Opting to leave inmates behind
September 14, 2018 7:01 PM   Subscribe

South Carolina officials don’t plan to move at least 650 inmates from a prison located in a county that's under mandatory evacuation order as Category 4 Hurricane Florence approaches.

A Twitter thread points out that North Carolina officials also refuse to evacuate. (People elsewhere have pointed out that hundreds of prisoners were left to die in New Orleans when Katrina hit.) The Carolina officials claim that the prisoners will be safe enough - but Florence has already killed 5 people, and although it's been downgraded from "hurricane" to "tropical storrm," Florence still has the highest recorded winds since Hurricane Helene in 1958.
posted by ErisLordFreedom (26 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well bless their shriveled, tiny hearts.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:09 PM on September 14, 2018 [29 favorites]


What Bella Donna said, more cleverly than I was going to do...
posted by Windopaene at 7:17 PM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Safe enough my ass. Id like to bury trumpco under the weight of dead from maria and counting.
posted by supermedusa at 7:18 PM on September 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's absurd that you can take custody of 650 people but not also accept responsibility for them. If someone is killed whoever made the call not to evacuate will clearly be guilty of murder.

I assume that since people are outraged that there is in fact in some real danger ? I would hate to discover that this prison is a multilevel facility built on the highest hill in the hurricanes path.

But on a practical level I can't imagine moving 650 prisoners is a simple task, one not without risk. Does anyone have a write up of how it's done when it's done?

left locked in their cells for days as flood water seeped into the jail, eventually reaching chest level, before they were evacuated.

...great. a new fear to plague my dreams
posted by KBGB at 7:29 PM on September 14, 2018 [12 favorites]


failure to evacuate prisoners before an oncoming storm is a crime against humanity full stop. it's not the first reason most prison wardens should be in jails themselves but it's an obvious one. the coldness in their hearts, their souls must be roaring voids. it's just... upsetting
posted by dis_integration at 7:47 PM on September 14, 2018 [28 favorites]


For those who might have missed them:

Florence thread

Active Metatalk thread with checkins from Mefites in NC/SC
posted by gwint at 7:51 PM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Statistically speaking at least a few of the people facing death by drowning are innocent.
posted by East14thTaco at 8:03 PM on September 14, 2018


So far as how it is done, lots of buses. But I imagine the different custody levels and gang affiliations would complicate things significantly.
posted by ericales at 8:37 PM on September 14, 2018


To be clear - the lack of evacuation in SC is fucking horrifying, even if Florence "only" hit as a Category 1.
posted by sysinfo at 9:08 PM on September 14, 2018


NC at least appears to have actually evacuated over 3000 prisoners, contrary to the Twitter thread.
posted by sysinfo at 9:28 PM on September 14, 2018


According to this FEMA map, the facility is located in an "AREA OF MINIMAL FLOOD HAZARD".
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:44 PM on September 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Isn't them leaving the prisoners under a mandatory evacuation order an 8th amendment violation?
posted by rhizome at 9:52 PM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Statistically speaking at least a few of the people facing death by drowning are innocent.

I'm not sure how to take this statement.

Because yes, obviously that's true. But also not terribly relevant to whether or not people in prison should be facing death by drowning? Because nobody in prison should be facing death by drowning?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 9:58 PM on September 14, 2018 [18 favorites]


Perhaps they meant statistically speaking some of the people in prison are innocent? In which case the implication is that they would be drowning in a situation they shouldn't have been in anyway.

I agree with you, no-one including prisoners should be left in harm's way in any case if they are capable of being moved. That just seems barbaric.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 2:20 AM on September 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Drowning, of a Convict in South Carolina

Never until the woman birthing
Fish foul and feather
Flowering and all tumbling lieist
Sings the rumble of deep dark earthing
And the bruit day
Is come of the sky breaking on highest

And I must exit again the sharp
Uruk of the fire lick
And the transept of this merciful jail
Shall my breath slip the slightest from the harp
Or low my heart's brick
On the great mountain of wet peels to wail

The peace and dread of the convict’s death.
I shall not rescue
The trifle of his going with a last laugh
Nor mumble through the talismans of breath
Although I guess you
Pled away his guilt for want of raft.

Light with the first dead floats Florence's son,
Stripped beneath iron ribs,
The fires caught anew, the burnt heart of his mother,
Shouted by the grieving organ
Of the burning crib.
After the first death, there is no other.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:34 AM on September 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


They cited one reason being that an evacuation carries the risks of inmates escaping. Though if the hurricane hits the prison, isn't there a risk that there will be survivors who will also flee the ruins and continue raping/murdering/smoking weed/whatever it is they were in for? Followed to its logical conclusion, the argument would require the prison authorities to ensure that there are no survivors.
posted by acb at 7:10 AM on September 15, 2018


It's not less wrong if a guilty man is left to drown.

But it is more wrong if an innocent man is left to drown.

Logically both things cannot be true at the same time. But they are.

"AREA OF MINIMAL FLOOD HAZARD".

I can't escape my suspicion that this is more of a good story than it is an honest story.
posted by KBGB at 8:53 AM on September 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Is this a for-profit prison? And, if so, what are the guarantees in their contract with the state that ensures they'll still have a revenue stream if all their prisoners drown? I mean, private prisons do have guaranteed occupancy levels so...
posted by stet at 9:04 AM on September 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I really would love a "day in the life of" story of whoever would manage evacuating 650 prisoners.

Sure, you put them on buses.

but where do the buses come from and where do they go? Who drives them? Is anyone qualified to drive a bus also qualified to drive a bus of prisoners?

Where do you house potentially dangerous prisoners? You can't just double bunk in another already overcrowded facility. I'd bet there is a lot of horse trading and calling in of favors. You are likely to be crossing state lines, that means different budgets and different jurisdictions. Every single prisoner is unique and no solution would work for all.

Odds are some prisoners reliably escape. Do you invite that risk and hassle into your state when you can avoid it?

I wouldn't be surprised if they just drive them a day and a half in one direction, then turn around and drive home.

@stet

the true victim is always the shareholder
posted by KBGB at 9:15 AM on September 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


KBGB, if the prisons don't have an evacuation preparedness plan in place then that to me is evidence of gross negligence.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 11:56 AM on September 15, 2018 [18 favorites]


Though if the hurricane hits the prison, isn't there a risk that there will be survivors who will also flee the ruins

I really doubt a prison would be "ruined" in a hurricane. They are concrete block with small, barred windows, tall fences, no trees and and are built to govt standards and as such are much safer than a house, school or basically any other building would be. If its not in a flood zone it's probably the place to be, hurricane wise.
posted by fshgrl at 12:18 PM on September 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


"AREA OF MINIMAL FLOOD HAZARD".

And yet evacuations were ordered; prison officials just decided that prisoners should put up with the risks. Will those officials tell families in "minimal flood hazard" areas that they shouldn't bother to evacuate?

if the prisons don't have an evacuation preparedness plan in place then that to me is evidence of gross negligence.

They have plans, but they're expensive to implement, and come with risks of both prisoner escape and harm to guards, so they've decided not to bother this time - "minimal hazard" means "eh, those guys will probably survive."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:39 PM on September 15, 2018


I'd like a metaphorical show of hands as to how many folks live on the coast and have lived through a hurricane. This will be three for me. We've been hit the past two years in a row, just missed Florence. With a CAT1 or 2 storm, if you aren't going to get flooded out, shelter in place is pretty darn safe, even in old wooden houses like mine.
Deaths in this storm I have read about were caused by flooding or trees falling into houses. No trees around the prison from the FEMA map. The prison location is in flood zone X, which pretty much means it isn't going to flood.

We stayed here when Matthew hit at CAT 2, there was one death on an island closer to the ocean, a tree fell through a house. A couple people died of heart attacks in the traffic jams out on the roads. When folks evacuated Houston for Harvey, among other things, a bus full of nursing home residents caught fire with total loss of life.

I don't envy the people that have to make the decision on evacuation. Gov. McMaster initially ordered the evacuation of all coastal counties. He then rescinded that order on the three counties closest to Georgia. Nobody is perfect. There are no perfect answers in a situation like this.
posted by rudd135 at 5:12 PM on September 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


The media has gone completely overboard imho. They've got people all worked up that they're gonna DIE!!! if the hurricane brushes by them when that's not true at all.
posted by fshgrl at 9:59 PM on September 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


According to this FEMA map, the facility is located in an "AREA OF MINIMAL FLOOD HAZARD". Posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:44 PM on September 14 [2 favorites +] [!]

In Louisiana, the engineers agree that everyone in the 1-in500 year floodplain should be required to have flood insurance.

FEMA has done the stats, and most applicants into their program come from the 500 yr floodplain, rather than the 100 yr floodplain, which is what is described in the federal maps.

Whether it not FEMA set out to do a climate change study, it seems like their stats are detecting environmental changes, either development of floodplains into concrete parking lots (which displaces flood risk to nearby, formely flood free geographies) , or climate change and the dimple fact that there is more water raining down than there was when federal flood policy was set.

Knowing where the 500 year floodplain ends, I think, would be the best basis for moving forward with a decision, although of course you should consider the needs to feed and house prisoners for two weeks without power.

Prisoners on oxygen or with refrigerated meds, for example, should had a different evacuation protocol than most, who would sweat it out without power.

Of course, all this also applies to everyone else, as well. Know your local 500 year floodplain and buy flood insurance, even when they tell you it s not necessary.

What s the utility situation looking like?
posted by eustatic at 5:35 AM on September 16, 2018


An area of minimal risk is outside the 500 year flood zone. It can still flood but likely only is it rains so hard the water literally stacks up on the ground before it drains away, which they call ponding in most flood documents. Plus one would hope a prison would have really good generators.

What happened in Katrina was appalling but this seems like a sensible call to me. I'd rather stay in a concrete building 50 miles inland with back up power that's not in Zone Z than travel myself.
posted by fshgrl at 1:37 PM on September 16, 2018


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