Friday, September 9, 2005

More than 220 looting suspects and others accused of violence in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have been taken to a makeshift city jail known as “Camp Greyhound,” the New Orleans bus terminal, to await transfer to out-of-town prisons.

The arrests and transfers are being monitored by the Justice Department and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office to ensure that proper legal procedures are being followed, law-enforcement authorities said.

Another 1,000 inmates already in jail in Louisiana when Katrina hit are being moved by the U.S. Marshals Service to prisons in other states, including 460 inmates who were transported by airplane yesterday to a federal prison in Florida. Another 460 inmates will make the same trip today.

Many of the jail facilities in New Orleans were flooded after the storm.

U.S. Attorney David Dugas in Baton Rouge yesterday said a majority of those arrested were taken into custody in Jefferson Parish, where law-enforcement authorities have rounded up dozens of looters who raided houses and businesses.

Prisoners at the New Orleans bus terminal are being guarded by corrections officers from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola — one of the toughest prisons in the country. Sixteen bus stops have become hastily constructed cages of chain-link fencing and razor wire, each filled with men or women arrested on the flood-ravaged streets of New Orleans during a rampage of looting and violence that overtook the city.

While the vast majority of those being processed through the terminal are accused of looting, one of the men brought to the site was Wendell L. Bailey, charged with shooting at a rescue helicopter seeking to aid people trapped at the Superdome. Others were named on charges of attempted murder and attempted rape.

There is room for 700 prisoners at the facility, authorities said, which is powered by an Amtrak engine that continuously generates power for the jail’s lights and other equipment. Each of those arrested is being fingerprinted and photographed by state employees, authorities said.

Camp Greyhound is overseen by Burl Cain, warden at Angola.

“There weren’t any arrests being made in the first few days because there was no place to put the bad guys,” Mr. Cain told reporters yesterday. “Now business is good. Looting is on the same level as grave robbing, and I’m … proud to have people so despicable in my jail.”

The jail eventually will be turned over to the New Orleans Sheriff’s Office, which will run it until the city’s regular jail is again operational — which could be months.

Meanwhile, authorities have yet to identify five men reportedly killed by police on a New Orleans bridge after they shot at U.S. Army contractors on their way to help plug a breach in a city canal. None of the contractors was injured.

In the Mississippi Gulf Coast, more than 100 people have been arrested as looting suspects. Most of them are being held at a detention center near Gulfport.

“We’re in control about as much as we can be under the circumstances and thanks to the hundreds of officers who have come to help,” said Harrison County Sheriff George H. Payne Jr.

Each is being held on a $10,000 cash bond. If convicted at yet-unscheduled trials, they face 15 years in prison and fines totaling $10,000, authorities said.

Police and sheriff’s deputies in the area, including Gulfport and Biloxi, have switched their focus from search and rescue to search and recovery and have added the apprehension of looters as a priority, authorities said.

In Waveland, Miss., the site of a Wal-Mart store overrun by looters in the wake of Katrina has become a command center for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office — along with federal, state and local law-enforcement authorities from across the country.

Only a few were arrested in that area while law-enforcement authorities focused on search-and-rescue missions, but an 8 p.m. to dawn curfew has since been ordered and those on the street during that time are being stopped, authorities said.

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