A lot has happened in the last few days . . . (an Update on Abuse of Evacuated Inmates). By Phylliss Mann
On 10/2/05 Phyllis E. Mann provided the following update on Abused Inmate Evacuees:
Subject: Jefferson Parish to Jena prison inmates
A lot has happened in the last few days, and I wanted to make you all aware.
Jefferson Parish evacuated their Inmates quickly after the hurricane, and it appears that most of them were evacuated out of Jefferson on Aug 30. Most of them ended up at Jena, Louisiana in the old Jena Juvenile Justice Center, which apparently the DOC opened up to house evacuated inmates. We learned all of this on September 20 when Julie Kilborn and I went to Winn Correctional Center to interview the evacuated inmates there. Many of them had originated in Jefferson, been sent to Jena, and then moved on to Winn.
These guys told us appalling stories of physical abuse occurring at Jena, but most importantly they told us that there was still a large number of Jefferson Parish inmates who were being held at Jena. We tried to go to Jena on Thurs Sept 22, but with Hurricane Rita looming we could not schedule the interviews until Tues Sept 27. On Sept 27, two attorneys Rachel Jones and Dave Park went to Jena. They learned that the inmates still at Jena, who by now had been there for 3 weeks, were continuing to be subjected to horrifying abuse, both physical and mental. Rachel and Dave went back to Jena, along with Christine Lehmann and Neal Walker, on Thurs Sept 29, to finish interviewing the inmates. Not only did the rest of the inmates confirm the abuse, but men who had spoken to the lawyers on Tues had been beaten and placed in segregation for telling the lawyers about the abuse. We also learned that inmates from Calcasieu Parish have been evacuated to the Jena facility.
On Friday Sept 30, the Department of Justice was notified of the situation. We also notified Human Rights Watch, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and members of the media including the LA Times, the NY Times, and CNN. The various civil rights organizations – in particular Ted Shaw and Vanita Gupta of the NAACP-LDF and Corinne Carey of Human Rights Watch- got to work immediately and contacted Louisiana state legislators. Those legislators (primarily members of the black caucus, I believe) were outraged and have worked quickly to take control of the facility. As of 5:00 today, we understand that the Louisiana State Police have been asked to take over the facility immediately, to protect the inmates, and to preserve evidence of abuse and the identity of the perpetrators. Also, a Judge from Orleans has signed an order authorizing Human Rights Watch to enter the Jena facility and conduct interviews.
I wanted you all to be aware of this situation, because even in the chaos that is our current criminal justice system, it seems that caring lawyers working together can achieve some small successes.
Phyllis E. Mann
Post Office Box 705
Alexandria, LA 71309
FAX (318) 448-2250