[TRIGGER WARNING: MASS DEATH, INHUMANE CONDITIONS, PRISONER ABUSE, DEHUMANIZATION]
We really have been conditioned in this country to view prisoners as less than human. Despite Orange is the New Black, people still largely treat prisoners like they've forfeited all rights, including even the most rudimentary human rights, because a court decided that they did something the state decided is illegal.
In South Carolina, many of these prisoners are still sitting in the path of Hurricane Florence, currently a category 3 hurricane, and the worst hurricane to hit the area since uhhhhhhhh ever.
South Carolina won’t evacuate a prison in Hurricane Florence’s path
The National Hurricane Center has said that Hurricane Florence, which is currently expected to make landfall on Friday, could be “life-threatening.” In his response, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster claimed at a news conference, “We’re not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina. Not a one.”
But South Carolina has not evacuated prisons in response to hurricanes since 1999, the Post and Courier reported last year. A prison spokesperson told the Post and Courier at the time, “In most cases, it is safer for the public, officers, and inmates for a SCDC facility to hold in place rather than transfer and hold in a secondary location.”
Is it, though? Is it safer for prisoners?
Because Louisiana prisons lost hundreds of inmates during Hurricane Katrina after they left prisoners locked up in their supposedly safe prisons during the storm. These prisoners later described standing in chest-high water contaminated with sewage, wondering if they were about to drown, in their "safe" prison cells. Thousands spent the entire weekend with no food, no clean water, and no ventilation.
As the prison flooded with storm water befouled by raw sewage the prisoners were herded into cells with mace, locked down, and abandoned. The men completely panicked.
“They left us like dogs,” one prisoner would later recount in the BBC documentary, Prisoners of Katrina. “Eight men in a two man cell with no food and no water, covered with mace you couldn’t wash off. It was an experience I wouldn’t wish on nobody.”
In some cases men broke out of their cells and rioted, viciously attacking each other. The official story from the Sheriff of Orleans Parish was that there was “no loss of life.” Those who were there claim to have seen dead bodies and furiously challenged the Sheriff’s account. Who do you believe when you later learn that 517 prisoners would eventually go “unaccounted for?“
Excuse me? 517 prisoners? Unaccounted for?
The above was originally published four years after Hurricane Katrina. Those prisoners were never found. If prisoners are "lost" from a prison, then they either escaped or they're fucking dead. Now, if a prison had 517 people escape, I'm assuming there would be some kind of mass panic. Prison escapes are big news, even when it's just one individual. But 517?
This is just speculation, but those people are definitely dead. There are surviving prisoners and former prisoners who said they saw bodies floating in the water during that horrific weekend. 517 people dead and nobody gives a fuck. Because they were prisoners. Worth less than stray cats and dogs. Deserved to die like that, even.
What is wrong with us? Protections against cruel and unusual punishment are coded into our constitution, yet someone commits any kind of crime that lands them a year or more sentence and they deserve to spend days standing in shit-streaked water, no food, no clean water, no ability to sleep, pissing themselves, wondering if they're just going to die there? That's a kind of torture I can't even comprehend.
People have been posting about this on social media and I see responses that are straight up "who cares, they deserve to die." One person was like "don't worry, prisons are fined for every inmate who died in their care, so they'll be held accountable." A) no they fucking won't, no amount of money paid can make up for a human life lost and B) how the fuck do actually convince yourself that people being left in cages to die is okay as long as someone is sued for it?? Those are people. They could die. Lawsuits won't mean shit to them WHEN THEY'RE DEAD.
These people are not just numbers. They're not insects. They're not a dollar value. They're not demons or pure evil beings. They're people. Every one of them. From the poor kid who was caught with just a bit too much weed to the serial rapist. You know I hate rapists, but I also know I don't get to decide that they deserve to die, even if I might wish death upon them in my dark moments.
Every moment you allow yourself to believe that prisoners are less than human, you feed into a system of for-profit slavery that allows corporations to make billions off of arresting as many people (usually people of color) as possible for whatever bullshit they can come up with, then dehumanizing, abusing, and enslaving them. And I'm going to have to call out my friends on Facebook, some of whom read this blog, because I posted about the 517 "missing" inmates from Hurrican Katrina on my Facebook account and I got nothing. Total crickets. Not even a like.
Prisoners are people. Prisoners Are People. How can I get this to sink into your brains and your souls? PRISONERS ARE PEOPLE.