Prisoners in New Orleans city jail were 'abandoned'

Human Rights Watch described the prisoners' ordeal at the Templeman III facility in New Orleans as a "nightmare" and said, based on interviews with dozens of inmates and prison staff members, that they were simply left to fend for themselves with no thought to their evacuation. Two other buildings, Templeman I and Templeman II, were evacuated the day after the levees broke and the city filled with water, but only after the inmates found themselves standing in water up to their necks.

Several prisoners were apparently unable to get out of their cells in time, and there were reports of bodies seen floating in the floodwaters as help finally arrived and the prisoners were released from their watery confines on the fourth day after Katrina. Some 517 prisoners at the parish facilities are still listed as missing, and law enforcement authorities have no idea if they escaped or simply perished.

"It was complete chaos," a veteran prison guard concurred. Of the people housed in Templeman III he commented: "Ain't no tellin' what happened to those people."