By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Throwing away the key
Among the horrible stories of Katrina is a report of how New Orleans officials left prisoners trapped in their cells to face the rising floodwaters. Last week the usually credible Human Rights Watch reported that New Orleans cops fled to safety from the flood, leaving hundreds of inmates locked in downtown jails. They were mostly African Americans locked up on low-level charges, such as littering, public drunkenness, or sleeping on the sidewalk. Among them were several pregnant women.
Attorneys for the prisoners and corrections officers interviewed by the Voice spoke of the chaotic conditions in the jail: overflowing toilets, no food or water. Prisoners were fed on Sunday, August 28, but the next day the guards fled, leaving the prisoners in their cells. Those cells meant to hold 34 people were crammed with 68. There was no circulation; in desperation some were able to break windows and get some outside air. Human Rights Watch reports that lawyers still have not been able to account for 344 prisoners. The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections put the number at 517. Orleans Parish sheriff Marlin Gusman told USA Today that the report was "unequivocally false" and that all 6,000 prisoners were evacuated to state prisons outside New Orleans and were accounted for after the transfer.
A fundamental problem for the U.S.
Gregory S. Paul, writing in the Journal of Religion & Society, suggests that the U.S. is worse off as a result of the religiosity of its citizenry than more secular countries, such as Japan and France.
"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early-adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies," Paul writes, adding, "The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly." Some of his other points:
"The view of the U.S. as a 'shining city on the hill' to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health. Youth suicide is an exception to the general trend because there is not a significant relationship between it and religious or secular factors."
"No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health."
"Although [more secular democracies] are by no means utopias . . . the data examined in this study demonstrates that only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical 'cultures of life' that feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex-related dysfunction, and even abortion. The least theistic secular developing democracies, such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia, have been most successful in these regards."
"The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator."