Online readers comment on "Prison Cover-Up," by Chris Vogel, March 6.
Injustice: As I read this today, it takes me back to that awful day. My husband was there. He told me of the horrible conditions he, as well as other inmates, endured. I think justice needs to be served. The inmates might be criminals, but they are human, were treated poorly and had no choice but to take what was given to them. All of their lives were put in jeopardy, and meanwhile, we were being told everything was fine. But it was not, and it's a shame that no one wants to take the blame for it. My husband was one who joined the lawsuit, and we are hoping everything turns out well for him and the other inmates. It really amazed me that this story would be on the cover. No one really talks about it, and I'm glad that you guys are giving the inmates a voice and a chance to have their bad experience discussed. The government is hush-hush, and someone needs to speak out against this injustice. My husband will be as pleased as me when he gets to read this article. Thanks, Houston Press!
Comment by NANCY LOPEZ
Avoid jail: If there were ever an incentive not to get involved with the prison industrial complex, this is it. This particular incident shows that you have absolutely no control over your life, that those who govern you care nothing about you or your family members.
As the great Henry Kissinger once stated, and I quote, "These people are just useless eaters."
Comment by Rodney
A few among thousands: Were conditions bad at USP Beaumont after Hurricane Rita? You bet. However, the inmates housed at the United States Penitentiary were nothing more than a few hundred out of thousands of individuals in Southeast Texas whose lives were disrupted by this natural disaster. My immediate family was affected greatly by Rita. The difference is that nobody was rushing tractor-trailer loads of generators, food, bottled water and clean laundry to them. These things were provided to the inmates at the Federal Correctional Complex. Anyone who is going to go on the record and say otherwise either wasn't there, is outright being dishonest or has another agenda to push.
Comment by In The Know
Offensive: I am not sure exactly what the prison officials did wrong. I stayed through Rita and was here for the chaos in the following months. Why should murderers, drug dealers, rapists and all other criminals receive priority over lawful citizens? I actually find the premise of this article quite offensive. I had no power or running water for 18 days, and some others went a full month. The men and women behind bars are there for a reason and deserve any treatment they get. Every day those men are fighting, stabbing and raping each other, but to go a couple days with peanut butter and bread is inhumane?
Inhumane: Most of you people are idiots. I was an inmate at the prison camp when this happened, and it was inhumane. I've paid my debt to society, and I'm working and doing well now. Not everybody in prison is a rapist or murderer, and that's beside the point. There was a mandatory evacuation for this area, and we were the only ones "forced" to be left behind in harm's way. Sure, there were other non-inmates in the area who suffered, but they were not caged up like animals and forced to stay. Their dumb asses should have found a way out.
Comment by J. A. F.
Really? A "no comment" from the Bureau of Prisons, and that's it? Couldn't find anything else to balance your story? Did you try to find just one inmate or guard or relative that didn't think it was quite as bad? If you did try, you should have included it.
Or how about this. Wait until discovery gets started in the lawsuit to publish your story. If you had wanted to present a more balanced account, that would have been an easy way to do it.
Briefs, filings and other documents from all involved parties would then be available on the Internet to any yahoo with a computer. If the hurricane was so long ago and you could wait until the original complaint was filed, why not wait until you get another perspective in the court filings?
For all I know, conditions in the prison were as bad as your story says. But your story would be more compelling if you had handled the reporting better.
Comment by Robert
They're inmates: They should have moved the prisoners before Rita. That's it — the rest of it is bullshit. You compare your families and yourselves with the inmates. No way. Y'all had a choice and stayed, but they didn't. They are inmates; look up the meaning of the word. The feds are liable for them and their survival.
Comment by Dennis
No meals for monsters: What kind of person is sent to a maximum-security prison? Murderers, rapists, child molesters, etc. These people are not even human. There might be a very, very small percentage of innocent people there, but the vast, vast majority of the people who are in that facility are there because they deserve to be. Why should a monster who raped women or killed people sit in a dry, powered, air-conditioned building and get three hot meals a day on my tax dime while my power is out and I'm living on peanut butter sandwiches and water for three weeks?
Comment by Mary
Appalling: This should be appalling to everyone and should be put in a national spotlight. A government that covers up a wrong is not what we are about. When we hear of it, we should pay very close attention and prevent it from happening again. Otherwise, it may become the norm.
Comment by R. Winkelman
The Houston Press and its staffers have been named finalists in four categories of the regional Maggies competition, an annual magazine-writing contest sponsored by the Western Publishing Association. Three staffers also were named finalists in the statewide First Amendment Awards competition sponsored by the Fort Worth Society of Professional Journalists.
Finalists spots for the Maggies are:
Best Consumer Tabloid — the Press.
Best Interview or Profile: Music Editor John Nova Lomax for "Doug Supernaw," a profile of the former country music star.
Best Public Service Series or Article: Staff Writer Todd Spivak for "Toxic Town," an in-depth look at a small town in Texas and the industrial plant that may be poisoning its residents. Also: Editor Margaret Downing for "Killing Fences," about South Texas residents protesting the proposed border fencing that they say will cause irreparable ecological damage.
Finalists for the First Amendment Awards are:
Staff writer Chris Vogel in the Opening the Books category for "Weekend Warriors," which examined what led to the death of a man who went on a self-help weekend with a clandestine organization that would supposedly make him a better man.
Spivak in the Use of Public Records: Investigative category for "Toxic Town."
Downing in the Defending the Disadvantaged category for "Death in a Box," which exposed the responsibilities of a mental health facility in the death of a patient there.
Both contests will announce first-place winners later this spring.
The February 21 Hair Balls column [by Richard Connelly] referred to Mauri Barefoot, a "Green Sex" entrepreneur, as a massage therapist. Although she has been a massage therapist in the past, she does not work as one in her current business.
The Houston Press regrets the confusion.