Thursday, March 29, 2012

Prisoners and Hurricane Katrina

          Before this class, I had never learned about Hurricane Katrina. Everything I knew about it I had learned in seventh grade from television broadcasts I watched with my family during and immediately after the storm. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the storm. The levees in New Orleans broke, many areas of the city were flooded and a lot of people died. The movie “Trouble the Water” was shocking because it provided first hand accounts of how backwards our country is. Instead of supporting the people of New Orleans, the United States turned their back on them. The destructiveness of Hurricane Katrina was a result of the failure of so many people. Personal narratives help illustrate the devastating effects these failures can have on people.
In the documentary, Kym’s brother was trapped inside of a New Orleans prison during the storm. According to an article published in Humans Rights Watch ( hundreds of prisoners were abandoned in the cities prisons, with nothing to eat or drink for days “as floodwaters rose toward the ceiling.” During the four to five days that the prisoners were trapped the generators died and the toilets backed up, so they were left to drown in small, dark cells that were filled with human waste. When the prisoners were finally evacuated, 571 men were unaccounted for.
            As is the case with most natural disasters, stories of human resilience have emerged. Inmates that were held in the common areas helped other prisoners out of their cells. They comforted each other and tried to get help. According to the article, “Many of the men held at jail had been arrested for offenses like criminal trespass, public drunkenness or disorderly conduct. Many had not even been brought before a judge and charged, much less been convicted.” The story of the prisoners is just one of many blatant human rights abuses that occurred during and after Hurricane Katrina. 

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