US Marijuana Party

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Australian man found in prison after Hurricane Katrina

The World Today

ELEANOR HALL: More details are emerging this lunchtime about the situation facing the 30-year-old Australian man, Ashley MacDonald, who'd been missing since Hurricane Katrina struck and who was found alive this morning.

Mr McDonald was located in a Louisiana prison, where he was placed after being arrested just before the hurricane devastated the region.

Our correspondent Leigh Sales has just visited the prison and has spoken to authorities there, and she called in a short time ago with the latest information.

LEIGH SALES: We've got a lot more information, Eleanor, but there are still some holes in the story.

What happened was, Ashley McDonald was arrested for public drunkenness, and he was thrown in the equivalent of the local lock-up.

Unfortunately, this coincided with a major hurricane warning and Department of Corrections officials had to evacuate all of the prisoners held in the New Orleans area and put them in facilities that were going to be safe.

So, Ashley McDonald was caught in that evacuation and then he was taken to the Elaine Hunt Correctional Centre, which is where he's been for about the past week.

Now, the problem is that once he was caught up in that dragnet, he was stuck with everyone from people arrested for public drunkenness, to people arrested for rapes and murders. They all had to be evacuated and they all have to be still processed, and that's the situation that he's currently in.

ELEANOR HALL: Wasn't he allowed a phone call at any point though, to inform his family?

LEIGH SALES: Well, 7,000 prisoners had to be evacuated out of New Orleans and put into facilities, and it's been a security nightmare for the Department of Corrections, who I've just been talking to, because as you can imagine, a lot of prisoners in this situation try to take advantage, and so a lot prisoners have been saying, "Look, I was just picked up for public drunkenness, or I was just picked up for J-walking and you should let me go."

And the Department of Corrections doesn’t have adequate records on the charges these people were facing, or even on their identities, because a lot of that material was swept away in the floods.


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