Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Prison outrage

My column today focuses on recent statements from Human Rights Watch about the alleged abandonment of more than 600 prisoners at Orleans Parish Prison as Katrina churned ashore. There are reports that now, 6 weeks after the storm, more than one hundred prisoners are still unaccounted for. If the allegations are true -- and there's no reason to believe they're not -- then Louisiana is likely facing its biggest post-Katrina public relations disaster yet. An event planned for later this morning will attempt to further raise public awareness about the issue. The abandonment of incarcerated human beings to the wrath of a hurricane and its aftermath is an indicator of absolute moral bankruptcy. Nebulous promises of leadership, no matter how frequently repeated, cannot substitute for what should be immediate, public and thorough official investigation of the allegations. If the reports of prisoner abandonment and death are true, then quick and dramatic retribution for those responsible ought to be just the beginning of the official response.