Saturday, September 09, 2017

Federal prisoners stranded in Harvey, Harris County inmates released into it

When disasters like Hurricane Harvey strike, inmates in coastal prisons and jails are sitting ducks unless the authorities in control of their fates take action to protect them.

Downtown Houston on the day
jail inmates were summarily released
TruthOut has emails from inmates in a flooded federal prison in Beaumont showing inmates stranded and scared in desperate conditions. And in Houston, the county jail allegedly released prisoners from a drug treatment facility at the height of the flooding without money, clothes, or medication because officials couldn't feed or supervise them.

After this episode, there really won't be any excuse going forward for coastal jails and prison units to have anything but fully operational disaster plans, including privately run units. That should have been the case after inmates were stranded during Hurricanes Katrina (New Orleans) and Ike (Galveston). But now it would be clearly negligent not to do so.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice appears to have done a good job evacuating inmates in harm's way. But the federal Bureau of Prisons clearly dropped the ball, and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards surely should review policies on releasing inmates into hazardous conditions.

It's a safe bet Harvey won't be the last time these issues come up.

RELATED: Add accountability to rehab, reentry arguments for inmates' access to email.

MORE: According to the Houston Press, federal officials disputed the extent of the flooding reported in Beaumont.

7 comments:

Gadfly said...

The even better answer is shutting all units that have significant flood damage!

Gloria said...

TDCJ did not do a good job evacuating prisoners. The 582 from the Ramsey Unit who werre sent to the Ferguson Unit were faced with horrific conditions and they were crammed like sardines into a gym with little air circulation, sleeping on the floor with ants, roaches and SNAKES crawling on them at night. The porta potties were filthy and for some reason were closed after 3:30 pm.
As my friend told me, we had a number of elderly men who needed a restroom around the clock. The water was brown and oily and "wouldn't rinse off when we showered. We need to go to commissary to get soap and bleach to clean potties but were denied."
My question after visiting a evacuee at Ferguson is which is worse--living in flood waters or sleeps with snakes?
Poor or no planning to evacuate needs to be addressed.
Why, with a $3 billion budget can't the prison system keep cots stored in a warehouse for flood evacuees? And cases of clean water? And why not move prisoners to unites that have extra space in dorms?
And why not releases the thousands of non-violent offenders who really need drug treatment and community service?

Anonymous said...

The even better answer is shutting all units that have significant PROBABILITY OF FLOODING!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting this story on your blog.

I read about it in the Houston Chronicle during the storm but that was the only place I saw it. What a horrible way to treat people. I think that kind of treatment could make people vicious and callous. Are you sure that "the federal Bureau of Prisons clearly dropped the ball?" We now have a President that relates the General Pershing story to the world -- the one about lining up prisoners of war and summarily shooting them, who praises the Philippine dictator Duterte for extrajudicial killing of drug users, and a Justice Department that seems to enjoy scaring the heck out of undocumented workers.

The columnist Charles Blow is right Trump is a sadist. And maybe whoever runs the show down in Beaumont shares his values.

I hope Grits will give us an update if he hears any news about this.

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Anonymous said...

Ouestion:
Did Leblanc,Stiles,Gist & TYC all flood ?

Anonymous said...

My son is at Gist and as far as I can tell, they did not flood. They did lose water and conditions were deplorable with toilets over-run and not working along with the sweltering heat. He was given 2 bottles of water per day.

Today he called and said they were moving all of them out to Pack and Stringfellow within the next 3 days so that the ones that were housed there could be moved into Gist for air conditioning.

Problem is, they only have a swamp cooler in one area. No a/c although there are vents in place for some to be installed if the system is workable.

To me it seems TDCJ is playing fast and loose with the Judge's ruling and doing nothing more than just a two step shuffle to avoid the appearance of violating the ruling. Even if there is a single swamp cooler at Gist, how can it be justified moving others into a failing system that is inhumane?