Hurricane Season Means Extra Danger For People In Prisons

Aerial view of Hurricane Katrina
Zain Murdock
September 2, 2021

Prisons already create life-threatening living conditions as it is – but they really show their true colors when they leave us to die during natural disasters. It wasn’t just Katrina, either.

In 2005, the Orleans Parish Prison forced incarcerated people to stay in prisons during Hurricane Katrina. As prison staff escaped, the water flooded cells, leaving people to starve and drown for DAYS.

Before they were finally evacuated, guards were told to “shoot anyone who tried to leave.”  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time.

Texas’ Galveston County Jail made incarcerated people brave 2008’s Hurricane Ike, despite a mandatory evacuation order. The sweltering jail flooded with contaminated sewage water. Then guards cut off the phone lines when incarcerated people tried to tell their families what was going on!

Incarcerated people luckily survived 2011’s Hurricane Irene – but New York admitted it had absolutely NO “hypothetical evacuation plan” for the 12,000 people in Rikers Island. And it still didn’t when Sandy hit a year later!

Florida evacuated thousands of incarcerated people during 2017’s Hurricane Irene – but Polk County’s sheriff made people undergo criminal background checks before entering shelters! And after the storm, Florida made incarcerated people clean up hurricane debris without pay. 

Incarceration should not be a death sentence – but these natural disasters show just how little this system cares about Black lives.

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