Louisiana legislators have asked state officials to investigate charges that prisoners who were evacuated at the Jena facility in a rural area after Hurricane Katrina are being physically abused by guards. Many of the evacuees have been awaiting trial or are being held on misdemeanor charges. Pamela LaBorde of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections said the agency will send staffers to the prison today to start an inquiry.
Reports of the abuse were made by Ted Shaw of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Other lawyers said inmates told of being beaten, subjected to racial invective, having their heads rubbed in mace and vomit, and being taunted by guards who told them there was nothing they could do about their treatment because they were living under martial law. A state of emergency – not martial law – has been declared in Louisiana. Christine Lehman of the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center interviewed prisoners for two days last week and said “almost all said that they had been physically abused themselves or had seen others physically abused.”