Sunday, September 14, 2008

Waiting for word on 1,000+ stranded at Galveston jail (Updated)

Still no word on what happened with the 1,000 inmates and their jailers stranded at the Galveston County jail during Hurricane Ike. Perhaps we may find small comfort in the notion that if full-blown tragedy had struck there it would likely have been reported by now.

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.


Anonymous said...

I looked up the number for the jail online and called it. Amazingly, a woman just answered and answered my questions. She said there are more than 1000 prisoners there and that there was no flooding in the jail. She says they have plenty of food and water and that the only effects of Ike are a lack of air conditioning and television. I asked her how hot it is due to the lack of A/C and she said she didn't know. I asked if the Sheriff rode out Ike there with the inmates and she says he did. Regarding phones, she said the only one working is hers.

I hope this is true.

Anonymous said...

As is so often true many in jails and prisons are simply forgotten about. we simply lump them all together as outcasts. it is noice to see that there are people that do think about socities outcasts.

The Stark Raving Viking said...

I worked as a "cat adjuster" paying out checks to insureds in the aftermath of Katrina in and around New Orleans, Louisiana.

An off-duty police officer was assigned to ride with me into the areas for claims, especially beyond National Guard lines and check points.

I went drinking with the police officers. They talked amongst themselves about their past duties as snipers on rooftops during the media blackout after Katrina.

The group of all White mostly State Police and members of SWAT units were allegedly assigned to kill as many "looters" as possible. A refrigerated tractor trailer was used to freeze the bodies to eliminate the smell. Two of these such trailers were allegedly flown over deep water and dropped in by twin rotor military helicopters.

The White cops seeing Whites carrying merchandise or food out of establishment called it "rescuing loafs of bread" etc. When minorities did the same it was called "looting" and they were shot during the news blackout, allegedly.

National Guardsmen were kept out of "Kill Zones" as the guards had huge percentages of non-whites and the story was to be kept hush hush.

Drunk talk of police officers? I think not.

Anonymous said...

They designed and built a jail that could withstand a hurricane. It was tested and passed the test other than the loss of AC & TV.

I think it is interesting that it is possible to design a jail to withstand a hurricane. It is possible to design other buildings to withstand hurricanes? Is it possible to design electrical and communications systems to withstand a hurricane?

Anonymous said...

Stark raving viking is full of shit and even gives bad bloggers a bad name.

Grits, maybe no one has heard about the jail, because nobody outside of liberal intelligencia gives a damn.

Unknown said...

Hey anonymous,

Just like you twits to hide.

I'm not in any sense of the word "liberal", other than in the actual root sense of the word - I believe in being free (not Freedom as you moronic monsters would define it, which is just American fascism). And this "liberal" will kick your fat ass and any five of your pick of right-wing nutbag fat asses of your choice.

What we have here, as you so clearly illustrate, is an entire class of people who live by hate, stupidity, ignorance, and cowardice. You, anonymous, are a hateful, ignorant, stupid coward.

We have 1000 American citizens left to die in front of a massive natural disaster, and then you, you piece of shit, have the balls to invoke "liberal intelligentsia" (or course you can't spell) rather than simple decency as the source of concern for these people, most of whom certainly have been convicted of no crimes, all of whom are wards of the state and dependent on it for their safety. Well, you bloated pig bastard, why do you and you Texas buddies just line these people up and shoot them, and just bulldoze the damn jail? That's how they did it in Nazi Germany, you fascist pig.

You people are going to lose - you are going to lose the iron grip you've had on my government and my country for 25 years, since that idiot Reagan and his army of chickenshit bullies moved into that house that Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison built. You are going back into the sewer that spawned you, you slimy bastard, and so are the rest of your moronic, hateful co-conspirators. We are going to get our country back, and you can kiss our collective asses.


Anonymous said...

Did you read your comments, Scott? I posted here about my conversation with the very same person at 10:00 this morning.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 4.50 ~ you can put your cables underground, that's what we do over here.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear, Antimatter, we'll get our country back from the mouth-breathers!!!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"at 10:00 this morning"

I was away from the blog all day and added the news last night. I did see your comment when updating the post, but hers was better sourced is the reason I mentioned it.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, Grits. It is looking to me like the Sheriff called it boldly and right.

Presently the inmates have it better than a lot of citizens in the Houston area, and a lot of evacuees.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

He called it right ONLY because the storm shifted at the last minute. If Galveston had seen the worst case scenario predicted by the National Weather Service, everyone would have drowned. They only had an 11 foot surge instead of the predicted 25 foot one. I'm glad nobody was harmed by the Sheriff's roll of the dice, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a major risk. After all, five out of six times you'll come out okay playing Russian Roulette.

Anonymous said...

Antimatter33, Rather colorful and graphic, but right on!


TCADP said...

I was wondering this morning if they will use inmates to help with the cleanup. Is that permissable?

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that anyone would say "it's ok, no one got hurt"... Are you kidding me?

So next time, lock your family up in the house before your weak ass runs away screaming. Then after a few days, go back, and if everything is 'ok' as stated for these inmates, then I guess no harm no foul right? Pathetic. So noone was harmed during this? Where is the jail getting it's food and water from currently. last I heard, much of these services were limited at best. That is why the people that rode the storm out LEFT! Fema could not promise to support them immediately. so, what? It's OK to allow people locked up to starve for a few days? No water, no problem!?!?!?

This Sheriff needs his ass handed to him, and some cruel and unusual charges to back it up with. One could only imagine the fear felt in the jail as 80+ MPH winds swept through that area...

How would any of you feel being locked up in a 8x8 cage, the only people that can save you are also looking at the door to run away too?

Yeah, these guys broke "A" law, which was it. drunk and disorderly? kicking a dog? tagging a fence? Yeah sure, some of them are in for worse crimes, but there again, if they were in jail, that typically means they were still innocent until proven guilty right?

Anonymous said...

I heard Last night on KUHF (though they might have been broadcasting Channel 13), that police had caught 8 people accused of looting and put them in the city jail. The anchor then kinda smirked about how its how its crowded, hot and humid there, so they should be really uncomfortable.

I found that horrible for them to say, about another humans suffering, but that is par for the course of the mainstream media.

Anonymous said...

C'mon people. Stop foaming at the mouth about the plight of these poor poor criminals. These folks were in a concrete jail not some tin hut. Do we know what the elevation is for the building?

I know that reporters and rescue personnel stayed at a hotel that used to be a military building. They were safe because it was a solid building on a hill above flood level. Does anyone know if the jail is the same way?

You people are such drama queens just itching for any reason to rail against the criminal justice system.

Oh and raving viking is a moron. Kill squads with orders to shoot black people and then dump the bodies in the ocean? Stop smoking that crack.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Todd, I guess you don't care about the jailers, but I'd expect that from you at this point.

As for the jail being on "a hill above flood level," Galveston is a barrier island. If Ike had hit full on, there would be no hills "above flood level." As this science blogger wrote:

"Any one part of a barrier island may be totally washed away into the sea. Any buildings standing there may become incorporated, at depth, into the barrier island, or into the sand sheet off shore.

"The city of Galveston, of course, is built entirely on a barrier island."

Anonymous said...

Texas Jail Standards requires(a) New facilities, new additions, and major renovations to existing facilities shall be equipped with an emergency back-up electrical generator designed to operate both manually and automatically upon interruption of the primary electrical power source. The system shall be capable of operating uninterrupted for a minimum period of one and one half hours without refueling. Back-up electrical power shall be provided for necessary equipment and life safety systems including, but not limited to:

(1) emergency illumination systems;

(2) exit lights;

(3) smoke management systems;

(4) fire detection and alarm systems;

(5) audible communication systems;

(6) security/control systems;

(7) normal ventilation systems required for smoke detection.

(b) Existing facilities shall provide emergency illumination and this may be accomplished by utilizing a battery back-up system capable of continuous operation for one and one-half hours

Anonymous said...

Hahahah, You have to be joking. This is nice for power outages, but the las tI heard generators don't work when drowned by salt water, not even if it only for a little bit.

Has anyone actually seen Galveston, not on CNN either, I mean do we have anyone that either was on the island and left or has gone down to give out supplies? They are the only ones that can tell us how bad it is and then we would be able to make an intelligent decision on the hairbrained idea the Sheriff made regarding the prisoners.

One more statement. Has anyone verified the Sheriff actually stayed, or is this unconfirmed account just accepted as fact?

Anonymous said...

Reading the entertaining comments here, the comment of Stark Raving Viking brings up a question about the refrigerated trailers being dumped in the sea with dead "looters". You said that twin rotor helicopters of the military were carrying the trailers, yet you also say that the National Guard was kept out of the kill zones. Well who is in charge of the National Guard and the copters? What you're implying is that the military was taken over by a state sponsored militia superseding all known U.S.constitutional laws. That's hard to swallow unless you can come up with solid proof besides comments from inebriated cops heard by an inebriated listener. Even if the NatGuard was kept from areas forbidden, the curiousity of the media would still have been present.

Anonymous said...

jail is supposed to be miserable

Anonymous said...

Is it supposed to be potentially deadly, too?

editor said...

You can see the latest on the jail here:

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