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Hurricanes like Ida endanger inmates. Where are plans to save them?

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As Hurricane Ida approached the Gulf Coast two sheriffs – Marlin Gusman of Louisiana's Orleans Parish and Gerald "Jerry" Turlich Jr. of Plaquemines Parish – evacuated more than 1,400 people held in their jails to safer state prison facilities.

Sixteen years after Hurricane Katrina devastated incarcerated populations (flooding prisons and jails where inmates were left in unsanitary conditions), evacuations like these should not only be ubiquitous but mandatory.

Unfortunately, they aren't.

Individuals incarcerated in Orleans and Plaquemines parishes and their family members could at least rest knowing they were out of direct harm’s way. But the fact that such steps hinge on individual parish decisions is deplorable.

People incarcerated in vulnerable states like Louisiana can’t rely on fortune for natural disaster responses. We must have a federal emergency response plan that guarantees the safety of incarcerated people who will otherwise be among the most vulnerable disaster victims.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has resources and plans for dealing with natural disasters and other emergencies. These plans are too often inefficient when it comes to ensuring safety........


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