Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A new

Semester has begun. I only have half my grades. 3.7 so far. Still waiting on 5 credits' worth. The above is my present petty concern. Below is what matters.

Just got back from New Orleans.

It is still an absolute disaster down there. The 9th ward looks like a war zone. 4 PM. Saturday afternoon. Not a person in the streets. House after boarded-up, sagging, crumbling, water-logged house. Every so often, a FEMA trailer parked on a lawn or in a driveway.

There is construction here and there, but even in the center of town, where there was minimal storm damage, the vacancy rate for businesses is staggering. Movie theaters, souvenir stores, sneaker shops, restaurants, hotels, all closed. If you never leave the french quarter, you might guess that the rebuilding is done and the city is back.

And then there's the Louisianna justice system. What a clusterfuck. I'll just list a few of the practices and let you imagine what kind of Kafakaesque situation has resulted: The Sherrif runs the prisons. The sherrif's dept. gets $35 for every person in prison per night. The court does not keep the court records. Those records are kept by the sherrif. A large part of the public defender's budget comes from a per-case stipend. Public defenders get $20 for every conviction. The courts get a cut of bail bonds, thus encouraging high bonds. It is common to look at a court record and see the notation: "Defendant in custody, did not appear." What that means is the sherrif's dep't tasked with delivering the prisoner for his court date, didn't bother. The official court records include months-long gaps in which it's anyone's guess what happened. After Katrina, during which the prisoners were trapped in their cells with water levels rising, the prisoners were moved all over the state and out of state. It has taken until now for the system, and those working doggedly outside the system, to find these people, and where proper, get them released. Orleans parish jails people for misdemeanors. Although this puts a severe burden on the courts and the overwhelmed public defenders, it puts more $$$ in the sherrif's pocket.

The moral: don't get arrested in New Orleans.