Louisiana is releasing more than a 100 prison inmates and offering them a bus ticket or a ride to a shelter as officials try to sort out serious felons from those caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, reports the Baton Rouge Advocate. Hurricane Katrina forced about 8,200 inmates from Orleans and Jefferson parishes to evacuate to state prisons and parish jails. A number of them went to the state prison at Angola, which houses death row inmates.
The storm cut off access to the inmates’ records 19 days ago, keeping many behind bars longer than normal. Among those caught in the confusion were a 47-year-old Jefferson Parish housewife with a pile of speeding tickets and an Ohio schoolteacher arrested for getting drunk and rowdy on Bourbon Street. Baton Rouge Attorney Mary Olive Pierson said she interviewed a woman at Angola who was booked into the jail on Aug. 22 to serve a 10-day sentence for failing to pay a California jaywalking fine. “Now she’s in the death camp at Angola,” Pierson said. Over the next few days, the state will set free 163 inmates who were scheduled to be released, a state corrections department spokeswoman said. The inmates being released are accused of minor offenses, such as public drunkenness and failure to pay fines, she said.