ACLU Wants Galveston Jail Evacuated Next Time

After hearing horror stories from friends and family of inmates locked inside the Galveston County jail during and after Hurricane Ike, the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Jail Project are calling for county authorities to hammer together an evacuation plan.

More than 1,000 inmates and correction officers did not evacuate from the jail, despite a mandatory order to do so and warnings from The national Hurricane Center that those who refused to flee would face "certain death." Even though city officials claimed before the storm that virtually the entire island could become submerged, the jail was not evacuated, says the ACLU.

The people left inside the jail are still battling conditions that include limited power and water, few windows for ventilation and having to use portable toilets, according to the ACLU. For three days, inmates had to use trash cans as toilets.

The failure to evacuate “shows a lack of concern for Galveston County Jail personnel and inmates alike,” states an ACLU news release. “Appropriate advance evacuation planning is the only way to ensure the safety and well-being of guards who work in coastal area jails, as well as prisoners housed there.”

In their statement, the two civil rights groups urge Galveston County Commissioners and the Galveston County Sheriff to develop “an appropriate” evacuation plan for the future.

Three years ago in the wake of Hurricane Rita, inmates and officers at the federal penitentiary in Beaumont claim they went through similar, if not far worse, conditions for several weeks when they were not allowed to evacuate.

-- Chris Vogel

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