious pitfalls.33 Recognizing the potential
for disenfranchisement of displaced persons, the ACLU of
Louisiana also co-founded, with a number of local and
national civil rights organizations, the Louisiana Voting Rights
Network in January 2006 to develop and implement strategies
that protect the voting rights of those displaced by the storm.
In erecting barriers to voting, Louisiana officials have
locked doors many believed were closed only temporarily by
Hurricane Katrina. These barriers have resulted in the creation of a second-class citizenry, scattered throughout the
Gulf Coast and connected only by the tragedy that defines
the post-Katrina experience. In addition, it has deepened the
continued suffering of Louisiana’s “abandoned and abused,”
who increasingly find themselves homeless and harassed in
places like Texas and Mississippi. Indeed, many of
Louisiana’s displaced persons are not only persona non grata
in their adopted communities, but also in these communities’
political and criminal processes.


The Templeman
V jail building,
where prisoners
now sleep on
the floor




One image that remains vivid two years after the storm is that
of thousands of orange-clad prisoners from the New Orleans
jail stranded on an overpass awaiting rescue. Many of these
men, women, and children had gone days without food, water,
medication, or ventilation, some even locked in their cells in
chest-deep water screaming for help. Last year, the ACLU
and several local and national partner organizations released
Abandoned & Abused, which tells the story of what happened
at OPP before, during, and after the storm in the words of
prisoners, staff, and deputies who were present. The report
exposes OPP’s dark history of neglect and abuse, the lack of
planning that preceded Hurricane Katrina, and the chaos that
ensued in the New Orleans criminal justice system in the year
following the storm. One year later, the situation at the jail
and throughout the criminal justice system remains bleak.

The Race to Reopen and Rebuild
The OPP complex includes a dozen jail buildings stretching
across several blocks in an area of New Orleans known as
Mid-City. The jail is operated by Orleans Parish Criminal
Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman. In the days before Hurricane
Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, OPP housed nearly 6500 people on an average day.34 As a result, the city had the highest
incarceration rate of any large city in the United States.35 For
the sake of simplicity, this report refers to all of those held in
OPP as “prisoners.” The use of this term does not mean that
all of these people have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to serve time in a prison. On the contrary, both before
and after Katrina, the majority of the people housed at OPP
have been pre-trial detainees, often charged with minor
municipal or traffic offenses.36
In the year after the storm, only three of the original
twelve prison buildings were reopened—the House of Deten-

2 years after Katrina

tion (HOD), South White Street and Templeman V. Sheriff
Gusman quickly repopulated those buildings with state and
federal prisoners, as well as newly arrested municipal defendants. As a result, thousands of people arrested on minor
charges prior to Katrina or shortly thereafter languished in
state prisons located hours outside of New Orleans. Many of
these individuals never met with an attorney. They saw their
court hearings postponed month after month. Some ultimately spent more time in prison than they would have had
they been convicted and sentenced.
It is not difficult to guess why federal prisoners were
returned to OPP when municipal offenders were forced to
languish upstate. The federal government pays the Sheriff
nearly twice the daily rate that the city of New Orleans pays
him to house local prisoners.37
As we approach the second anniversary of Hurricane
Katrina, the race to reopen and rebuild OPP has continued.
Late in 2006, members of the New Orleans City Council
questioned the Sheriff about why the jail was already holding
approximately 2700 people each day—and was poised to
increase its capacity to 3300—given that the population of
New Orleans was only about half of what it was prior to the
storm.38 Just two weeks earlier, the Sheriff expressed his view
that the jail would eventually return to a 5000-person capacity.39 The Sheriff’s office used financial assistance from
FEMA to build eight windowless tents across the street from
HOD.40 Each tent is designed to house 98 individuals, and
although Sheriff Gusman describes the units as “temporary,”41 the last time an Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff
erected a “Tent City,” the tents remained in use for ten
years.42 In early 2007, the Sheriff reopened the Conchetta
building, and he has since stated that restoring his four
largest jail facilities—the Community Correctional Center,
Old Parish Prison, Templeman Phases I & II, and Templeman Phases III & IV—is a top priority.43 Resuming the use of
these buildings would increase capacity by a staggering 4100
additional beds.44 The Sheriff’s office recently obtained
FEMA funds to repair and reopen the Old Parish Prison, a
700-bed facility adjacent to the criminal courthouse.45


Returning OPP to the behemoth that it was at the time
of the storm is unnecessary and unwise. The city’s population is still far below that which it was before Hurricane Katrina, and advocates inside and outside the city government
have spent the past two years pushing for a smaller, smarter,
and safer detention policy. The New Orleans City Council
recently commissioned a needs assessment by the Vera Institute of Justice that generated practical, short- and long-term
recommendations on how to reform the city’s criminal justice
system.46 The report contains recommendations about the
use of alternative sentencing options and specialty courts,
and encourages the city to reduce the use of jail resources for
municipal offenses. Vera’s preliminary assessment of OPP’s
population revealed that up to 41% of the jail population
could be released on its own recognizance if New Orleans
adopted practices commonly used elsewhere.47

Significant Problems at Orleans Parish Prison

Environmental Hazards
When Sheriff Gusman returned prisoners to OPP after the
storm, he acknowledged that two of the buildings required
“additional repairs and improvements to be brought to pre-Katrina levels,”48 and casually declared that he had “kind of mothballed” the ground floor of HOD.49 In Abandoned & Abused, the
ACLU reported that one year after the storm several buildings
were experiencing sustained and severe overcrowding, which
resulted in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.50
One year later, chronic overcrowding in HOD continues. Upon first entering the jail, individuals are placed in
Central Lock-Up (CLU) holding cells on the 1st Floor until
they can be processed. Before Katrina, this booking process
took place in a new Intake Processing Center (IPC)
designed to replace the old, outdated booking facility in
HOD. Because the new IPC has not reopened since the
storm, the Sheriff has resumed using HOD’s old booking
area. In testimony before Congress, Sheriff Gusman


explained that this facility was “designed in the late 1950’s
and was only supposed to accommodate 80 arrestees per
day.”51 But in April 2007, the jail was already processing far
more than twice that number.52
Prisoners report abhorrent conditions in the CLU holding cells, some of which hold more than 70 people sharing a
single toilet in a standing-room-only cell. Many new arrestees
spend two days or more in such a cell, sleeping directly on a
floor littered with trash, urine, and feces.
Up in the housing tiers, the conditions are hardly any
better. Cells designed to house ten people regularly house 15
to 16 individuals at a time. Prisoners wait up to two weeks to
get a bed, and may spend all of that time sleeping on the floor
without even a mat. Overcrowding leads to food shortages
and increased tension. With the exception of the 2nd Floor of
HOD, which was used for court proceedings in the aftermath of the storm, and parts of the 10th Floor psychiatric
unit, no other part of HOD appears to be air conditioned,
making it dangerously hot in the summer months; prisoners
report that when the temperature rises, the paint on the walls
begins to sweat.53 Without proper ventilation, prisoners living
in severely overcrowded conditions are at greater risk for
both drug-resistant “staph” infections and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB). “Staph” infections are caused
by a highly contagious bacterium that causes skin infections
and boils and may lead to serious complications such as deep
abscesses, pneumonia, endocarditis (infection of the heart),
meningitis, bone infection, blood infection and death.
MDRTB is a potentially fatal airborne disease whose spread
is facilitated by poor air circulation and crowded conditions.
In fact, many prisoners now report that “staph” infections
are common at OPP, and seem to develop at HOD and
spread to other buildings from there.
In June 2007, inspectors reportedly visited HOD, presumably to inspect conditions at the jail. Guards in the building appear to have learned of the inspection in advance of the
visit and transferred hundreds of prisoners sleeping on the
cell floors in HOD into the empty Templeman IV building.
According to one prisoner, who was housed in Templeman



IV earlier in the year, that building was itself shut down
shortly after failing an inspection.54 Once the inspectors had
left, the prisoners were returned to HOD after spending
approximately three days in Templeman IV, leaving the Templeman building once again vacant. Since June, prisoners
have reported overcrowding at other OPP buildings, with
prisoners now sleeping on the floor in Conchetta and Templeman V. The Sheriff has not responded to an ACLU
request for documents pertaining to any recent audits or
inspections of jail conditions or operations, as well as information on overcrowding at the jail.55

Medical Care Falls Short
Two years after Hurricane Katrina, one of the two large public
hospitals that provided emergency medical services to OPP
before the storm remains closed.56 Many prisoners report significant problems in the delivery of necessary medical services.
• One man suffers from a degenerative condition that
causes inflammation in his eyes. Prior to entering
OPP, this painful condition was controlled through
the regular use of oral steroids and steroid eye
drops. Despite providing detailed information to
medical staff about his medical needs, the man
received only ibuprofen for his condition for the first
six weeks of his detention. During this time, he gradually lost the ability to see.57
• Multiple prisoners report receiving delayed treatment for severe “staph” infections contracted at the
jail. One man developed a “staph” infection in his
foot that caused severe swelling and drainage. As a
result of delayed treatment, the infection spread to
other parts of his body.58 Another prisoner, who is
also HIV positive, complained that he did not
receive medical care for his “staph” infection until it
was very bad; when he finally received antibiotics
for the infection, he regularly saw fifty other prison-

2 years after Katrina
ers receiving wound care for “staph” infections at
the same time he received his medication.59 A third
prisoner reports that when medical staff finally
drained his abscess and prescribed medication, they
did so without taking a culture of the wound to
determine the proper course of treatment.60
• One man who wears a prosthetic leg is housed in a
tent that is not handicap-accessible. He has fallen in
the shower on multiple occasions because he is not
provided with a shower chair or a handrail. He
must move around all day, which causes significant
swelling and pain. He has also not received proper
pain medication since arriving at the jail.61 A different disabled prisoner housed in HOD identified this
very same problem more than 16 months earlier. In
that man’s grievance, he explained, “I have been
having trouble getting on and off the toilet and when
I have to shower I have to try and jump from one
chair to another to shower[.] I really can’t help
myself[.] [I]s there some where close yall could send
me that have [sic] handicap rails in the showers and
around the toilets where I wouldn’t hurt myself.”62
The official response to his grievance indicated complete indifference to his plight. “You are on a medical tier[.] [W]hat you are requesting does not exist
in the jail facilities.”63

One significant problem with medical care is the manner in
which prescription medications are provided to prisoners. In
responsible prisons and jails, medical staff provide prisoners
with their medications on a daily basis, to ensure that every
person receives the correct dose and takes the medication
properly. At OPP, pills are delivered to prisoners only two
times per week, in accordance with the jail’s “keep-on-person” policy. This method of delivery creates substantial risks
for prisoner health. Individuals may take their medication
incorrectly or have their medications taken by other prisoners for their own use or to use for trade. Prisoners report that


instead of taking steps to protect against the misuse of prescription medications, medical personnel at the jail often
refuse to provide essential pain management medications.
This “keep-on-person” policy poses the most obvious problems for mentally ill prisoners, who may not have the capacity to follow a specific medication regimen.

Inadequate Mental Health Care
In Abandoned & Abused, the ACLU reported on OPP’s tragic
history of failing to meet the serious needs of mentally ill prisoners at the jail. In 2001, a young man named Shawn Duncan died of dehydration after being left in restraints largely
unsupervised for 42 hours.64 Less than two years later, a suicidal prisoner hanged himself while he was restrained in the
same cell where Duncan had died.65 Just weeks before Katrina flooded the city, yet another prisoner in the mental
health tier committed suicide by hanging.66
Today, mental health care at OPP exists in a constant
state of crisis.
• One man who claimed to be suicidal upon admission
to the jail was immediately transported to the 10th
Floor mental health tier of HOD. He was strapped
down in five-point restraints to a bed that was covered in a brown substance, perhaps dried blood or
feces. Over the next 12 hours he was not released to
use the bathroom, so he was forced to twist to the
side and urinate onto the floor next to the bed.67
• Another man with severe mental health issues has
had significant problems receiving psychiatric medication while detained. Following a recent arrest,
OPP officers refused to accept him into the jail
because he had badly cut himself in an apparent suicide attempt and the wound remained open. After
being taken to the hospital for treatment he was
returned to OPP, where he was immediately placed
in the mental health tier in five-point restraints for

up to a day. During this time, he received no water
or regular monitoring and was not allowed to use
the restroom until morning. He reports that there
was no air conditioning where he was in restraints,
and that the single fan blowing in the hallway did
nothing to reduce the sweltering heat.68
• One female prisoner was recently placed in restraints
on the 10th Floor for up to 11 hours. During this
time, she received no water or range of motion exercises, and no one entered the room to check on her
status. At one point she screamed for deputies
because she had to go to the bathroom. When a
deputy arrived she was told from outside the cell that
there was nothing they could do and that she could
“pee on herself.” When she was later released from
restraints and placed in a non-air conditioned twoperson cell, she passed out from the heat.69
• Another prisoner, who was recently found incompetent to stand trial by the criminal court, spent over
five months at the jail without receiving any medication for his schizophrenia; the on-site psychiatrist
accused him of malingering, despite the fact that the
prisoner offered the names of psychiatrists who
treated him prior to his detention. He reports that
on one occasion he was taken to the mental health
tier and placed in restraints for four days. “Those
four days was like hell,” he recently recalled. When
he initially entered the cell there was urine on the
floor. The officer ordered him to remain on the bunk
while another prisoner applied the restraints. He
had to holler and scream to get attention from the
deputy on duty, but was never allowed out of
restraints to use the restroom. He was released
from restraints only twice to meet briefly with a doctor, but each time he was returned to the cell and
again strapped down.70





The critical danger posed by OPP’s inability to provide adequate psychiatric services is underscored by the fact that OPP,
with its 60 acute care beds, is now the largest provider of psychiatric care in the greater New Orleans area.71 This startling
fact can be attributed both to Louisiana’s historically poor
mental health care system, and the crippling effect of Hurricane Katrina on the city’s community mental health services.
Even before the storm, Louisiana’s mental health care
system was widely regarded as underfunded and underresourced. The state spends approximately one-third as much
on mental health care per person as the national average.72
Katrina exacerbated those problems, and created new
ones. By various accounts, Katrina wiped out about 300 public and private psychiatric beds, and another 200 slots for outpatient treatment services.73 In addition, scores of mental
health professionals have left the area, creating a tremendous
staffing shortage.74 According to one survey, only about 40 of
the 200 licensed psychiatrists in Orleans and surrounding
parishes were practicing medicine in the area as of last fall.75
Perhaps the biggest blow to the region’s mental health
care system is the loss of Charity Hospital, which offered 40
crisis-intervention beds and 100 psychiatric beds to the community.76 Charity was a place where the police could bring
mentally ill people for emergency care.77 Without that hospital, police officers spend countless hours each month transporting hundreds of mentally ill people to emergency rooms.78
According to Terry Ebbert, the city’s Homeland Security
Director, “Our police are spending an enormous amount of
man-hours baby-sitting mental health patients because of the
inability to get them admitted to the hospitals.”79 Mayor
Nagin has expressed great frustration with the situation, and
has asked the state to provide about 40 beds, at a minimum,
for short-term care.80 In response, the governor has promised
to expedite plans to open a 10-bed unit.81
Why Charity Hospital has not reopened remains the
subject of some dispute.82 Louisiana State University maintains that the hospital is unsalvageable, and that it is a waste

2 years after Katrina

of money to try to remediate it.83 But shortly after Katrina, a
team of nearly 200 doctors, nurses, and military personnel
spent a month cleaning the first three floors. A physician
who participated in the clean-up, Dr. James Moises, believes
that LSU is concerned it will lose FEMA funds and the
chance to open a $1.2 billion hospital if the building is
reopened.84 “The mental health crisis goes away tomorrow if
you open the first three floors” of Charity Hospital, Moises
said.85 “We can get emergency services, specialty clinic services and psychiatric services up and running.”86

With so few psychiatric services available to the public, mentally ill people are being funneled into the criminal justice system. Some families have grown so desperate that they have
sought to have their mentally ill relatives arrested in the
hopes of getting them psychiatric care.87 Judge Calvin Johnson, who presides over the city’s only mental health court,
has even suggested this solution to those who have contacted
him in their search for help.88
According to Dr. Michael Higgins, OPP’s chief psychiatrist, in addition to the prisoners housed in the jail’s 60 designated psychiatric beds, 300 prisoners in the general
population receive psychiatric medication.89 Some of these
individuals have been found not guilty by reason of insanity,
or have seen their criminal cases placed on hold because the
court found them not mentally competent to stand trial.
When this happens, the state has 90 days to restore that individual to competence through jail-based treatment before
sending him or her to the Feliciana Forensic Facility (Feliciana), the state’s only forensic mental hospital.90 Even before
Katrina, mentally incompetent defendants often languished
for months, and in some cases years, at OPP and other jails
around the state, waiting for a bed to open up at Feliciana.91
Since the storm, the list of individuals awaiting Feliciana bed
space has grown by about 30 people.92
Part of the problem is that more people are in need of
Feliciana bed space because more mentally ill people are


being introduced into the criminal justice system. Another
part of the problem is that individuals who no longer need
acute care cannot leave Feliciana, because so many of the
city’s group homes and independent living centers never
reopened after the storm.93
Adding hospital beds alone is not enough, however. The
city, and the state, must resolve the city’s lack of alternative
treatment options. “The thing about hospital beds is you only
need them when your outpatient services have failed,” said
Dr. Kathleen Crapanzano, medical director of the Louisiana
Office of Mental Health.94 “We do not have the services to
prevent hospital visits.”95
The same could be said about the jail. Without community mental health services and a functioning emergency system for acute psychiatric care, mentally ill people will
continue to be incarcerated for behavior that is a product of
their illness, and will spend increasingly long periods of time
in jail, rather than in a proper therapeutic setting.




2 years after Katrina

Deputy and Acting Director of the Tulane Law School Criminal Law Clinic
on other floors and are given their medications
once or twice a week, all at once; this often leads
to all sorts of problems. They sell their meds, take
them all at once, or have them stolen. I had one
client who had been found mentally incompetent
to stand trial; she showed me her pill bottle with
at least five different types of medications to treat
her psychiatric illness, her high blood pressure,
and her diabetes. There was no label on the bottle, no directions on the bottle and this woman
was a psychiatric patient. No one is ensuring that
these folks are taking the medications they need
to be stable and functional.


eople with serious mental illnesses have
been particularly hard hit in New Orleans
since Katrina. The storm destroyed Charity Hospital, so we have no acute care beds for our
city’s mentally ill. Police officers have no place to
take them—they can take them to local emergency rooms, but ERs don’t have the needed
psych beds and police officers don’t want to
wait for six to eight hours just to have someone
finally seen and then be released because the
hospital can’t or won’t provide treatment.
What ends up happening is that the police
instead arrest mentally ill people and take them to
OPP. The jail is now the biggest psychiatric facility
in Orleans Parish, but the jail rarely provides
meaningful treatment. If you are an obvious danger to yourself or others you might go to the
psych unit on the 10th Floor of HOD, which is airconditioned. If the person’s mental illness is not
yet that acute or obvious then they will be housed

A while back I represented the court in a contempt action against the Department of Health
and Hospitals and the Orleans Parish Criminal
Sheriff’s Office. DHH and the Sheriff’s office
were failing to get people to Feliciana, the state’s
only forensic hospital, long after the court had
ordered the transfer. Many of the people
ordered transferred to Feliciana had been waiting in OPP for more than a year, some for more
than two years. These folks wait in jail, their
criminal cases on hold, sitting in limbo because
there aren’t enough beds at Feliciana. Occasionally, when I find someone who has been
really lost in the system I will file a habeas petition and try to locate some alternative treatment
program. I have been trying to monitor what’s
happening with mentally ill people in the criminal
justice system, however, it is a huge problem
and the number of people I can help is limited.
Still, I feel badly that I can’t do more for the folks
in this situation. ■


Excessive Force and Unchecked Prisoner-on-Prisoner Violence
In a correctional setting, instances of excessive force and
unchecked prisoner-on-prisoner violence are often signs of
systemic problems. Rampant use of excessive force can indicate a lack of training for correctional officers, inadequate
staffing levels, and/or a culture of abuse that has been
allowed to fester. Prisoner-on-prisoner violence occurs in
overcrowded and understaffed facilities, where prisoners
endure long periods of lockdown and idleness, or where
drugs are available.
In OPP—particularly in the CLU holding cells and in
the housing tiers in HOD—all of these factors are present.
One man reports that in December 2006, he was given a jail
uniform too small to wear. When he complained, a deputy
handcuffed one of his wrists, lifted him off the ground and
dropped him on his face, shattering his nose.96 Several
women in South White Street report a recent incident in
which a female prisoner refused a deputy’s request that she
give up her bottom bunk for another prisoner. Deputies
removed the woman from the dorm, and when she returned
she appeared to have been beaten severely. One account indicates that approximately six deputies beat the woman, perhaps with a stick. She was removed from the facility the
following day.97
Prisoner-on-prisoner violence is also a constant danger
in the poorly managed facility. In late July 2007, a 58-year-old
disabled Vietnam War veteran was badly beaten in CLU by
another prisoner.98 The man suffered severe head trauma
and was taken to University Hospital, where he was placed
on a ventilator and found to have virtually no brain function.99 At HOD, the typical floor contains 12 overcrowded
cells—housing approximately 180 people per floor—filled
with prisoners who spend virtually all day locked down in
hot and filthy conditions. Prisoners report that only one to
two deputies are responsible for security on each floor, and
that from their post they cannot see what is happening inside
of the cells. Deputies may walk the tier when they begin and
end their shift, but it is not uncommon for hours to pass with-


out seeing any deputy on the tier. Security at HOD appears
to be so lax that in January 2007, a man escaped from the 6th
Floor by chiseling a hole through a wall in the hallway outside of his cell.100 This task, which is thought to have taken
one and a half weeks, was done in a location that is out in the
open and would not have been accessible to the prisoner had
the cell door been locked as designed, and the hallway monitored. At the time, Sheriff Gusman reacted to the escape by
claiming to have “beefed up” staffing at the location, and indicated that he had sufficient deputies on staff to handle security.101 But three months later, he testified before Congress
that he was having difficulty finding and retaining qualified
employees.102 Current reports from prisoners about the failure of deputies to walk the tier, monitor conditions, and
respond to fights indicate that the Sheriff still has not retained
sufficient staff to ensure safe conditions in the building.



2 years after Katrina



was picked up on March 15, 2007, and
stayed in the Central Lock-Up holding cells for
three days. At first they stuck me in a room that
was pretty small, but they kept bringing people in
left and right. There were maybe 78 people in
that room—almost standing room only. The floor
covered in fecal matter, urine. If you spent any
time in there you were forced to sleep in that
mess. One toilet for over 70 people. People who
had drugs that hadn’t been taken when they
were booked went back to the toilet to smoke.
When they finally moved me to the 3rd Floor
receiving tier, it was horrible. There were ten
beds but sixteen people in the cell. Spiders,
mosquitoes, and rats everywhere. One guy was
bit by a recluse spider and it took two days to
get anyone to respond to his complaints; they
had to dig out a huge hole from his hand to get
out the dead material. I got bit, too, but after
seeing what had happened to him I chiseled
away the necrotic tissue myself with a sharp
object and used toothpaste to clean the area.
I was eventually housed in Conchetta, in an
open dorm with 54 beds. The air conditioning
went down twice while I was there, first for 11
days and then for 24 days. Since it is a closed
facility—no open windows—when the air went
down it got very hot. On one occasion, a guy
with asthma had to be taken out of the dorm
because he couldn’t breathe. Tempers rose and
fights started in the heat. After the air went
down the second time, whenever someone
asked the guards for another fan or more ice,
they had him packed up and moved to HOD.
Everybody knew what HOD was like.

After Conchetta I was moved to Tent 7. The
tents have no windows, so you can’t see the
outside except on the three days a week when
you get recreation. The tents are all air conditioned, but guards try to keep people under
control, so they keep it really cold. That only
served to make some people more bitter or
angry. There were maybe 87 people in my tent,
but the amount of food they sent us was less
per person than we got in Conchetta.

the 5th Floor for the entire month. That building is
a mess—I heard it was already condemned in
2005 and was supposed to be torn down.
Around June 5 there was an inspection of the
building, but guards had moved anyone sleeping
on the floor to another building the day before the
inspectors came. There is no way that building
could pass an inspection—not if an inspector
saw plugged-up toilets covered with shirts, towels, sheets, to keep them from stinking, people
sleeping for weeks on the floor without mats, and

On June 1, I was taken to HOD where I spent a
few days on the receiving tier before moving up to

pipes leaking water and sewage on the floor.



In-Custody Deaths
After the inspection there were 15 people in my
cell. Fights broke out all the time, usually three or
four guys on one. I was beat down twice
because I wouldn’t agree to fight other people;
the first time they beat me bloody. Guards knew it
was happening and they ignored it; you would go
hours at HOD without ever having a guard walk
around to see what was going on in the cells. At
one point they put an old man who had been
exposed to tuberculosis in a cell with us, and
another time we got a guy who was supposed to
be on antipsychotic meds; he had episodes of
being violent and should have been receiving
meds or at least on the 10th Floor medical unit.
I have been on prescription medication for
migraines as long as I can remember. I usually
get migraines about three times a week. Some
last for a few hours or for a day. My migraines
are extremely painful and they make me nauseous and very sensitive to light and sound. At
OPP it took months before they ever gave me
any medication for my migraines; I would fill out
sick call slips and grievances and I would be
told that they had triaged me for a headache. I
got migraines back-to-back; one time it was ten
days of non-stop migraines. When they finally
gave me a prescription it was for a medication I
do not use. I told them the medication that
works for me and they absolutely refused to
give me that. The nurses looked at you like you
were an axe murderer and the doctor treated
you like an idiot. You could know exactly what
medications you take and for what reason, and
they would still think you didn’t know a thing. I
was a certified nurse’s aide for 11 years but
none of that mattered.103 ■

In the years leading up to the storm, a number of prisoners at
the jail died from medical conditions that appeared to be
entirely treatable.104 Over the past year, still more individuals
have died while detained at OPP.105 In March 2007, a 54year-old man died just three days after entering the jail.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, preliminary autopsy results
indicated that chronic heart and lung disease were the cause
of death.106 A female prisoner died in June, but there are conflicting reports about whether the woman committed suicide
or died of other causes.107 On July 3, a young man named
Glenn Thomas was found dead in his HOD cell. Thomas
had been brought to OPP on October 23, 2006, on a cocaine
possession charge.108 The circumstances surrounding this
death—and OPP’s handling of the death—raise serious questions about current conditions inside the jail.



2 years after Katrina



n October 2006, my son Glenn was picked
up by the police for missing a court date. I
had the subpoena for that court date in my car,
but I had forgotten about it. Since he was
picked up for missing court, they didn’t set a
bond for him and he had to stay in the jail.

took us to the coroner’s office, but that office
was all locked up and not even open. We didn’t
know where Glenn was—probably still at jail.
The next day, Glenn’s father found our son at
the coroner’s office. When we got there they
told us to sit down. They called Glenn’s father
and me and the man was holding a photograph.
It was Glenn. He said they did an autopsy and
their finding was that he died of natural causes.
They said they were waiting on the toxicology
report, which will take four weeks, so we are

In January, Glenn’s lawyer said he thought my
son might get probation, so I thought he would
be out pretty soon. They were supposed to go
back to court in August. My son and I spoke on
the phone about once a week. He would ask
about me and the family and would always ask if
I knew what his lawyer was doing on his case.

now waiting to find out what happened.

I first learned about Glenn’s death on July 4 at

Glenn Thomas with his mother Rosetta James.

around 8 or 9 in the morning. One of the inmates
called his mother and told her Glenn had died.
She came over the bridge to find me and told me
in person. I was very emotional and didn’t
believe it. I went over to the jail because I needed
them to tell me whether my child was dead.

me anything about my son. Three guys came
out and I said, “Tell me my son’s not gone.” They
said, “Ma’am, we can’t lie to you.” They told me
Glenn answered the 10:30 p.m. roll call on July 3

When I got to Central Lock-Up and asked the
woman there if she had Glenn Thomas, she said
he wasn’t in the computer. She asked when he
was arrested and I told her in October. Two lady
deputies then came out and I told them I was
scared because someone told me my son was
dead. They said, “Hold up,” and left and told the
lady at the window not to tell me anything more.
I was walking around, angry no one was telling

and was dead by 11 p.m. when one of the other
inmates went to shake him on his bed and found
him unresponsive. They said the inmate tried
CPR and that doctors came in and tried CPR,
but they couldn’t bring him back. They told me
they took pictures of the body and that he had
no marks, no signs of a scuffle or fight.
They said if I wanted to see Glenn’s body I could
go to Louisiana Undertaker, but when we got
there a young man said he had no bodies. He

I have heard that young men coming out of the
jail have said my son suffocated or had a
seizure, but I don’t know. I know the conditions
in the jail are poor—unsanitary. Now, they are
housing people in tents, but when the water
came it flooded the building my son was in,
and that building shouldn’t have humans living
there. He told me there were 18 in a cell, a fan
in the hallway.
Glenn had just made 29 years old and had
never had medical problems. He never had
seizures. I want to know if he had a headache, a
chest ache. Did he ask for help but because it
was late at night they wouldn’t see him or
thought he could wait for the next morning? Did
they tell him to fill out a piece of paper in the
morning to ask for help? I don’t know. ■

N O T G O N E . ” T H E Y S A I D , “ M A’ A M , W E C A N ’ T L I E T O Y O U . ”


The Sheriff’s Revised Evacuation Plan
In Abandoned & Abused, the ACLU detailed the horribly mismanaged evacuation of OPP in the days after Hurricane
Katrina.109 Dr. Demaree Inglese, OPP’s Medical Director at
the time of the storm, recently confirmed that Sheriff Gusman refused to evacuate the jail prior to the storm over the
objections of his own disaster planning committee, and
shrugged off concerns about the jail’s lack of preparedness to
remain in place.110 Jail administrators overruled efforts to distribute food and water to various jail buildings in advance of
the storm,111 and in one building only agreed to relocate
wheelchair-bound and severely ill prisoners in the 1st Floor
infirmary after all power was lost and floodwaters had
reached their beds.112
On September 1, 2006, the ACLU of Louisiana filed a
lawsuit on behalf of one of the prisoners who was trapped in
OPP throughout the storm. The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Ronnie Lee Morgan, Jr., was a federal prisoner housed in a protective custody unit at the time of the storm.113 When Morgan
was finally evacuated out of OPP and transported to the
Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, he was placed onto a field
filled with thousands of other prisoners without any regard
for his safety. Morgan and other protective custody prisoners
were quickly attacked on the field; Morgan himself was
stabbed in the head and the back of the neck, denied medical
attention, and spent the remainder of the night covered in
blood and fearful of further attacks. Morgan’s lawsuit
includes claims against Sheriff Gusman for his failure to
adopt an adequate evacuation or emergency preparedness
plan, or, in the alternative, for his failure to properly execute
whatever plan actually existed at the time of the storm.114
OPP’s preparedness for another hurricane is largely
unknown. Both the Municipal Court and Traffic Court of
New Orleans have issued orders requiring the Sheriff immediately to release certain municipal and traffic offenders in
the event of a declared emergency, and to refuse to take in
additional individuals.115 If implemented properly, this is an
excellent idea. Such orders either did not exist, or were not


adhered to, at the time of Hurricane Katrina, when thousands of municipal offenders remained at the jail throughout
the storm; over 100 of the men held in the overcrowded Templeman III building had been arrested and booked on minor
charges in the two days preceding Katrina’s landfall.116
On August 18, 2006, the ACLU of Louisiana filed a
public records act request seeking information on OPP’s current evacuation plan, hurricane/flood contingency plans, and
any agreements between the Sheriff’s office and local, state
or federal agencies pertaining to emergency evacuation procedures for the jail.117 In response to this request, the Sheriff’s
office produced a series of policies that are internally inconsistent and dangerously inadequate. One document produced
by the Sheriff’s office is a Hurricane and Flood Contingency
Plan that is substantively identical to the plan that existed
when Katrina struck.118 The plan provides no information
about when or whether OPP will be evacuated, except to
require the evacuation of all single-story security buildings 24
hours before the expected arrival of a hurricane119 —a step
that was apparently ignored in advance of Hurricane Katrina. The Sheriff’s office also produced its Standard Operating Procedure in the Event of a Hurricane Evacuation
(SOP), which calls for the Department of Corrections to provide 150 buses to evacuate OPP 30 hours prior to any threat
of a Category Two or higher hurricane.120 It is unclear
whether such a provision existed prior to Katrina, but the
Sheriff refused to accept Louisiana Department of Public
Safety and Corrections (DOC) offers to evacuate prisoners
before the storm.121 The SOP also contains dangerous and
inconsistent information about the evacuation of OPP and
the pre-storm release of prisoners. Notwithstanding the
courts’ orders calling for the release of most municipal
offenders, the SOP anticipates keeping approximately 200
low-security prisoners at the jail throughout a hurricane to
stay in place until “the natural disaster has subsided,” at
which point they will be dispatched along with deputies to
begin the cleanup process.122 If there is severe flooding, as
happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, any prisoners and deputies left behind are in danger of losing their lives.



L O U I S I A N A’ S I N D I G E N T
One factor that contributes to problems such as overcrowding at the jail is that individuals are not moving through the
criminal justice system quickly. This is in part due to structural problems with the city’s overuse of detention and the
underutilization of release alternatives, but it is also related to
New Orleans’ indigent defense woes. In Abandoned &
Abused, the ACLU described Louisiana’s long history of
sorely inadequate indigent defense, and the devastating effect
that Katrina had on an already dysfunctional system.123 Even
before Katrina, public defenders were frequently unable to
provide adequate representation because of their overwhelming caseloads.124 As recently as October 2006, the 11 attorneys in the public defender’s office shared 3000 cases.125

Devastation Brings Change: Reforms in the Indigent
Defender’s Office
Although the system was broken long before Katrina, it took
the storm to bring change. According to Katherine Mattes,
“Katrina came at an unbelievable human price, but it made
people aware that the criminal justice system, and indigent
representation in particular, was in crisis.” 126
In April 2006, Orleans Parish judges appointed new
members to the indigent defense board after the old board,
responsible for overseeing the public defender’s office, collapsed.127 The board hired a consultant and new management, which instituted a number of changes to the public
defender system in Orleans Parish.128 The first change was to
require all attorneys to work full time as public defenders,
rather than allowing them to maintain a private practice on
the side.129 The office also began a practice of “vertical representation,” by assigning attorneys to represent criminal
defendants upon arrest.130 In the past, with the exception of
having an attorney appear for a brief bond hearing, counsel

2 years after Katrina

would not be appointed until after charges were filed by the
district attorney’s office. Since the district attorney’s office
had 45-60 days after arrest to charge a defendant and 30
more days to schedule an arraignment, defendants could languish in jail for months without being represented.131
“Katrina acutely amplified the need for vertical representation,” said Katherine Mattes, “because the district attorney’s office was not bringing charges within the mandated
time limit.”132 Since the appointment of counsel was only triggered by the filing of charges, many people never formally
charged with a crime spent longer periods of time in jail that
the law permits, yet had no attorney to advocate for their
release.133 Public defenders also say the new practice enables
them to begin investigating a case soon after the arrest, vastly
improving the quality of investigations and producing tangible results.134





ames Terry is a U.S. Army veteran with no
criminal history. On September 11, 2005,
while he was sitting on the porch of his residence in New Orleans, members of the National
Guard jumped a fence, broke a window of the
house, and searched the room that Mr. Terry
had been sharing with two other persons. Inside
the room they found a BB gun and a single marijuana cigarette. The guardsmen had no probable cause to believe that Mr. Terry had
committed a crime, and no warrant to search
the house. The New Orleans Police Department
was called to the house, and Mr. Terry was
arrested on charges of looting, possession of a
controlled dangerous substance, and possession of a firearm.
He was first transported to “Camp Greyhound,”
a bus station in downtown New Orleans that
had been converted into a temporary jail. After
having his booking pictures taken, Mr. Terry was
made to pose for a photograph with a member
of the National Guard, as though he were a trophy. For the next two days, he slept on the oilsoaked ground of the makeshift jail, using only
his shoes for a pillow.
When he was eventually bused to Elayn Hunt
Correctional Center, he was held for weeks in a
maximum-security cellblock. Although he was
an uncharged, non-violent arrestee, he was held
in a severely overcrowded cell with convicted
prisoners and violent pre-trial offenders.

he could think of to try to find out how to get out
of jail. His family was also frantically writing letters to various government officials seeking his
release. During this time, Mr. Terry was denied
all access to a law library. Because these “Katrina Prisoners” lacked access to lawyers or any
legal advice, they were forced to trade items
purchased from the prison store in exchange for
sample legal documents obtained by other prisoners. Mr. Terry was only once brought before a
person who informed him of the charges
against him and purported to set an outrageously high bail in the amount of $200,000. It is
still unknown whether this person was a judge
or a magistrate judge.
On April 4, 2006, Mr. Terry was released from
Hunt. He was never formally charged with a
crime, but was incarcerated for 190 days.

Mr. Terry was later moved off the cellblock and

On January 24, 2007, the ACLU of Louisiana
filed a federal lawsuit on Mr. Terry’s behalf. “The

into the prison’s carpentry shop, where he and
65 other men slept on the floor, their mats
touching because the room was so over-

facts in this case illustrate a violation of most of
the protections in the Bill of Rights,” according
to Katie Schwartzmann, Staff Attorney for the

crowded. There was one toilet for all of the men
to share and a constant infestation of rats, spi-

ACLU of Louisiana. “He was denied his constitutional protection against unlawful search and
seizure, his rights to due process, to counsel, to
access the courts and his right to not be held in
cruel and unusual conditions. Our system let
him down, and he paid a very high price with
seven months of his life.” As a result of this lawsuit, Mr. Terry will now get his day in court.135 ■

ders, and insects. The men only went outside
for one or two hours per week.
Throughout this period, Mr. Terry sought access
to information about the reason for his continued confinement. He wrote letters to everyone

C R I M E , B U T WA S I N C A R C E R AT E D F O R 1 9 0 D AY S .



2 years after Katrina

The Legislature Starts Taking Responsibility for
Indigent Defense

rina, more than 500 volunteers have provided assistance to
the public defender’s office.144

This summer, the Louisiana legislature, led by Rep. Danny
Martiny, passed a bill overhauling the state’s indigent defense
system.136 The bill, signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Blanco
in July, creates a new statewide board and regional boards to
supervise indigent defense, and raises funding from about
$20 million to about $27 million.137 Advocates welcome the
creation of a statewide board that can hold local indigent
defense offices accountable to a basic standard of constitutionally adequate defense.
“It’s important that we acknowledge the positive steps the
legislature has taken towards reforming and properly funding
indigent defense,” said Malia Brink, Indigent Defense Counsel for the National Association of Criminal Defense
Lawyers.138 “But the indigent defense system in Louisiana
needs substantially more money than the new law
provides.”139 It remains unclear how funds will be allocated
to the different parishes. Various reports have estimated that
Orleans Parish alone needs between $7 and $10 million a
year to adequately represent indigent defendants.140

Lack of funding remains the biggest challenge.145 “Our
office has definitely improved,” said Christine Lehmann, the
Chief Indigent Defender for Orleans Parish.146 “But the elephant in the room is that these changes have been made possible by a federal grant that runs out next year.”147 Nearly
half of the office’s current budget is made up of a temporary
grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).148 That
funding helped get the office on its feet, but it is also helping
to pay the salaries of much-needed additional lawyers and
support staff.149 Lehmann does not know where the office
will find additional funds, but she does know that without it,
the office will be crippled. “There is no fat to trim in our
budget,” Lehmann said. “Without this funding, we will be
forced to start laying off staff.” Thinning the already threadbare staff could mean that the gains made in the last year
would be lost entirely.150
The BJA estimated that the public defender’s office
would need about $10.7 million in its first year, and about
$8.2 million annually thereafter, in order to adequately represent its clients and serve the community.151 The office’s current budget of $3.5 million—largely propped up by the BJA’s
one-time hurricane grant—is not even half of that figure.152
Without that grant, the office’s total budget is less than $2 million—a mere fraction of the budget recommended by BJA
and other reports.153 The office needs at least $2.8 million
above its current funding level to hire enough lawyers to provide satisfactory defenses to its clients.154 “The challenges facing the OPD are significant,” Lehmann wrote in a recent
funding request to the legislature.155 “[F]unding changes are
needed to ensure the continued functioning of the criminal
justice system.”156

A Precarious Balance: The Need for Increased and
Reliable Funding
Notwithstanding significant improvements in the public
defender’s office over the past year, the office is barely treading
water. Attorneys struggle with overwhelming caseloads, often
working seven days a week.141 Even with the additional staff
the office was able to hire with emergency temporary funds,
the office is not able to represent every defendant from his or
her first appearance.142 Attorneys are not always able to see
their clients within the 72 hours mandated by new state standards, fully investigate their cases, or file written motions.143
Moreover, many of the positive results of the last year
have resulted from the hard work of volunteers—an uncertain and provisional solution to staffing shortages. Since Kat-

The Costs of Inadequate Defense
The costs of inadequate defense are borne by the criminal
justice system and the community at large. The representa-


tion that public defenders provide to indigent defendants—in
a system where 80-90% of defendants are indigent—enables
the criminal justice system to function. In the aftermath of
Katrina, the failure “to provide constitutionally valid legal
representation to the thousands of pretrial detainees whose
cases were pending . . . had the criminal justice system on the
verge of closing down completely.”157 Inadequate defense
imposes both human and financial costs. When defendants
are not adequately represented, for example, they spend
unnecessary time in jail, disrupting their own lives and costing taxpayers money. As pointed out by the BJA assessment,
“even defendants who wish to plead guilty must have counsel
for a judge to accept the plea.”158
There is another, less obvious cost associated with inadequate defense: public safety. “Public defender’s systems also
protect public safety,” said Katherine Mattes.159 “If you have
an active, involved public defender’s office that shows the
weaknesses of a case to prosecutors, that advocacy puts pressure on prosecutors to make sure that police are investigating
and building cases in a meaningful way.”160 A strong public
defender’s office thus makes it harder for police to take shortcuts.161 In September 2006, the New Orleans City Council
and Mayor Nagin hosted a city-wide Crime Prevention Summit to address the concerns of rising crime in New Orleans.
The Summit was an open forum for community members
and city officials to discuss the challenges facing the criminal
justice system in New Orleans. As a result of the gathering,
community members and city officials broke into working
groups, which covered areas such as Policing, Courts, Corrections, and Juvenile Detention. ACLU of Louisiana staff
members joined the Policing, Courts, and Corrections working groups and have met over the past year to discuss the
needs of the city and help the City Council determine which
best practices could be successfully incorporated into the
New Orleans structure.
“Indigent defense is part of a bigger system,” Mattes
said.162 “When it is effective, it benefits society as a whole, by
reducing crime and promoting a more effective and fair criminal justice system.”163




2 years after Katrina
Crumbled steps
in front of the


Human Rights for the Victims of Katrina
Hurricane Katrina was an event of global significance. Not
since September 11, 2001, has the rest of the world turned its
attention to a domestic crisis in the United States as it did in
the days, weeks, and months following the storm. Over the
past two years, the ACLU of Mississippi and the ACLU of
Louisiana, working with the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, have used international human rights strategies and
mechanisms to advocate on behalf of the victims of Hurricane Katrina and to hold the U.S. government accountable
for its human rights obligations under internationally recognized norms and binding treaties.
Last year, the ACLU engaged in advocacy with the
United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC), a group
of internationally recognized experts who monitor compliance with one of the primary global human rights treaties,
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR). As part of this advocacy, the ACLU, along with
the U.S. Human Rights Network, organized a side panel
and provided testimony on human rights violations that took
place in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The ACLU also
held meetings with HRC members to discuss Katrina-related
rights violations, and submitted a report to the HRC, which
included a discussion of the government’s response to Katrina.164 In July 2006, an ACLU delegation traveled to
Geneva to advocate before the HRC during a session in
which the Committee evaluated the U.S. government’s compliance with the ICCPR. Along with the U.S. Human
Rights Network, the ACLU convened a panel of human
rights victims, which included victims of Hurricane Katrina,
who were able to tell their stories to Committee members and
to the global community.165 In the ACLU’s statement to the
HRC, the ACLU Human Rights Program highlighted Hurricane Katrina as an example of continued racial and economic inequalities that plague the United States. During the


review of the United States, the HRC asked questions of
high-level representatives from the U.S. government and
subsequently issued a sharp criticism of the Bush Administration’s response to the victims, noting the disadvantages
suffered by poor people and African-Americans in rescue
operations after Hurricane Katrina and in reconstruction
efforts.166 The HRC specifically mentioned Katrina-related
violations of human rights in its “Concluding Observations”
on the U.S.’s compliance with the ICCPR. The HRC also
criticized Louisiana police officials for blocking mostly black
and poor residents of New Orleans from leaving the city, and
for the state’s failure to evacuate OPP.167
In addition to international advocacy, beginning in the
first few weeks after the storm, the ACLU and its affiliates
conducted human rights documentation and fact-finding
tours in the affected Gulf Coast states and worked with other
advocates to ensure that civil liberties and human rights concerns were addressed, including those related to housing,
education, voting, and racial profiling.168 Using this documentation, the ACLU of Louisiana assisted with drafting human
rights reports on the U.S.’s compliance with the ICCPR and
the United Nations Convention Against Torture, highlighting Katrina-related violations. In doing human rights public
education, and leading up to the meetings at the United
Nations in Geneva, the ACLU of Louisiana and Mississippi
held a “human rights day of action” in June 2006, and began
using human rights messaging to mobilize local communities.169 As part of this effort, the ACLU of Louisiana is working as part of a “coalition of accountability” made up of local
residents and advocacy organizations, and has organized
events on how to use human rights strategies to demand government accountability. The ACLU of Mississippi has been
involved with a comprehensive documentation project that
will collect and analyze stories of human rights violations
that survivors endured. Additionally, the Mississippi affiliate
has held several small workshops on human rights strategies
for community members.



Fence with
razor wire
Tent City

2 years after Katrina


Ultimately, Hurricane Katrina cannot be blamed for all of
the damage done to Gulf Coast communities over the past
two years. The storm did not blow prison abuse and discriminatory school discipline into Mississippi, nor did it introduce
racial profiling or police brutality to Louisiana. Indeed,
months before Katrina struck, prosecutors in New Orleans
were forced to drop murder charges against an AfricanAmerican teenager because, among other things, an NOPD
detective admitted on the stand that he lied in Juvenile Court
about the young man’s involvement in the crime.170
Although the storm destroyed prison buildings in New
Orleans, it was the Sheriff’s decision to “keep our prisoners
where they belong,”171 that led to the tragic suffering of OPP
prisoners and staff. Two years have passed, but OPP still has
not requested expert guidance in developing a proper emergency preparedness plan, and the jail appears doomed to
repeat the mistakes made during Katrina. In the meantime,
thousands of prisoners remain in the jail, where they are
housed in unsanitary, unsafe, and inhumane conditions.
While the recovery process should be an opportunity for
officials to work collaboratively with their diverse communities, post-Katrina Louisiana and Mississippi have seen many
of their pre-existing problems exacerbated. Racially motivated and unduly harsh policing throughout Louisiana and
into areas of Mississippi that host Katrina evacuees continues to divide communities and disrupt lives. The Katrina
Diaspora remains a very vulnerable population. Having lost
their homes, their livelihoods, and their families, many people
are still without the basic necessities that once sustained
them. Worse, Katrina evacuees have seen the rights and protections otherwise afforded them as migrants, citizens, and
human beings gradually eroded, in direct contravention of
the Constitution and numerous human rights accords.




The towering
House of

2 years after Katrina

In Abandoned & Abused, the ACLU put forward several
important recommendations to local, state, and federal officials.172 At the most basic level, the ACLU recommended
that the Sheriff’s office take steps to learn from the Katrina
experience so that future disasters can be handled more safely
and securely. More generally, the recommendations aimed to
help the sheriff and local and state officials create a jail—and a
criminal justice system—that is more cost-effective, humane,
and that ensures real public safety. One year later, much more
still needs to be done.

Recommendations to Federal Officials
• The U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute
of Corrections (NIC), should be tasked to perform a
Technical Assistance Report of OPP’s emergency
preparedness system. In the aftermath of Katrina,
the NIC was invited by the DOC to evaluate its performance during Katrina, but that review explicitly
omitted any consideration of OPP. Moreover, the
information presently available about the jail’s current level of preparedness suggests that the facility is
horribly ill prepared for a future disaster. An NIC
audit is needed in order to potentially save lives.
• The NIC should also conduct a separate investigation into the inadequate medical and mental health
care provided at OPP. Such an investigation would
permit qualified experts to review the level of care
provided at OPP, and could lead to concrete
improvements in conditions for prisoners.
• The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department
of Justice should investigate serious civil rights violations at the jail, including the dangerous and


unsanitary conditions in the jail’s buildings and
the unacceptable levels of violence caused, in
part, by inadequate staffing and a culture of
abuse. The Civil Rights Division should also vigorously enforce our nation’s housing discrimination laws.

• Congress should pass legislation to address critical
problems faced by victims of Hurricane Katrina,
• legislation that would create nationwide procedures and safeguards to ensure voting rights for
voters displaced by instances such as natural or
environmental disasters, industrial accidents,
wars, and terrorist events;

• In August 2007, the ACLU sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding an apparent outbreak of “staph” infections at OPP. Given the
serious public health consequences of such an outbreak, the CDC should immediately investigate
these concerns and take all necessary steps to
ensure the safety of all people in OPP and the New
Orleans community.

• legislation that emphasizes increasing low-cost
housing options and access to public housing;

• In addition to housing state and local prisoners,
OPP houses individuals in the custody of U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the
U.S. Marshals Service. The federal government
should review conditions at OPP in accordance
with all relevant standards and remove individuals
in their custody from the facility.

• the End Racial Profiling Act to prevent federal
law enforcement officers in the region from
engaging in racial profiling.

• In April 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice,
Bureau of Justice Assistance, performed a needs
assessment of the New Orleans public defender system.173 Out of that audit, the indigent defender program received a one-time grant that has helped the
office hire new staff and make significant improvements to the provision of legal services to indigent
defendants. In light of significant changes to the
indigent defense system over the past 16 months, a
new assessment should be performed and additional
funds must be allocated to remain in place until state
funding reaches acceptable levels. Otherwise, all of
the recent gains made in the city’s indigent defense
system will be squandered.

• legislation that facilitates the rebuilding of health
care facilities and clinics in the region, with a special emphasis on the provision of low-cost medical
care and mental health services; and

Recommendations to State Officials
• DOC prisoners have been housed at OPP since the
mid-1970s. Not only is this done at great expense to
the state, but it contributes to the overcrowding at
OPP and creates incentives for the Sheriff’s office to
unnecessarily rebuild OPP into the behemoth that it
was before the storm. DOC should review conditions
at OPP in accordance with all relevant standards and
remove individuals in its custody from the facility.
• In August 2007, the ACLU sent a letter to the
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals
(DHH) regarding an apparent outbreak of “staph”
infections at OPP. Given the serious public health
consequences of such an outbreak, DHH should




immediately investigate these concerns and take all
necessary steps to ensure the safety of all people in
OPP and the New Orleans community.
• In recent months, the Louisiana state legislature has
revamped the state’s indigent defense system and
increased statewide funding. Although this was a
major step forward, additional funding is still
required to ensure that indigent defendants around
the state receive constitutionally adequate representation. In Orleans Parish alone, current funding levels are drastically below what is required to ensure a
functioning indigent defense system, and a significant
portion of the funding comes from a one-time federal
grant, not state resources.
• Mentally ill prisoners around the state of Louisiana
are languishing in jails and prisons, rather than
receiving court-ordered mental health treatment at
a forensic hospital. Louisiana must ensure that
there are sufficient mental health beds available to
meet the critical demand for services. Moreover,
because many of the individuals currently at Feliciana could be discharged from that facility to lesser
restrictive settings were community-based mental
health care available, Louisiana should invest in
such treatment alternatives.

Recommendations to Local Officials
• In Abandoned & Abused, the ACLU’s principal recommendation to the Orleans Parish Criminal
Sheriff’s Office, the City of New Orleans, and the
DOC was to design and implement a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan with the assistance of experts in the field, such as the NIC.
Unless the Sheriff’s office makes a good faith effort
to learn from what happened during and after
Hurricane Katrina, it will be doomed to repeat its

2 years after Katrina
mistakes. The Sheriff’s office and/or the City of
New Orleans should invite the NIC to perform a
Technical Assistance Report focusing on the jail’s
performance during Hurricane Katrina and its
current state of preparedness.
• The House of Detention building is dangerously
overcrowded and understaffed, leading to unsafe
and unsanitary conditions, the outbreak of infectious diseases, and widespread violence against prisoners. The building, which also includes acute
psychiatric beds and a medical care unit, is unfit to
house prisoners and should be shut down while
ensuring that individuals in need of acute mental
health care and ongoing medical care receive all
necessary services.
• In June 2007, the New Orleans City Council
received a report from the Vera Institute of Justice,
which makes numerous recommendations to
improve the criminal justice system by incorporating national best practices. The report focuses on
practical changes to be made over the next six to 12
months for the “biggest bang for the buck.”174 The
city should work with the Vera Institute to implement the recommendations in the report.
• The New Orleans City Council should provide all
necessary funding to an Office of the Independent
Monitor, to ensure that proper oversight is provided in response to allegations of police misconduct and abuse.
• The Orleans Parish Criminal District Court should
convene a grand jury to investigate conditions at
OPP, paying particularly close attention to the problems of overcrowding and unchecked violence
against prisoners.


Recommendations to the United States
Government at the Federal, State, and
Local Levels Regarding International
Human Rights Obligations
• The United States must comply with its human
rights obligations under the three major international treaties that the U.S. has signed and ratified:
the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights(ICCPR), the Convention against Torture
and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment (CAT), and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination (CERD).
• The United States must bring conditions of confinement into conformance with international human
rights standards by ensuring that all prisoners and
detainees are confined in conditions consistent with
their human dignity; that all conditions of confinement at the federal, state, and local level conform to
the minimum requirements of the United Nations’
Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and international juvenile detention standards;
and that all prisoners and detainees have prompt
access to medical care in prisons and detention facilities, including psychiatric and psychological care.
• The United States must thoroughly and promptly
investigate all allegations of torture and abuse in United
States’ prisons, jails, and other detention facilities;
establish independent oversight bodies to investigate
complaints of torture and abuse by law enforcement
and correctional officers; monitor conditions in all prisons, jails, and detention centers in the United States;
and hold accountable all individuals who have authorized, condoned, or committed torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

• The United States must respect the rights of the
criminally accused by properly funding and supervising indigent defense systems, creating transparency in the administration of justice, and ending
the disproportionate confinement of people of color
in prisons, jails and juvenile detention facilities.
• The United States must guarantee equality before
the law by effectively planning for crises such as Hurricane Katrina by seeking meaningful participation
from the community at all stages of that planning,
addressing the intersection of race and poverty in the
Katrina region, and by banning racial profiling practices by state law enforcement officers and ensuring
that states comply with bans already in place.




2 years after Katrina

The authors of the report wish to thank the individuals who contributed their time and energy to making this report possible,
including, in alphabetical order, Michael Allen; Eric Balaban;
Chandra Bhatnagar; David Blanding; Riah Buchanan;
Cassandra Contreras; Todd Drew; Ashwini Hardikar; Carolyn
Hsu; Tom Jawetz; Jody Kent; Sonia Kumar; Nsombi Lambright;
Tory Pegram; Eric Post; Katie Schwartzmann; Reginald Shuford; and Deborah Vagins. We also would like to thank Elizabeth
Alexander; Karen Curry; Jared Davidson; Terence Dougherty;
Dorothy Ehrlich; Melissa Francisco; Dennis Parker; and Julie
Strom for their general and editorial support, and to acknowledge
the individuals who provided information critical to the report,
including Michael Bousum; Malia Brink; Steven Elloie; Mary
Howell; Rosetta James; Donald Jolly; Dorien Jolly; Antoine
Lewis; Katherine Mattes; James Terry; and Christine Lehmann,
Steven Singer and so many of the hardworking public defenders
in their office. Finally, the authors would like to thank the unidentified individuals inside of OPP and throughout the Katrina
Diaspora whose stories form the basis for much of this report.

American Civil Liberties Union,
National Prison Project
Founded in 1972 by the American Civil Liberties Union, the
National Prison Project (NPP) seeks to ensure constitutional
conditions of confinement and strengthen prisoners’ rights
through class action litigation, advocacy, and public education. Our policy priorities include preventing domestic torture;
protecting prisoners’ health, safety, and human dignity; assuring domestic oversight of prisons; and promoting sound correctional policies. The Project also publishes a semi-annual
journal, coordinates a nationwide network of litigators and
advocates, and provides expert advice and technical assistance to local community groups and lawyers throughout the

American Civil Liberties Union,
Racial Justice Program
The ACLU Racial Justice Program aims to preserve and
extend constitutionally guaranteed and other rights to segments of the population that historically have been denied
those rights on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin.
Our work involves challenges to racial discrimination and
issues that have a direct or disparate impact on communities
of color, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, education, and discrimination. Specifically, we have filed civil challenges to the inadequate provision of indigent criminal and
juvenile defense, pre- and post-9/11 racial profiling, and disparate educational opportunities. Committed to combating
racism in all its forms, the Program’s advocacy includes litigation, community organizing and training, legislative initiatives, and public education.


American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana
The ACLU of Louisiana has protected traditional American
values as a guardian of liberty since its founding in 1956. Our
mission is to conserve America’s original civic values embodied in the U.S. Constitution and the Louisiana Constitution
by working daily in the courts, legislature and communities.
We defend the rights of every man, woman and child residing
in this state against attempts by the government to take away
or limit civil liberties and personal freedoms guaranteed by
the Bill of Rights, as well as federal and state laws. The
ACLU of Louisiana provides its services free-of-charge, and
without regard to a person’s race, creed, religion, national
origin, or sexual orientation.

American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi
The Mississippi affiliate of the ACLU has been protecting
and preserving Mississippians’ civil rights and liberties since
1969. Our mission is to protect and enhance civil rights and
liberties throughout the state. Since our inception almost 40
years ago, the ACLU of Mississippi has successfully engaged
in a comprehensive work strategy that has included litigation
and advocacy on issues such as separation of church and
state, reproductive health care, race and criminal justice
reform, and voting rights.


American Civil Liberties Union,
Human Rights Program
Created in 2004, the ACLU Human Rights Program is dedicated to holding the U.S. government accountable under universal human rights principles in addition to rights
guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. We incorporate international human rights strategies into ACLU advocacy on
issues relating to national security, immigrants’ rights,
women’s rights and racial justice.



2 years after Katrina

ACLU, Abandoned & Abused: Orleans Parish Prisoners in the Wake of
Hurricane Katrina, Aug. 2006, available at
The White House, Press Release, President Discusses Hurricane Relief in
Address to the Nation, Sept. 15, 2005, available at
See Aaron Kinney, “Looting” or “Finding”?,, Sept. 1, 2005, available at
ACLU of Louisiana, Press Release, Blocking of MS River Bridge By Gretna
PD Raises Serious Constitutional Issues; ACLU Applauds AG Foti’s
Investigation and Urges Him to Wrap Up, Release Report, Jan. 20, 2006, available at
ACLU of Louisiana, Press Release, Open Letter Issued to Attorney General
Foti on Long Overdue “Gretna Bridge Incident" Investigation, July 18, 2006,
available at
John Burnett, What Happened on New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge?, National
Public Radio, Sept. 13, 2006, available at
John Burnett, Case Falters Against Cops in Katrina Shootings, National
Public Radio, Apr. 10, 2007, available at
Alex Berenson, Storms and Crisis: Prisoners; With Jails Flooded, Bus Station
Fills the Void, NEW YORK TIMES, Sept. 7, 2005.
ACLU of Louisiana, Press Release, Orleans Parish Deputy Attempts to Boot
ACLU Staff Attorney from New Orleans Criminal Court Room, Oct. 12, 2005,
available at
Elloie v. City of New Orleans, No. 07-3231 (E.D. La. 2007)
Amber Craig, Looking for Answers: Robert James Smith’s Family Question
How the Teenager Died in Pascagoula’s Jail, MISS. PRESS, May 30, 2007.
Sen. Bill No. 89, (2002) (“No alien student or nonresident alien shall operate a motor vehicle in the state without documentation demonstrating that
the person is lawfully present in the United States.”)
ACLU of Louisiana, Press Release, New Orleans Police Department
Refuses to Provide Public Records on Racial Profiling and Excessive Force
Complaints; ACLU Sues to Get Compliance, Sept. 19, 2006, available at
Amici Curiae Supporting Respondent, State v. Mejia, 06-4817 (La. Dist.
2007); Amici Curiae Supporting Respondent, State v. Barrientos, 06-1726
(La. Dist. 2006).


Ellen Tandy & Brett Troxler, EBRSO Executes 2nd “Knock and Talk,”
ACLU of Louisiana, Press Release, Open Letter on Call to Protect Privacy
of Hurricane Evacuees, Oct. 20, 2005, available at
Mark F. Bonner, Sheriff’s Office Wants ID of Park Residents, BATON ROUGE
ADVOCATE, Oct. 20, 2005.
Paul Rioux, Sheriff’s Remarks Called ‘Overtly Racist,’ THE TIMESPICAYUNE (New Orleans), July 8, 2006.
ACLU of Louisiana, Open Letter to Sheriff Jack Strain, July 5, 2006, available at
ACLU of Mississippi Fights to Keep Three Students from New Orleans in
Jackson Public School, Civil Freedom News, 2 (2) Winter/Spring 2006, at 8.
Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, Press Release, Fair
Housing Center Files Suit Against St. Bernard Parish; Announces News
Conference Regarding Lawsuit, Oct. 3, 2006, available at
Bob Warren, St. Bernard Agrees to Delay Its Rent Rule; Ordinance Prompted
Discrimination Suit, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans), Nov. 14, 2006.
See, e.g., Meghan Gordon, Trailers Must Hit the Road By April; Jefferson
Council to Permit Appeals, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans), Dec. 8,
2006; Debra Lemoine, Tangipahoa Plans to Continue Ban on Trailers, BATON
ROUGE ADVOCATE, July 9, 2006.
Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, For Rent, Unless You’re
Black: An Audit Report and Study on Race Discrimination in the Greater New
Orleans Metropolitan Rental Housing Market, Apr. 2007, available at
Brett Anderson, Lessons Unlearned, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans),
July 13, 2007.
Mark A. Bernstein, et. al, Rebuilding Housing Along the Mississippi Coast:
Ideas for Ensuring an Adequate Supply of Affordable Housing, OCCASIONAL
PAPER (RAND Gulf States Policy Institute, Santa Monica, Ca.), 2006, at xixiv, available at
Letter to Governor Barbour, May 9, 2007. On file with the authors.
Bruce Eggler, Blanco Signs Order Postponing New Orleans Elections, THE
TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans), Dec. 12, 2005.



ACLU of Louisiana, Voters’ Guide for the Orleans Parish Elections, Updated
Mar. 9, 2006, available at
Abandoned & Abused, at 13.
Barry Gerharz and Seung Hong, Down by Law: Orleans Parish Prison
Before and After Katrina, DOLLARS & SENSE, March/April 2006, available at
See Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office, Analysis of Daily Cost Per
Inmate, 2003-2006, attached to Letter from Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman to
Members of the New Orleans City Council, Nov. 10, 2005; Vera Institute of
Justice, Proposals for New Orleans’ Criminal Justice System: Best Practices to
Advance Public Safety and Justice (June 2007), Table 1.4, available at
David Morton, The Rise and Decline of the New Orleans Jail, THE NEW
REPUBLIC, Aug. 14, 2006; C.J. Schexnayder, What Price Incarceration?,
GAMBIT WEEKLY, Nov. 19, 2002.
Laura Maggi, N.O. Prison Critics Grill Sheriff; Incarceration Rate High,
They Point Out, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans), Nov. 15, 2006; Anne
Rochell Konigsmark, Crime Takes Hold of New New Orleans; Murder Rate
Soars After Katrina as Violence Creeps into Upscale Neighborhoods, USA
TODAY, Dec. 1, 2006.
Laura Maggi, With Temporary Jail in Place, All Orleans Prisoners to Return;
800 To Be Housed in Tent-Like Facility, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans),
Oct. 31, 2006.
Maggi, N.O. Prison Critics Grill Sheriff; Anne Rochell Konigsmark, Crime
Takes Hold of New New Orleans.
Maggi, N.O. Prison Critics Grill Sheriff.
Susan Finch, Prison Neighbors Want Tents Out, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE
(New Orleans), Dec. 16, 1992.
Testimony of Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman before the House Judiciary Committee
Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee, Apr. 10, 2007.
Press Release, Orleans Parish Prison Restoration Gets FEMA’s Financial
Backing, Federal Emergency Management Agency, May 23, 2007.
Vera Institute of Justice, Proposals for New Orleans’ Criminal Justice System.
Id. at 18.
See generally Letter from Marlin N. Gusman, Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff,
to Members of the New Orleans City Council, Nov. 10, 2005, available at


Matthew Crawford, Recovery Zone: Orleans Parish Sheriff Shares His
Experiences After Katrina, CORRECTIONALNEWS.COM, May/June 2006, available at
Abandoned & Abused, at 90, 92.
Testimony of Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman before the House Judiciary
Committee Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee, Apr.
10, 2007.
Interview with D.J., July 18, 2007
Interview with M.C., July 19, 2007.
ACLU of Louisiana, Public Records Act Request, July 24, 2007.
For more information on the current health care crisis in New Orleans, see
Leslie Eaton, New Orleans Recovery Is Slowed by Closed Hospitals, NEW YORK
TIMES, July 24, 2007.
Interview with E.J., July 18, 2007.
Interview with J.D., July 19, 2007.
Interview with M.P., July 18, 2007.
Interview with R.B., July 19, 2007.
Interview with D.M., July 18, 2007.
Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office, Inmate’s Grievance Form (Form
ARP-1), J.R., Apr. 27, 2006.
Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office, Step One Response Form (Form
ARP-2A), J.R., May 2, 2006.
Abandoned & Abused, at 15-16.
Id. at 17.
Interview with B.G., July 18, 2007.
Interview with J.D.II, July 18, 2007.
Interview with S.T., May 31, 2007.
Interview with J.D., July 19, 2007.
Bruce Nolan, Blanco Pledges Mental Health Services; But Aid Falls Short of
Nagin’s Requests, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans), June 6, 2007.
Marsha Shuler, Mental Health Need “Limitless”; La.’s System Underfunded,
Understaffed and Overloaded Since the Hurricanes, BATON ROUGE
ADVOCATE, June 17, 2007.
Id.; Nolan, Blanco Pledges Mental Health Services.
Shuler, Mental Health Need “Limitless”.




Bill Walsh and Jan Moller, When Needed Most, Psych Services Gone; Few
Doctors, Facilities Open After Hurricane, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New
Orleans), Sept. 5, 2006.
Kate Moran, Alarm Sounded on Psych Services; Nagin Demands State
Restore Hospital Beds, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans), May 15, 2007.
Nolan, Blanco Pledges Mental Health Services.
Richard A. Webster, Special Treatment: Reopening Charity Hospital’s First
Three Floors Possible, NEW ORLEANS CITYBUSINESS, July 23, 2007.
Laura Maggi and Kate Moran, Mental Patients Have Nowhere to Go;
Without Treatment, Many Wind Up in Jail, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New
Orleans), Apr. 23, 2007.
Abandoned & Abused, at 89-90.
Laura Maggi, Bed Shortage Strands Inmates; Psychiatric Hospital Doesn’t
Have Room, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans), Mar. 13, 2007.
Id.; Interview with Katherine Mattes, July 16, 2007.
Maggi and Moran, Mental Patients Have Nowhere to Go.
Interview with M.H., July 19, 2007.
Interview with J.J., May 31, 2007; Interview with S.T., May 31, 2007.
Bob Ussery, Prisoner Beaten in N.O. Jail, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New
Orleans), July 29, 2007.
Laura Maggi, Attempted-Murder Suspect Escapes from N.O. Prison, THE
TIMES-PICAYUNE, Jan. 23, 2007.
Testimony of Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman before the House Judiciary
Committee Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee, Apr.
10, 2007.
Interview with Michael Bousum, July 17, 2007.
Abandoned & Abused, at 15.

2 years after Katrina

The precise number of individuals who have died is unknown; the ACLU
of Louisiana recently filed a Public Records Act request under Louisiana
state law requesting information on in-custody deaths. See ACLU of
Louisiana, Public Records Act Request, July 24, 2007.
Staff Reports, Inmate at Orleans Prison Dies, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New
Orleans), Mar. 6, 2007.
Interview with Katherine Mattes, June 22, 2007.
Staff Reports, 26-Year-Old Inmate Died in Orleans Cell, THE TIMESPICAYUNE (New Orleans), July 5, 2007.
Abandoned & Abused, at 19-27.
See Demaree Inglese, M.D., No Ordinary Heroes 12 (2007).
Id. at 12-13.
Id. at 89.
Morgan v. Gusman, No. 06-cv-5700 (E.D. La. Sept. 1, 2006), ¶ 9.
Id. at ¶ 30.
Municipal Court of New Orleans, State of Louisiana, En Banc Order
(Apr. 30, 2007); Traffic Court of New Orleans, State of Louisiana, En Banc
Order (Oct. 10, 2006).
Abandoned & Abused, at 30-31.
ACLU of Louisiana, Public Records Act Request, Aug. 18, 2006.
Compare Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office Hurricane/Flood
Contingency Plan (unsigned) (undated), available at
with Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office, Hurricane and Flood
Contingency Plan, Updated Sept. 24, 2004. Cf. Abandoned & Abused at 26.
Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office, Hurricane and Flood
Contingency Plan, Updated Sept. 24, 2004.
Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office, Standard Operating Procedure
in the Event of a Hurricane Evacuation (hereinafter “SOP”), Revised July
25, 2006.
Abandoned & Abused, at 23.
Abandoned & Abused, at 88. For more information on the problems with
Louisiana’s indigent defense system, see generally The National Legal Aid &
Defenders Association, A Strategic Plan to Ensure Accountability & Protect
Fairness in Louisiana’s Criminal Courts, Sept. 2006; Christoper Muller,
Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, The Case for Community
Defense in New Orleans, May 2006; Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S.
Department of Justice, An Assessment of the Immediate and Longer-Term Needs
of the New Orleans Public Defender System (hereinafter “BJA Study”) Apr.
10, 2006; Spangenberg Group, The Orleans Indigent Defender Program: An
Overview, Feb. 1997.



Laura Maggi, Public Defenders Office Changing; And It’s For Better,
Supporters Say, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans), July 15, 2007.
Gwen Filosa, Four Suspects Lacking Attorneys Freed; Judge’s Ruling Faces
Appellate Challenge, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans), Oct. 7, 2006.
Interview with Katherine Mattes, July 16, 2007.
Laura Maggi, Judge Takes Public Defense to Task; Six Lawyers Quit, Causing
Case Delays, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans), Sept. 18, 2006.
Maggi, Public Defenders Office Changing.
Interview with Katherine Mattes, July 16, 2007.
Maggi, Public Defenders Office Changing.
See generally, Complaint, Terry v. City of New Orleans, No. 07-cv-469 (E.D.
La. Jan. 24, 2007); First Amended Complaint, Terry v. City of New Orleans,
No. 07-cv-469 (E.D. La. May 21, 2007).
Richard A. Webster, Orleans Parish Public Defense Deficiency Could Free
Dozens of Criminal Suspects, NEW ORLEANS CITYBUSINESS, Apr. 19, 2007;
Act No. 307, “Louisiana Public Defender Act.”
Webster, Orleans Parish Public Defense Deficiency Could Free Dozens of
Criminal Suspects; Act No. 307, “Louisiana Public Defender Act.”
Interview with Malia Brink, July 26, 2007.
BJA Study at 26, NLADA Report, 2004.
Interview with Christine Lehmann, July 19, 2007.
OPD, Orleans Public Defenders Funding Request, May 14, 2007.
Interview with Christine Lehmann, July 19, 2007.
BJA Study, at 26.
E-mail from Christine Lehmann, Aug. 6, 2007.
OPD, Orleans Public Defenders Funding Request, May 14, 2007.



BJA Study, at 4.
Id. at 9.
Interview with Katherine Mattes, July 16, 2007.
Southern Center for Human Rights, A Report on Pre- and Post-Katrina
Indigent Defense in New Orleans, Mar. 2006.
Interview with Katherine Mattes, July 16, 2007.
Dimming the Beacon of Freedom: U.S. Violations of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, available at
ACLU, Press Release, Victims of U.S. Human Rights Violations Tell Their
Stories at U.N. Meeting in Geneva, Jul. 14, 2006, available at
ACLU, Press Release, Rights Body Harshly Criticizes U.S. Human Rights
Record, Jul. 18, 2006, available at
ACLU, Press Release, U.S. Human Rights Record Strongly Condemned by
Leading International Body, Jul. 28, 2006, available at See also,
ACLU of Louisiana, Press Release, U.N. Human Rights Body Slams
Louisiana Actions During Katrina, Jul. 28, 2006, available at; ACLU
of Mississippi, Press Release, ACLU of Mississippi Shares U.N. Concerns
About Human Rights Violations, Aug. 2, 2006, available at
ACLU, Memo, Mississippi One Year After Katrina, Nov. 9, 2006. On file
with the authors.
ACLU of Louisiana, Press Release, ACLU Condemns U.S. for Failing to
Uphold Civil and Political Rights, June 20, 2006, available at
Susan Finch, Judge Orders Probe Into Teen’s Arrest: He Says Cop Lied;
Defendant Freed, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE (New Orleans), Apr. 16, 2005.
Transcript of CNN Coverage of Press Conference, Aug. 28, 2005, available at
Abandoned & Abused, at 10-11.
BJA Study.
Id. at i.



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