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September 8, 2005 - The News Star (LA)

8,200 Prisoners Evacuated After Katrina

By T.J. Scott (

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

The evacuation of prisoners from southern Louisiana has been com-pleted with the number of prisoners moved -- originally estimated at 5,000 -- swelling to 8,200.

The transfer is probably the largest mass prisoner movement in recent U.S. history.

Approximately 1,200 inmates were transported to facilities in northeastern Louisiana with available bed space, and more are expected.

Pam Laborde, spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, categorized the situation as temporary. "This is just to get them out, and get them stabilized," she said.

Inmates are still being shuffled around local institutions to allow fa-cilities to accommodate more. Richland Parish Sheriff Charles McDonald said the Richland Parish Detention Center accepted female inmates from Ouachita Correctional Center on Thursday to allow OCC to make more room for male inmates.

Laborde said that it is unlikely the move will require the immediate hiring of additional security or staff in this area. A few parish sheriffs' offices have indicated they may eventually have to look at small staff increases, but most said that the situation has not exceeded the scope of their existing resources.

Warden Johnny Sumlin, of the Union Parish Detention Center, said he does not anticipate taking on more inmates or additional staff. "It might take a few accommodations, but we can handle it," he said.

Laborde said sheriff's departments, including those in Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, Ouachita and Union parishes, have assisted with the evacuations, transportation and housing. Thirty-three officers from the Division of Probation and Parole in Monroe helped with evacuations in the south.

There have been no reports of problems from evacuated inmates by any of the facilities. In fact, most facilities have reported that the behavior of the evacuated inmates has been exemplary -- matched only by the attitudes and response of existing inmates.

Billy McConnell, spokesperson for LaSalle Management, said that they would categorize the evacuated inmates as "extremely well-behaved" and that his agency has not had problems with them.

Inmates at facilities in Claiborne, Concordia, Catahoula, LaSalle, and Ouachita parishes were asked to donate any items they might have to assist the incoming inmate evacuees.

McConnell said LaSalle received enough donations from current inmates to provide for the evacuee inmates. He also reported that a dormitory at one of their facilities received a standing ovation from the evacuated inmates in thanks for all they had done.

The first inmates moved were those with health problems and medical needs, followed by female inmates.

Among the 2,000 prisoners expected to be evacuated to Angola State Prison, historically an all-male institution, are 500 female inmates. Trusties were moved to another location in the prison. The women will be housed in the trusty dorms and kept separate from the male population.

The Reuniting Hearts program at Angola, a program that reunites prisoners with their children, was canceled because of the resulting chaos left by the storm, but the annual Angola Prison Rodeo will still be held in October.

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