In Natural Disasters, Are Inmates Expendable?

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U.S. Marines rescue Hurricane Harvey victims on a flooded street in Houston. Photo by Lance Cpl. Niles Lee/US Marines via Flickr.

Are prisons built to withstand the kinds of natural disasters that experts say will become more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change?

The short answer, according to prisoner advocates, is no.

When Hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck the southern United States this fall, prisons built years ago, in zones vulnerable to flooding, were directly in their path. Thousands of prisoners in Texas and Florida, which together house more than a quarter of a million inmates—approximately . . .

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