October 17, 2005

ACLU sues over post-Katrina conditions at New Orleans jail

BATON ROUGE, La. A civil rights group filed court papers today demanding access to the New Orleans city jail to investigate allegations that the lockup became chaotic after Hurricane Katrina.

Inmates have said they were abandoned for days, without food or drinking water, with floodwaters up to their chests.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman says he hasn't been served with the lawsuit but denied the inmates' most shocking accusations -- that corpses were floating through the facility and that some prisoners went for days without food and water.

Prison authorities have said that it took three days to evacuate over six thousand inmates from the lockup after the storm hit August 29th. The prisoners are now being held at 38 state and local lockups around Louisiana.

The American Civil Liberties Union's court filings demand information about where each prisoner is locked up. The group also wants the sheriff's office to halt any clean up at the jail because it could destroy evidence that prisoners were left standing in bacteria- and petroleum-laden floodwater.

The A-C-L-U was named counsel for all of the jail's inmates under a 1994 federal consent decree mandating heath and environmental standards.