Wednesday, May 10, 2006

More prison horrors

This week's column comments on continued reports of inhumane conditions at Orleans Parish Prison as Hurricane Katrina came ashore. An earlier column commented on reports from adult prisoners about the horrors of OPP. Now it appears youth were also locked in cells as the flood waters rose. The Times Picayune reports today on these new details as does the New York Times. The new report was released by the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. Human Rights Watch issued a report in October about the same issue. I blogged about this in October, here. My column this week column begins: "Earlier this month, a judge ended federal oversight of Louisiana’s state-operated youth prisons. That decision ended the 2000 settlement agreement mandating changes in the way Louisiana punishes and rehabilitates its youngest offenders. Although the state’s reform of its juvenile justice system is not complete, the end of this externally-imposed legal constraint on the state’s decision-making authority was a welcome sign of progress. "Unfortunately, the rosy glow surrounding issues of incarcerated youth in Louisiana has faded fast. Yesterday the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana released a profoundly disturbing report about the treatment of youth held at Orleans Parish Prison during and after Hurricane Katrina." It concludes: "Discouragingly, there are no signs of movement toward investigation of these charges at the state or federal level. But lawsuits filed by these prisoners will likely force official attention sooner or later. "A fifteen-year-old boy who survived the hell of OPP had this to say, “[I]t was a horrible experience… I know this will have a long-term effect on me until I am dead and gone.” "No one should have to live with memories like that."