When disasters like Hurricane Harvey strike, inmates in coastal prisons and jails are sitting ducks unless the authorities in control of their fates take action to protect them, says the Grits for Breakfast blog. TruthOut has emails from inmates in a flooded federal prison in Beaumont showing inmates stranded and scared in desperate conditions. In Houston, the county jail allegedly released prisoners from a drug treatment facility at the height of the flooding without money, clothes, or medication because officials couldn’t feed or supervise them.
After this episode, there really won’t be any excuse going forward for coastal jails and prison units to have anything but fully operational disaster plans, including privately run units. That should have been the case after inmates were stranded during Hurricanes Katrina (New Orleans) and Ike (Galveston). Now it would be clearly negligent not to do so, says Grits for Breakfast. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice appears to have done a good job evacuating inmates in harm’s way. The federal Bureau of Prisons clearly dropped the ball, and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards surely should review policies on releasing inmates into hazardous conditions.