The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Federal Probe of Louisiana Prison Abuse Allegations Demanded

by Brendan Coyne

Oct. 6, 2005 – Citing what they term "credible reports" that Louisiana prison guards and other law enforcement officials in the state have abused, neglected and otherwise mistreated people in custody, a civil rights group and a humanitarian organization yesterday issued a joint call for a federal probe into abuse allegations.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch and the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) of the NAACP revealed that detainees who have yet to stand trial alleged in interviews that prison guards "slapped, punched, beat and kicked detainees and sprayed them unnecessarily and repeatedly with pepper spray."

The groups say 22 of 23 interviewed inmates reported being physically abused by guards. Additionally, detainees told interviewers Tuesday that guards and prison officials have been directing racial epithets at minority inmates. Most guards are white, while the majority of inmates are black, the groups noted.

"Katrina created a crisis for state corrections officials, but that’s not an excuse for staff to beat detainees and kick them in the head," Corinne Carey, researcher for Human Rights Watch’s US Program, said in a statement yesterday. "Detainees told us they felt they were being treated like animals. They were frightened and some were even crying. One said, ‘I don’t know what they’ll do to me once y’all leave here."

Carey conducted investigations that uncovered the abandonment of prisoners in a New Orleans jail and the first documented reports of prisoner abuse after Hurricane Katrina at Jena Correctional Facility.

The new allegations of detainee abuse follow closely – and largely conform to – the sworn affidavits filed in court last week and statements made to Carey that guards had been abusing prisoners transferred away from facilities in hurricane-hit areas.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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