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Katrina Amnesty Campaign
on the Status of Prisoners and Public Safety
in New Orleans
Background: Critical Resistance is a national grassroots organization that works to end the reliance on prisons and policing as responses to what are social, economic and political problems. We have three U.S. offices — one of which was in the Mid City neighborhood of New Orleans — and 11 chapters, one of which is in New Orleans.
New Orleans is an incredibly important place for Critical Resistance. We held our most recent conference in New Orleans' historic Treme community, drawing thousands from New Orleans and the South. Our Southern Regional office — now destroyed — in New Orleans' Mid City neighborhood was Critical Resistance’s hub for the entire South, along with a center for organizing around imprisonment and police brutality in New Orleans itself.
The Status of Prisoners and Public Safety Post-Katrina: In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we know that prisoners and prisoners' family members have been among the most adversely affected.
Prisoners were left to drown in jail cells. Thousands of people in New Orleans area jails were separated from their families and do not know whether their loved ones are alive or dead. Prisoners were refused the right to call their loved ones or held at gunpoint on freeway overpasses.
And now, thousands of prisoners have been moved to at least 35 different prisons across the country, many are facing the prospect of not being released as scheduled, and an unknown number have had their cases thrown into chaos by lost evidence and records.
Nearly 230 people have been booked in a makeshift jail set up in a New Orleans Greyhound Station, the vast majority for the ‘crime’ of feeding and clothing themselves during the hurricane. The jail has been called “a real start to rebuilding this city.” And, the city is under immense lockdown, with real repercussions for all who live there.
The Demand: We assert that the criminalization of people taking care of themselves and their communities during and after Hurrican Katrina mirrors the larger criminal legal system. The re-building of New Orleasn must challenge that system to address genuine public safety and community needs. Our demand is as follows:
We the undersigned demand unconditional amnesty for people impacted by Hurricane Katrina who were, or might be, arrested or charged for trying to take care of themselves and their families and friends, and that those already in the system, whose cases are potentially affected by Katrina, be released immediately. We further demand that all records of their criminalization be permanently erased from the records of all municipal, state, federal, credit, and employment agencies.
We make these demands with the long-term goals of rebuilding New Orleans in a way that fosters genuine public safety and addresses real community needs.
By “Amnesty” we mean that no one should be arrested, charged, tried, sentenced, fined, imprisoned, jailed, detained, involuntarily relocated, or deported.
Our goals are:
To gain amnesty for those arrested in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina;
To challenge the use of the prison industrial complex (PIC) in this disaster while structural disasters such as racism and poverty continue to be ignored;
To challenge the continued imprisonment of people whose cases have been impacted by Katrina, and the imprisonment and prosecution of so-called “looters”;
To call attention to the real dangers inherent in rebuilding New Orleans on a foundation of jail cells and militarized streets, and call for genuine public safety based on community based and designed models.
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