New Orleans Housing Prisoners in Bus Station

New Orleans now has a place to put looters who are arrested. The Louisiana state penitentiary helped set up a makeshift jail in a most unlikely place — the bus and train station.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

New Orleans now has a place to put looters when they arrest them. The Louisiana State Penitentiary helped set up a makeshift jail in the bus and train station. NPR's Jeff Brady toured Camp Greyhound.

JEFF BRADY reporting:

Warden Burl Cain says when police arrived to open up the jail at the Union passenger terminal last weekend, they found people inside stealing.

Warden BURL CAIN (Louisiana State Penitentiary): We ran the looters away and Amtrak was really happy and so was Greyhound because they have a safe here with money in it.

BRADY: Cain came down after the hurricane hit, he's the warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. He echoes the sentiments of a hand-drawn cardboard sign on the front door that reads: We are taking New Orleans back. As city officials try all kinds of things to restore order, Cain says his Camp Greyhound is making the city more secure.

Warden CAIN: And this is the one thing that works to have a jail. They realize you can't have the security until you have a jail and, therefore, then we've arrested over 233 people that have been brought through here. One shot at a helicopter. One of the guys had a shootout with police, but they got them off the streets so we could have reconstruction. Without a jail, no reconstruction.

BRADY: Cain says they didn't even have to travel to find one of the prisoners.

Warden CAIN: The first guy we caught here come driving up to buy a bus ticket in a stolen car and he bought a ticket, all right, right back here to that screened area.

(Soundbite of Amtrak locomotive)

BRADY: Out back, the first noise you hear is a loud Amtrak locomotive. It runs 24 hours a day and provides electricity to the jail. But what you see first out here is the dozen or so cages; they're about 15-foot square and made of chain link with razor wire on top. Inside there are no chairs or benches, prisoners sit on the cement floor. They're exposed to the 95-degree heat and the high humidity, but Cain says prisoners won't stay here more than 24 hours before they're shipped to a more permanent facility where court can be held. That place has to be more comfortable than Camp Greyhound.

Warden CAIN: They got the Port-A-Pottys in there. We give everybody plenty of water in the bottle. They have bottled water. We don't have a water hose or nothing. We do it right. And we give them MREs and they get MREs three meals a day. If you don't have any shoes, we give you some sandals. We want you to have shoes on, and we scrub you down every morning.

BRADY: Cleanliness is a concern. The place wreaks of disinfectant and inmates swab the floors. Dr. Joseph Gautreaux says he's on the lookout for a variety of illnesses.

Dr. JOSEPH GAUTREAUX: A lot of these people that are coming in probably have not been vaccinated for years, so we have to look for pharyngitis, diarrhea, gastritis, vomiting, fever.

BRADY: Anyone who's sick doesn't stay here long, they're shipped out so diseases don't spread to the other prisoners. Step over to the entrance of Camp Greyhoud and you see this isn't just a jail but a miniature justice center is being put together. Walter LaJay(ph) is taping up a sign on a shop window. It announces a temporary office for the Orleans Parish district attorney.

Mr. WALTER LaJAY: We're accepting evidence from the people that are arrested and property as they're processed through the booking procedure here.

BRADY: And you're doing it in the gift shop there it looks like.

Mr. LaJAY: Yeah, it looks like this gift shop was partially looted and we've taken over some of the office space and we're setting up files in there.

BRADY: The building certainly isn't as secure as a typical jail. Two banks of glass doors on the sides of the building remain unlocked. Warden Cain says they just don't have a way to lock them.

Are you worried about security here because...

Warden CAIN: No, I got security--look at that automatic rifle out the front door. Look at all--you see them all around. I got everywhere--security. I got shotguns on the roof when we load the buses and we're well secured. That's the National Guard out there and the Louisiana State Police is in the front and we rock and roll. See that rifle right there?

BRADY: Cain says he has just about everything he needs to run a jail right now. He's even planning to have air conditioning soon for the staff, not the prisoners. And he says Camp Greyhound will do until the flooded jail is repaired and can once again house prisoners. Jeff Brady, NPR News, New Orleans.

MONTAGNE: You are listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

A federal Court of Appeals today ruled in favor of the Bush administration in the case of dirty-bomb suspect, Jose Padilla. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, reversed a lower court ruling that the government must either charge or free him. Padilla was arrested in 2002. The Bush administration said he planned the attack in the United States with a radiological bomb and detained him as an enemy combatant.

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