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.