Broken Katrina Promises

Racial discrimination, housing crises and neglect of prisoner rights in the wake of Katrina is the subject of a new ACLU report released Monday, Aug. 20. In anticipation of the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, the ACLU released the report, "Broken Promises: Two Years After Katrina," which details Katrina victim injustices in Mississippi and Louisiana. It is a follow-up from last year's report, "Abandoned & Abused: Orleans Parish Prisoners in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina."

On its Web site, the ACLU offers a visual account of prisoners' traumatic encounter with Katrina, including the testimony of a 15-year-old girl, Ashley, whom guards neglected in a New Orleans juvenile detention center for three days without food and water. "I felt like I was about to die," she said.

After Katrina caused a power outage in the detention center, Ashley said that the rising waters soon followed, eventually reaching her chin. There was no hope in sight until a young male prisoner took a gun from a guard and floated away on a mattress to find help.

"I expected the guards to help us," Ashley said, "but they didn't."

Ivy Gisclair went to jail shortly before Katrina for failing to pay traffic tickets. After the storm hit, the guards abandoned the prison. "I told people, 'lay down and go to sleep, because we're dead,'" Gisclair said.

"Broken Promises" also reports injustice outside the prison system, including the account of displaced children from Louisiana, who faced discrimination in a local Mississippi high school.

After Katrina ravaged New Orleans, Erica Jolly moved to Jackson, and she enrolled her two sons, Dorien and Donald, at Provine High School. School administrators told them, "We're not taking any more of you people."

The ACLU reports that after just two weeks at Provine, the school expelled the Jolly brothers, along with a fellow displaced student, Antoine Lewis, for fighting with classmates—even though the common punishment was a 10-day suspension.

In the report, the ACLU calls on Congress to pass legislation ending the discrimination in Katrina-torn areas. The report also challenges the U.S. government to investigate the Orleans Parish Prison, which lacks proper sanitation, medical care and evacuation plans in the event of another disaster.

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said, "The government must be held accountable for its mistakes rather than allowed to perpetuate the systemic racism and discrimination that only added strength to the storm."

For more information and to read the report, visit the ACLU's Broken Promises site.


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