Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More Katrina tragedies

From a press release for an event scheduled for tomorrow morning

CONTACT: Tamika Midddleton, 504-813-4714; Xochitl Bervera, 504-606-8846 FAMILY MEMBERS AND PRISONERS SHARE NIGHTMARE AFTER KATRINA Broad Coalition Calls for Independent Investigation of OPP Evacuation, Amnesty and Real Public Safety Models for New Orleans WHAT: A JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE called by Critical Resistance, Families & Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, People’s Hurricane Relief Committee, and the Southern Center for Human Rights WHERE: Orleans Parish Prison 2800 Gravier street (Corner of Gravier and South White, One Block From South Broad) WHEN: 11:00 am, Wednesday, October 12, 2005 NEW ORLEANS, LA – “They won’t let my daughter out of prison, even though she was supposed to have been released weeks ago,” says Althea Francois. “This is a long time for us to be separated – I’m worried sick about her. And I know there are thousands of families in the same situation.” Stories like Ms. Francois’ have galvanized a broad coalition of human rights organizations, community groups, Orleans Parish prisoners, and their families, who will gather on Wednesday in front of the now infamous Orleans Parish Prison (OPP). The press conference will take place during Critical Resistance’s Delegation on Safety and the Status of Prisoners, which is calling attention to charges that prisoners were left to drown in locked jail cells, hundreds more were arrested for the ‘crime’ of trying to feed themselves after Katrina, and thousands have had their cases thrown into legal limbo post-Katrina. The press conference will share personal stories of prisoners left to rising floodwaters without food or water in locked jail cells at Orleans Parish Prison, of arrest and imprisonment at the makeshift jail now set up at the New Orleans’ Greyhound bus station, and of individuals who would have been released from jail or prison but for Katrina. Members will demand an independent investigation into the evacuation of OPP and amnesty for those arrested for trying to feed and clothe themselves post-Katrina, while calling for real public safety in a rebuilt New Orleans. “Rising from the devastation of Katrina, we have an amazing opportunity to rebuild a truly new and genuine system of public safety for New Orleans,” said Xochitl Bervera, Co-Director of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children. Along with lawyers from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Southern Center for Human Rights, the press conference will include personal stories from mothers whose children were left to drown in chest-high water at Orleans Parish Prison, and Ortegas Coleman, who was one of hundreds imprisoned at the makeshift jail set up in the New Orleans’ Greyhound Bus Station. Pointing to additional recent accounts of police beatings, “Katrina’s aftermath reflects the way we as a nation increasingly deal with social ills: police and imprison primarily poor Black communities for ‘crimes’ that are reflections of poverty and desperation,” said Tamika Middleton, New Orleans-based Organizer with Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization whose mission is to end society’s use of imprisonment as an answer to social problems. Louisiana has had the highest rate of incarceration of any state in the U.S. Blacks are grossly over-represented, making up 72% of the state prison population, while only representing 35% of the total population “This emphasis on ‘law and order’ has historically had a devastating impact on the people of New Orleans,” Middleton continued. “Locking people up in this crisis is cruel mismanagement of city resources and counters the outpouring of the world’s support and concern for all survivors of Hurricane Katrina.”