However, I can still find no report from any media outlet on the stranded inmates written after the storm passed. Things must be quite a mess right now. Did the jail flood? If so, how badly? What happened at the peak of the storm?
I'm sure their electricity is out. How about potable water? Toilets? How are they being fed? Was anyone hurt? Were there any health crises during or after the storm? The Sheriff reportedly only left behind a skeleton crew to manage these responsibilities.
Did the Sheriff stay at the jail himself or just abandon his deputies and inmates and skedaddle? For that matter, did all the assigned deputies stay, or did they abandon their posts and leave the prisoners behind as happened during Katrina?
There are so many unanswered questions. Any reader with information or who sees news coverage on the topic please let us know in the comments.
Let's hope that the storm's last minute shift in course, which spared the island from Ike's greatest fury, also kept folks in the jail safe. But I'm thinking this dastardly decision cannot be allowed to stand as precedent.
After every major emergency like this we learn things that allow laws and policies to be adjusted heading into the next incident. For example, after guns were confiscated from New Orleans residents post-Katrina leaving law abiding folks at the mercy of looters and criminals, the 80th Texas Legislature passed a statute insisting that law enforcement could not confiscate weapons during an emergency.
There will be similar lessons to be learned from Hurricane Ike during the 81st Texas Legislature next spring, and one of them should definitely be to formally require jails in mandatory evacuation areas to evacuate their inmates, especially when they're kept on the first floor as is apparently the case in Galveston. TDCJ does it, and their prisoners are a lot bigger security risk than county jail inmates.
UPDATE: Good news! A Dailykos diarist who picked up the story refers us to IngeniousGirl who brings this report:
I just talked to Deputy at the jail - here is what I learned. ... The Deputy would not give me her name, but she told me that the inmates are safe ...
Plenty of heat, food, water, and the facility is 2 years old and is safe
She also said, the jail is not flooded.
All's well that ends well, but this was still a terrible judgement by the Sheriff that shouldn't be allowed in the future. Buildings can be constructed that withstand hurricane force winds, but on barrier islands like Galveston, flooding is the biggest danger. Everyone who chose to stay, including the jailers and inmates left behind, must count themselves lucky the storm shifted course at the last minute. If it hadn't the jail could have become the site of a serious tragedy.
NUTHER UPDATE (9/15): Here's the first MSM report letting us know everybody at the jail got by okay.