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 Louisiana Hurricane Criminal Justice Infrastructure Recovery Plan

Purpose of Funds

On March 20 th 2006, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Office Of Justice Programs (OJP) of the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Congress had awarded $58.25 million dollars to Louisiana through the Justice Assistance Grant program (JAG) to assist in the recovery of local and state criminal justice agencies devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These funds are intended to assist the state in recovery of the criminal justice system infrastructure destroyed or significantly damaged by the two hurricanes and subsequent flooding.

Devastation to the Louisiana Gulf Coast by 2005 Hurricanes

On August 29, 2005, the southeastern quadrant of Louisiana was struck by a category 4 storm, inflicting serious damage in the coastal parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard, as well as inland parishes including St. Tammany and Washington. As the hurricane passed the region, the winds pushed the water in Lake Ponchartrain into the levees protecting the city of New Orleans and parts of Jefferson Parish. What followed was a series of floodwall failures causing catastrophic flooding in Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Bernard parishes. On September 24, 2006, another hurricane struck the southwestern quadrant of Louisiana, leaving devastation in Cameron, Calcasieu, Vermilion, and Jefferson Davis parishes.

Impact to Local and Criminal Justice Infrastructures  

Hurricanes and floods are not unique as natural disasters. What was unique in this case was the scope of the destruction, the number of victims involved, and the loss of local governmental structure and communications. In four parishes (Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Orleans, and Cameron), involving two major urban areas (New Orleans and Lake Charles), criminal justice operations were greatly reduced to minimum functional levels and vast parts of the criminal justice infrastructure were destroyed or severely damaged. In neighboring areas including Jefferson, St. Tammany, Washington, Calcasieu, Vermilion, and Jefferson Davis parishes, criminal justice operations were greatly reduced and infrastructure was damaged or destroyed. While damage to the criminal justice infrastructure was devastating, the storms also destroyed or severely damaged the local economies, displacing nearly a million citizens, destroying homes and businesses as well as other public infrastructure. The net result is a criminal justice system operating without basic personnel, equipment and facilities, and unable to provide the essential levels of criminal justice services to support the recovery of the affected areas. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that without the recovery of the local and state economies, local criminal justice agencies will be unable to rebuild themselves, and in some cases, unable to sustain what they had recovered immediately after the disasters.

Immediate Losses Within the Criminal Justice System Where Funding Will be Utilized
  • Personnel
  • Functioning jail facilities or very limited temporary jail facilities.
  • Over 10,000 local inmates from the affected areas are now housed in 48 jail facilities throughout the state that would need to be transported to their home parish for court proceedings.
  • Medical facilities for inmates remaining in the affected areas.
  • Basic law enforcement equipment, as well as specialized equipment lost during the disasters.
  • Indigent defenders to adequately represent inmates.
  • Assistant district attorneys, investigators, and support personnel to prosecute cases.
  • Courtrooms and facilities for clerks of court in which to process cases.
  • Functioning information and communication systems as well as other essential criminal justice infrastructure.
  • Locating witnesses and victims and providing indigent defenders, prosecutors, support services, and courtrooms to ensure the right of the accused to a timely trial.
Recovery Begins with Restoration of Criminal Justice System Services

In order for the economic, social, and demographic recovery of the areas primarily affected by the disasters to take place, basic governmental services, especially criminal justice operations, must be restored. With the destruction of much of the criminal justice infrastructure, the displacement of population and the curtailment of commerce and consequent disruption of almost all normal revenue streams to support criminal justice, and the limitations of other forms of assistance (governmental, insurance, risk management, etc.) relative to the recovery of criminal justice operations resulted in a classic “catch 22.” The recovery of the affected areas cannot take place without sufficient criminal justice services to support recovery and restore public confidence in the ability of local and state governments to protect them. Criminal justice services cannot be restored to such levels without a sufficient economic and demographic recovery of the area. The scale and scope of the destruction wrought by the multiple interactive disasters has created a recovery situation that will require the cooperation of all levels of government. At the same time these already devastated areas will soon face a new hurricane season. Louisiana citizens returning home expect their local and state criminal justice agencies to ensure public safety, while at the same time undergoing a massive reconstruction program.

Our needs are clear. First, we need to establish a level of essential criminal justice operations in the affected areas to permit the recovery process to proceed as rapidly as possible, and to provide basic public safety for our citizens. Before citizens and businesses will return to their communities to rebuild their lives, they must be convinced that it is safe to return. Second, we need to restore the local and state criminal justice services capable of providing pre-disaster levels of public safety in the affected areas under the current economic and demographic conditions and those reasonably expected to emerge in the near future (i.e. one to three years). In order to accomplish these purposes, it is necessary not only to rebuild the criminal justice infrastructure throughout the affected region, but to rebuild it in a manner so it will be sustainable.  

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HCJIR Grant Team
  • Stefanie Toombs, Program Manager, 225.342.1571
  • Toni Zito, Accountant, 225.342.1604
  • Janice Thompson, Grant Officer, 225.342.1658
  • Charlotte Gautreau, Monitor, 225.342.1843

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updated 5/28/2012