Jordan Flaherty: Prisons and Justice in New Orleans

Nola 2007
Upper 9th Ward, NOLA 2007

In post Katrina New Orleans, prisons and the justice system suffer from a long list of problems, many of which were there before the floods. They’re also the subject of a battle being fought by community leaders to change and fix how crime is addressed in a city fighting to rise again.

My guest for this podcast is Jordan Flaherty, a journalist and community organizer based in New Orleans, where he works on an impressive list of social issues. His book, Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena 6 focuses on the struggle of people in New Orleans, the stories of community and culture that do not often reach the mainstream media.

4th Anniversary of the Federal Flood

It was this week 4 years ago that hundreds of thousands of human beings in the American city of New Orleans were left stranded as the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina rose all around them.  It was this week, 4 years ago, that the truth about the lack of plan and the blatant incompetence of a government became clear. And having been born in a country, as well as a world, that has such a narrow and limited understanding of history, it is this week, 4 years later, that I reflect on a great crime committed against hundreds of thousands of people, many who died, and still more who have never really recovered from what took place in New Orleans.

In 2006, one year after the Federal Flood, I wrote the following post on this blog.

In 2007, thanks to a bit of help from a supporter of this program, I went down to the Gulf Coast and visited with relief workers in New Orleans. Among the things I reported on, how people’s houses were being stolen from them.

In the coming days Ill be looking back at the podcasts I recorded during my journey, following the path of destruction and broken promises. After that, it is also important to get back to the present, as the situation has not been resolved, and the Federal Flood continues to make its victims suffer.

Trial That Sould be Center Stage

“If the Corps didn’t do its job, somebody should be held responsible. Somebody’s got to answer to something.”The words of a former Lower Ninth Ward resident who lost a daughter to the flood waters that would swallow up his entire house.

The lawsuit filed by New Orleans based Katrina victims against the Army Corps of Engineers has begun, the slow quest for answers and accountability all these years later, has finally landed in the courtroom. The specific grievance, the Army Corps’ failure to maintain the MR-GO channel who’s 20 breaches were largely the cause of flooding in the lower ninth ward following Hurricane Katrina.? Between 10 billion and 100 billion $ in damages hang in the balance, but well beyond the money, for victims of the federal flood, this case is about holding government accountable, and breaking the long held assumption that the Army Corps is immune from any legal action for their actions.

I can remember in 2007 when I was in NOLAContinue reading “Trial That Sould be Center Stage”

Take Your Eye Off NOLA

Among the issues and research I intend to do this season is New Orleans. In the shadow of the invasion of Gaza, my focus on GMO soy, and the mainstream press dedicating most of their vital resources to what they call an innaugeration celebration, it is easy to look away from a place that needs the critical public eye.

Safe House NOLA
Safe House NOLA

What issues concern me for NOLA in 2009? Quality of life. Specifically when it comes to affordable housing, public safety, and justice regardless of income or geographic location.? I wonder how the legal situation has or has not changed for those that I met going into the legal clinic back in 2007? Or what happens if they build this huge Veterans Hospital in an area where many people live in historical homes? Is there money for such a project or will it be downsized or remain incomplete? Of course the list goes on and on: corruption, public health, the environment… oh the environment.? All of these will get my attention and with the help of some of the finest and most critical bloggers (NOLA bloggers!) on the internets, we can help give the nation and people around a the world a reality check, saving many from the star-struck haze the CNN would like us to live in.

Swear in Obama, sing a song, read a poem, take a photo… then could we please get to work? People are dying out there, and together we could have stopped lots of it.

bm279 Demolishing New Orleans, Post Gustav

It is no secret that the post Katrina rebuilding effort has been mismanaged, but now the city of New Orleans is taking that to a new level, post Gustav. My guest on this podcast is Karen Gadbois, who writes the blog, focusing on housing and history in New Orleans. Together we look at the city’s accelerated policy of demolishing houses with minimal to no notice.

Among the topics we discuss:

  • The policy
  • Gustav as the excuse
  • Post Ike damage
  • The living museum that is NOLA
  • Grassroots action and organization
  • The role of bloggers
  • The other arguement, rationalizing the speedy demolitions
  • Demographic change and development plans
  • Wetlands resoration and the need for it
  • Entergy
  • Jail


Mof Def – Dollar Day
Dirty Dozen Brass Band – Whats going on?

Still Mismanaged to a Criminal Level

I want arrest warrants issued for all US government officials, local and national, who have missed continuous chances to really initiate a true sustainable plan for the gulf coast in rebuilding and properly preparing the coast line for the storms that are inevitable.? I suppose as its only a cat-2, the charge for mismanaging Gustav will only be criminal negligence and embezzling relief funds.? But I want to see people brought to justice who have not fulfilled their promise as public servants.? While we’re at it, we can issue long overdue murder and attempted murder warrants to all those? who stood by before, during, and after Katrina only a couple of years ago.? Being fired or shuffled from your cabinet position does not count as justice, a trial is still necessary.

Now we watch Gustav pass over the Gulf Coast, it isn’t Katrina in many ways, but the truth that Katrina confirmed, once again shines through — the money hasn’t gone where it should have, the recovery has still not been properly carried out. Levees in places like the West Bank aren’t finished, while others are simply too small.. and in either case, these are known facts. In other words, criminal acts where individuals have failed to do their essential jobs – planning, funding, and carrying out the work that is needed.

As I write this there are levees over topping and spilling over into neighborhoods around New Orleans. Authorities are quick to point out this damage is no problem and that in some cases the rebuilt levees are just barely managing to hold.? All this from a category 2 hurricane and storm surge. What would happen with a category 3 or 4? Would the city’s flood protection system be able to handle such storms that will, of course, come eventually? No.

There’s money for political party conventions and sending everyone a check for a few hundred dollars. There’s even money somewhere in Louisiana, set aside for Katrina recovery and properly rebuilding infrastructure, but none of this money goes where it can do any good, towards preserving communities and saving lives.

The storms continue and the criminals, they carry on as if they’ve done nothing wrong.