When a natural disaster strikes, prison inmates must be evacuated. They are just about the lowest people on the list of rescue effort priorities. So, what happens to your loved ones in prisons during natural disasters?
Hurricane Harvey Prison Evacuations: Over 8,000 Inmates
Hurricane Harvey caused major flooding in Texas. This resulted in authorities evacuating inmates from five Texas prisons and three Brazoria County jails. The number of prisoners evacuated were astonishing:
- 5 Texas State Prisons = Almost 6,000 inmates relocated
- 3 Brazoria County Jails = Abut 4,500 inmates relocated
All of these Texas prisoners were relocated to Eastern Texas lockup facilities. By Monday the rain was still falling. So, more prisoners from two Richmond facilities had to be moved as well. This is what happens to inmates during natural disasters.
— Jolie McCullough (@jsmccullou) August 30, 2017
The Fed’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirms that at least one of its privately-owned facilities has also been evacuated. This one is a privately-operated immigration detention center.
How Private Prisons Operate During Natural Disasters
CoreCivic, a private prison company, claims none of its privately-operated Texas facilities have been evacuated. But, not much else has been said or confirmed. This leaves prison loved ones wondering if their incarcerated family and friends are safe.
Or, is this just CoreCivic’s way of staying on top of their prison dollars?
GEO Group is another private prison company, the largest in the United States. It claims to specialize in “privatized corrections, detention and mental health treatment.” It currently operates several different lockup institutions that are in the path of Hurricane Harvey.
The GEO Group is solely responsible for leaving over 50 immigrant children and women stranded at a downtown San Antonio bus station Friday. Their bus was cancelled because of the upcoming storm. They were seeking asylum from Central America’s gang violence.
According to reports, they were supposed to be sent to various destinations throughout the US to meet with sponsors and family members. But, Greyhound cancelled all of its scheduled afternoon bus trips because of Hurricane Harvey.
Apparently, GEO Group was not prepared for what should be done with these asylum seekers during natural disasters.
Hurricane Harvey Transfer Inmates Not Allowed Prison Visits
The Texas Department of Justice says the Hurricane Harvey prison transfers were made using prison buses. Authorities also claim that none of the transfers led to overcrowding in Texas prisons. This was a major concern for prison loved ones, most of which do not believe these claims.
Inmates are transferred to facilities with gym-like spaces. And, most of the prisons are being ran by generator power. Because of many different factors, these Texas inmates are not allowed to receive prison visits at this time.
So, how do loved ones know what is happening with these Texas inmates during natural disasters? Without seeing their imprisoned family and friends, there’s no reassurance that they are doing okay.
Are Our Imprisoned Loved Ones Safe During Natural Disasters?
During a natural disaster, loved ones are left waiting, wondering and worrying about what’s going on with their imprisoned family and friends. Prison and jail transfers are dealt with internally. So, loved ones have no idea where the inmates are at any given time… or, if they’re dead or alive.
In May, flooding caused Texas prison authorities to evacuate three of the same prisoners evacuated because of Hurricane Harvey. This caused a power outage, which led to a prison riot.
Back in 2009, Galveston County Jail officials chose not to evacuate, even though Hurricane Ike was on its way. This caused the suffering of 1,000 inmates due to unsanitary conditions. They had to deal with limited access to food, water, medications and medical personnel.
During Hurricane Katrina, over 6,000 prisoners were abandoned by authorities at the Orleans Parish Prison. The men, women and children detainees were left there without ventilation, food or water.
One 13-year-old girl, along with others at a Texas juvenile detention center, was locked in her cell for several days. These juvenile inmates suffered through water rising up to their chests in their cells. According to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the filthy water was contaminated by sewage.
So, as prison loved ones, should we trust that Texas has things under control?
Or, should the past speak for itself?
If so, we need to really worry about our imprisoned loved ones during natural disasters.
Share your thoughts on the way Texas authorities are handling Hurricane Harvey transfers below.
Kiesha Joseph is the owner of Content Marketing Geek Corporation. Her company provides white hat, inbound marketing services for small businesses, entrepreneurs, real estate professionals, bloggers and authors. Ms. Joseph enjoys swimming, cooking, eating, dancing, and of course writing. Kiesha is currently the managing content editor for Prison Rideshare Network news for inmates’ loved ones.