I am in the Bayou again. Baton Rouge. The capital of Louisiana. I am thinking of that movie, “Johnny Handsome.” I fell in love with that film years ago and with Ry Cooder’s soundtrack. The movie is set in Louisiana and the main character, the criminal, played by Mickey Rourke, winds up in Angola Prison. I won’t tell you anymore but Morgan Freeman is in it as well.
I thought of the movie when I arrived here yesterday. A lawsuit was filed by three death row inmates against the state of Louisiana because the Angola Prison, is too hot. Not just too hot but dangerously hot. They were subjected, according to them, to a heat index of upwards of 195 degrees Fahrenheit. For many days the heat index was excessively hot. All three of the death row inmates have been on death row for awhile and there is no allegation of their innocence. However, there is an allegation of inhumane treatment even for men who looked destined for death. I know who cares; they are on death row, right?
Louisiana got a special relationship with prison anyway. They believe in it like Baltimore believes in the crab cake. There are prisoners everywhere. Prisons everywhere. Around the corner from where I am staying are several bail bondsmen doing brisk business. This is right in between the Parish Prison and the Juvenile Jail. The economy is not bad down here but people go to jail down here like people flock to Starbucks. A steady stream.
Here is how the local media reported on it about a month ago:
Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s and 20 times Germany’s.
NPR did a story on it as well.
Here is a sick quote from the piece:
A majority of Louisiana’s inmates are now housed in for-profit jails, which are run in many instances by parish sheriffs located in rural areas of the state. The sheriffs receive approximately $25 a day per inmate.
In some instances, sheriffs outsource the prisons to for-profit companies who then operate the prisons themselves. In exchange, the sheriffs receive cash for their department, which allows them to hire more employees.”
So for a state that is trading in humans who are incarcerated for cash basically, is it likely that it would allow men its death row chamber to become “the towering inferno”? Do any of us think that it matters to Governor Bobby Jindal and his administration that some men on death row are being subjected to this, if this is true. Is this cruel and unusual treatment or is the execution when the state crosses that line?