Katrina: Criminals Evacuated Before Sick, Elderly

Bob Owens has been reporting on the fate of New Orleans prison inmates since Hurricane Katrina hit. He has learned that all of the prisoners have been safely evacuated to other Louisiana jails.

He is puzzled though:

It is unexplained why these 7,600 prisoners got out well in advance of citizens a mile away who are dying by the hour at the Superdome, in beseiged hospitals, and elsewhere throughout New Orleans.

The short answer, I’m sure, is that the prisoners are wards of the state whereas those in the Superdome and elsewhere are private citizens who are ultimately responsible for taking care of themselves. While there’s little doubt that law abiding citizens “deserve” to be rescued before convicted criminals, the state has a much higher duty to the latter than the former.

It’s true that the poorest of citizens had little prospect of evacuating, especially from New Orleans, without assistance. But they were at least free to get out. Prisoners, on the other hand, are trapped in their cells because of state action. The government has a paramount responsibility to care for them.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Susan E. Jones says:

    Rev. Jesse Jackson,
    I believe your a great man and maybe they will listen to you instead of an old dissabled white woman.I agee on what you said today, that they shouldn’t ever be called refugees, but American citizens. My son is in Gulfport and in dyer need of help, but when I seen those Americans in the sun and heat at the convention center and on those bridges, I became furious.I wrote a letter to the president and white house. I let them have it, believe me.Even I know if they had put up large tents and tarps, that the people that died there, may still be alive. I know that not only our black Americans, but white Americans to are furious across the country.I’m so ashamed of our government right now. The children and people that died there should have been covered in some way.It’s confusing to me that the military can put up large tents in no time, but not do it for our fellow Americans.Please suggest it to them about tents and tarps, before anyone else dies.I can’t believe that no one did that and it should have been done days ago.God help them all and my prayers go out to my fellow Americans in trouble……Thank you, Susan E. Jones

  2. Jim Henley says:

    James this turns out not to be true. Since the disaster, checkpoints around the city have PREVENTED people from leaving under their own power. Shepard Smith reported last night on one at the bridge next to the Superdome.

  3. bryan says:

    Not only that, but if the prisoners were not evacuated, there is a much greater chance they would riot and release themselves into the streets. You think what they’ve got now is anarchy, picture 7,600 criminals roaming the streets.

  4. Sally says:

    I believe everyone deserves to have their life weather prisoner or free, it is easy to judge when you are neither and you are far away from the situation, or do not have family in their. We as people ten to be harder on others and want people to take it easy on us, but put your self you their shoes weather in prison or free do you thin you deserve to be free.

  5. Rhonda Blankenship says:

    My son was in the New Orleans Parish jail. He is neither a murderer nor a rapist… he has a drug problem and the last I heard, that didn’t carry a death sentence. The officals at the Orleans jail have hidden the fact that their guards refused to give food or water to those prisoners for 4 days and locked them on the roof with no food/water/shelter. No one has mentioned that they were “evacuated” to Hunt correctional facility and herded into a fenced field/given 1 blanket each and left for 2 days in driving rain with no toilets/their food was sandwiches thrown over the fence by guards too lazy or scared to go in there and take care of them. yeah…they had it easy alright!! The guards at Orleans Parish had refused to give them food and water… then when they were given food/water by federal prisoners throwing it to them on the rooftop, the guards stole that food/water and beat them. When a national guard helecopter took pity on the prisoners on the roof, they threw down water and m.r.e.’s .. yep… the guards came up there and stole that too! yeah… they had it easy alright! My son is lucky to be alive! My heart goes out to all the people who suffered thru this awful disaster and especially to the poor souls who lost their lives… that in no way excuses the abuse the prisoners suffered… they had no choice… I would certainly have driven to the prison and picked my son up if they had admitted they couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of him!! And yes.. besides the guards… our president, governor, and mayor should be brought to task for letting down all the innocent victims of this disaster! Things have calmed down now and the free citizens are receiving small amounts of aid… my son has not even received an apology for the grief they put him thru… and never will!He may be a prisoner, but he’s also a human being and no one should be treated the way they were treated and abandoned to fend for themselves.