The Lens is reporting that the Office of the District Attorney has chosen not to press any criminal charges against the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office in the torture and killing of Cayne Miceli in January 2009. I’ve blogged extensively about this horrible crime. And I’m not surprised that professional courtesy appears to have won over justice in Orleans Parish.
There is no doubt in the minds of all who loved Cayne that she was murdered by a chain of incompetence, negligence, ignorance and insensitivity that coalesced that fateful night. She turned to the system and it failed her. Today, the totality of that failure was punctuated by the parish’s arbiter of law. It is no surprise to most of us.
Justice cannot repair this murder. Justice did not exist that night and it does not exist today for Cayne Miceli or her family. This is a bitter Christmas present from the District Attorney. But it does not absolve the staff and leadership of the institutions into which Cayne entrusted her body and which, via negligence and abusive treatment, released her soul. Those who participated in every step of this tragedy know what their roles were in this crime. Their consciences must deal with this while they live. For now, the lawsuit filed by the family is the only vehicle for extracting truth and some semblance of justice from this community.
We all share in the shame of today’s hand-washing of responsibility, for these are our elected officials. We put them in power and we pay their salaries. They betrayed our trust and our faith. But at least we are here to say that.
Cayne Miceli was murdered. And I will say that until I no longer breathe.
After 4 years of lifeless existence under the direction of Chairwoman Maggie Warwick, the Louisiana Music Commission (LMC) is finally being put out of its misery. As reported in newspapers a few weeks ago, after July 1 the LMC will disappear. The articles quoted Ms. Warwick as saying she “supports eliminating it.” That’s like quoting Nero during the burning of Rome.
I would like to congratulate Ms. Warwick for her vision and talent in destroying the state’s (and nation’s) first agency dedicated exclusively to music. And thanks also to Lynn Ourso, the ostensible “director” of the LMC for directing it right into oblivion.
Though there were 15+ people appointed to serve on the LMC over the past 4 years, evidently none of them had the ability or power to grasp the controls and pull the LMC out of the dive it entered when it was eviscerated by (convicted and jailed former film office director) Mark Smith, then relocated and de-funded during the Blanco years (with the assistance of former Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development Mike Olivier). To those members who tried, really tried to represent the best interests of musicians, I say thank you. To those who colluded with and bought-in to the tired and ineffective leadership of Ms. Warwick and Mr. Ourso–and you know who you are–I say that the proof is in the pudding. And yours turned out to be a runny, smelly failure.
Since 2006, when they finally wrested control of the remnants of the LMC that had been systematically weakened by their team, observing the Warwick-Ourso tenure was like watching an elderly nursing home patient slowly, painfully gasp for breath–for month after month after month. It was a pathetic and absurd situation. And now it’s finally over.
The coroner has declared the patient dead but did not cite the cause. I say it was starvation, deprivation, and neglect compounded by malpractice and out-of-touch stewardship. And there will be no investigations, no funeral, no accurate recapitulation or memorial. This will likely be my last blog on that subject. And for that, I’m sure some will be grateful.
I’m proud of the work Ellis Marsalis, Bernie Cyrus and I did, but we were far from alone. From 1992 to 2006 literally hundreds of people helped us achieve unprecedented levels of support for Louisiana music. Because of our work, thousands of Louisiana musicians appeared on radio and television; tens of thousands of elementary school students statewide experienced living jazz history lessons; sites were saved (though many were lost); and attention to the health and welfare of working musicians was raised to new levels not surpassed until the tragedies of the failed levees of Katrina. You can read about what we did here: LMC Summary Report 1992-2003.
The LMC is dead. And though I spent 25+ years in music, it was always with a focus on environmental and social justice issues, on reducing our impact and helping the needy. Today, that’s what I do full time. I love music. I hope to play again some day. But I have a great job and a mission to bring positive change to the way we live. I am blessed to be where I am today.
Music is vital to our quality of life in Louisiana. Perhaps one day it will benefit from dedicated resources and support equal to what we give other industries such as agriculture, petrochemicals and film. One day. But not today.
20 million barrels of oil. 20 million. That’s what the USA uses every day. And nearly 50% of that oil is being burned each day as motor fuel. As of Monday, June 7, the BP Macondo well has spewed in the vicinity of 2,000,000 barrels with no end in sight. That’s the equivalent of 10% of one day’s oil use in the US.
“That’s what we need to get through the day!” exclaimed John Hofmeister (German for “yard master” to you etymological folks) the former head of Shell on a recent Larry King Show. In prior media appearances Hofmeister promoted his oil skimming ideas, his experiences in keeping a culture of safety at Shell, and his book. On King’s show he reverted to the Company Man and showed his Chamber of Commerce side, indulging in a couple too many Gripes on Behalf of the Oil Companies. He evaded James Carville’s challenge to explain and justify the cozy relationships Big Oil cultivated with government, including regulatory agencies and personnel, which will prove to be a major factor in the chain of events.
Then came T. Boone Pickens. He was visibly stressed. But he was clear as a bell. His overriding message, “It’s not time to panic.” He emphasized that we need to focus on stopping the well and dealing with the humanitarian and environmental response. When we get ahead of these demanding issues, then we can focus on inquiries and blame. But he knows it’s bad. “This event is like a 100 Year Storm.” He emphasized a military-like focus.
Which brings us to that ugly and horrible act of humanity: War.
For nearly 10 years we, our families, friends and neighbors have been paying the ultimate cost for our military actions around the world. The United States has been at war longer than World War ll, and as of June 7, longer than in Viet Nam, our longest war. We are paying the price in lives, money, energy and resources. Yet we blithely go about our days worrying more about phony celebrities, useless trends and pop culture than we do about being at war in foreign countries. We are sacrificing so much–lives, resources, energy, money, time–and we are so spoiled by all the power we wield with our smart phones, fast cars, fast cards and fast food–that we are oblivious, like slowly cooking frogs, to our impending doom.
Whether is it our diet and diabetes, or our vapid, mobile lifestyles and growing environmental crises, we are in a massive state of denial that only a large-scale psychological and spiritual transformation effort can least-painfully change. But it appears we’re incapable of changing without very painful and tragic impetus.
Hell, if even the increasingly unnecessary maiming and death of our best and brightest in military service isn’t compelling us to act, then perhaps Nature will. Or will it?
The root cause of this situation is our demand for oil and our addiction to dirty fossil fuels. Though we built our consumer society on what appears to be “cheap” fossil fuels, the true cost has never been fully factored or equitably distributed.
For 150 years, modern civilization has depended upon exploitation, extraction, manufacturing and distribution of natural resources, usually directed from the less powerful to the more powerful.
And now this. The BP oil disaster is well on its way to being the worst singular petroleum catastrophe in world history, impacting far more than just Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico.
The site of the BP Deepwater Horizon and areas impacted by the catastrophe are the uterus and placenta of the Gulf Stream. And a breathtaking array of biology upon which humans on multiple continents depend is threatened. We cannot determine how long it will take to recover, even after the well is stopped. Years? Decades? In whose lifetime will these land and water ecosystems return to the diversity and volume of April 2010?
Some 30% of the USA’s seafood comes from these estuaries. But, that’s only measuring it in the USA. Many of the species most seriously affected by this spill migrate between continents. There could be shortages of fish products around the world.
But let us not lose sight of the biggest tragedy–us. This is a growing humanitarian crisis.
In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas, hundreds of thousands of jobs are threatened and tens of thousands of jobs are at a standstill or waiting to be told to stop. This means that thousands of families and households are not receiving income.
Second Harvest has been overwhelmed trying to bring food to families in Louisiana. With the assistance of Catholic Charities, the New Orleans Food & Farm Network and others, a growing number of volunteers are participating in distributing food to the hardworking, diverse patchwork of celebrated cultures of people who define the character of Louisiana to the world but who are not emotionally prepared to be dependent upon charities.
As efforts mount, words get stronger. Beth Galante calls us to action in the May 2010 Global Green newsletter, “The humanitarian crisis is the first priority – every single coastal resident has had their job destroyed or damaged for the foreseeable future, from the fishermen to the local restaurant staff to the hotel maids, and it is imperative that aggressive action ensures that they can keep food on their families’ tables, make mortgage and credit card payments, and get rapid access to comprehensive mental health care services.”
Why are these things happening? Why is this how we are going to spend the 5th Anniversary of the tragedy of the failed levees after Katrina? Fundamentally because a perfect storm of stupidity has swept this country for the past few decades. We’ve had all the information, all the warnings we needed to make changes. We are lost in consumerism. We are not saving energy. We are not taking the steps needed to reduce our impact. We are indeed living in The Age of Stupid. We are at war on two fronts, sacrificing our friends, families and economy to the mighty Oil God. And we won’t change our ways. We are ultimately at war with ourselves.
Will this event change us? There is no doubt that Louisiana is now forever changed, perhaps for generations. But will the USA change its ways and reduce our dependence upon dirty fossil fuels? 11 dead in the Gulf and 15 dead in the mines in 2010 don’t seem to matter much. More than 5000 of our finest sacrificed in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to make no difference. We blithely drive, shop and waste and waste and waste. We gossip about pop “stars” ruining their lives while our own are ruined by ignorance, inactivity, bad food and the resulting obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The fact that the current generation is the first in modern times to be expected to live shorter lives than their parents doesn’t even seem to be changing people’s attitudes much. We are speeding pedal to the metal into a dead end.
So I have a request to the USA: pray. No, I’m not a religious person. But I am desperate. And in desperation, most folks suddenly find God. Besides, other than cutting your driving by at least 20% and pledging to do better, there’s not much you can do.
So, Dear America, pray. And pray hard and for a long, long time. It might not slow the oil. But at least it will slow you down.
The repeal of the Stelly Plan that removed certain sales taxes on food and other items and created a more balanced income tax structure is causing a much-predicted crisis in Louisiana. We are facing the worst funding shortage in memory. And cuts announced this week to higher education are going to devastate our universities.
When the Stelly Plan, which voters approved, was ceremoniously repealed, we ended up with two tax cuts. And these cuts are not stimulating our economy, they are causing layoffs, higher tuition and myriad problems that will harm the reputation of Louisiana and that threaten our economic future.
When the Stelly Plan was repealed, we didn’t return to the status quo–we just gave a tax cut to the upper brackets and didn’t replace the funds from the removal of the sales taxes.
Stelly was a fair plan. The sales taxes that hurt poor and middle class residents were lightened and we all paid a few dollars more (at least those of us at average income levels, in my case it added less than $100) in income tax. It worked. Now we’re in a pickle. And it’s not even because of some lousy Friedman-esque economic theory–it’s because of political grandstanding and misrepresentation of how taxes work.
Those who want Louisiana to prosper, to have a solid education system, to have better roads, safe and secure drinking water, fair and honest police, fire and emergency service systems, courts that dispense justice and are able to put people in facilities that securely and effectively incarcerate without breeding more crime (or being complete hellholes where you may die within hours whether guilty or not) must pay for these things. That’s what taxes are for. And with federal prosecutors hot on the tails of corruption (thanks in no small way to the fact that all contracts now end up on computers and leave multiple electronic trails), things ARE changing for the better.
But we have to demand vision and leadership from our elected officials, not platitudes and phony political philosophy. And we have to do our parts to participate, to go to meetings, to be watchdogs, to volunteer to help our city halls and parish services, and to vote.
These problems are not going to be solved by name-calling rallies or by shouting down political discourse when our elected officials have public meetings or by calling fellow citizens socialists because we disagree with them. Democracy is hard work. And we in New Orleans have gotten better at it than most of the country. But now we need the rest of Louisiana, the average citizens (not just business and political leaders), to get on the ball and participate.
It took a massive (and man-made) disaster to make us in NOLA get involved. Is that what it’s going to take for the rest of the state to get with it?
There are so many cliches floating about now that we’ve won the big game. But words and pictures cannot capture the feeling of being a New Orleanian right now. So many life/game-changing things are happening that it’s hard to explain/describe what it all does and could mean. Suffice to say that we’re feeling a lot better about so many things. We have an optimism we didn’t have a few weeks ago. And we’re flying high as we head into the peak days of Mardi Gras.
My thoughts are simply those of gratitude mixed with relief. I love New Orleans. I love Louisiana. I’m glad we get along so well. And, like thousands of Saints fans, I wish my late father had lived to see this day.
So many things feel different today. Oh, there go the cliches again. I’ll stop before I get carried away.
The yin/yang of our experiences have spun us into a state of euphoria right now. I’m going to be out on the streets today, relishing it with the Who Dat Nation. Yes, indeed!
This week an 18 wheeler delivered a truckload of plants for the final stages of The Great Concrete Lawn in City Park. This multi-million dollar project sure provided a lot of money and work. That’s economic development. And that truckload of plants sure helped keep people employed—in Florida!
As the photo shows, a truckload of non-native species plants was delivered from a company with locations in Wisconsin and Florida. Cashio Cochran LLC, whose designs have disguised, smothered and killed the native landscape of City Park for the past couple of decades, ensured their role in history as perhaps the most un-enlightened park designers of the past half century with this last implantation of imported plant life.
But all is not lost…..yet. After this past week’s debacle of destruction, the Voodoo Music Experience (VME), tore up the soil under some of the most beautiful and fragile oaks in the park, we at least can look forward to when these non-native palms, ginger and other decorative plants blossom and bloom and hide those ugly old oaks that obviously were in the way of Cashio Cochran’s Eisenhower Era vision of tidy design.
What a year it’s been in City Park! Though I’ve only been blogging about it since March, we’ve seen bad decisions multiply like invasive species. The ironies pile up, too. The post-VME smell on Roosevelt Mall, despite the preponderance of familiar bull horns on the portable toilets, isn’t the aroma of the past couple of years in the French Quarter, but that of Bourbon Street of years gone by–a sour, sickly smell that this week’s blooming Sweet Olives can’t disguise. The damage, the smell, the bad design, the out of state plants, the heavy equipment crushing soil and roots, I guess it all smells like money to somebody. Or else we’d be hearing more than just me moaning and griping.
But, I guess I’m lucky. Unlike the those ever-more scraggly old oaks, I get to go home and put those smells and sights out of my mind whenever I want. And I have to assume that the folks who work there find all this quite normal since it keeps happening again and again and again and again and again…………..
Thanks to Lolis Elie and the Times-Picayune for telling the story of how I’ve been trying to promote best practices for tree care in our area.
This is just a brief post for new visitors. I’ll be updating in greater detail later. But, I have to address a statement made by landscape architect Carlos Cashio in today’s article. He says that “sometimes you take risks to accomplish certain design elements.” My response is NO, YOU DO NOT TAKE RISKS WITH MATURE LIVE OAKS IN CITY PARK. Ever.
I post these pictures to let you decide for yourself. What is more beautiful: Carlos Cashio’s concrete and brick pyramid-hat building or God’s ancient live oak?
It’s past time to let some of the true stewards and visionaries in the field of landscape architecture shape the future of this precious place. We already know what Cashio Cochran can do, and it does not meet my standards of the concept of legacy.
Cayne Miceli Ordeal Included in Justice Dept Report That Declares Sheriff Gusman’s Orleans Parish Prison “Violates the Constitutional Rights of Inmates”
See Nola.com story here.
Orleans Parish Prison and Sheriff Marlin Gusman run a hell hole. The United States Department of Justice, in a 32 page report, spells it out in great detail. And perhaps now something will be done.
After the maiming and deaths of so many people, such as our dear, beautiful friend Cayne Miceli, it’s past time for change. The report is scathing and detailed, and perhaps will help us make that change.
The main fact stated by the report is that “we find that certain conditions at OPP violate the constitutional rights of inmates.” The report further states that “we find that inmates confined at OPP are not adequately protected from harm, including physical harm from excessive force by staff and inmate-on-inmate violence.” It continues, “we find that inmates do not receive adequate mental health care, including proper suicide prevention.” And completing the trifecta of tribulation for anyone with a health condition requiring medication, “we found specific deficiencies in medication management.”
Adding insult to injury, the report found that inmates “face serious risks posed by inadequate environmental and sanitation conditions.”
So, not only is the jail a medieval torture chamber where brutality, poor mental health standards and abominable management of medication can cause death; but, it is a filthy slime pit and potential incubator of disease. Oh, and it has inadequate fire safety standards, too.
The report goes into great legal detail in support of its findings. Then it gets into the meat of the Findings with this paragraph:
“We find that OPP fails to adequately protect inmates from harm and serious risk of harm from staff and other inmates; fails to provide inmates with adequate mental health care; fails to provide adequate suicide prevention; fails to provide adequate medication management; fails to provide safe and sanitary environmental conditions; and fails to provide adequate fire safety precautions.”
Under Finding A, INADEQUATE PROTECTION FROM HARM under item l: Unnecessary and Inappropriate Use of Force, the report states that “We believe there is a pattern and practice of unnecessary and inappropriate uses of force” and goes into detail regarding officers “openly engaged in abusive and retaliatory conduct which resulted in serious injuries to inmates.” The report then delves into OPP records to illustrate examples of brutal incidents.
The report in Item 1 goes into detail regarding Inadequate Policies and Procedures, Inadequate Use of Force Reporting, Inadequate Management Review of Use of Force, and Lack of Investigative Policies and Procedures.
Finding A-2 is that OPP has an Inadequate Classification System that results in inmates being improperly grouped, and produces a situation where “there is very little to safeguard against housing predatory inmates with vulnerable inmates. Not surprisingly, we found a disturbingly high number of assaultive incidents in the multiple occupancy cells.”
Finding A-3 covers Inmate-on-Inmate Assaults, going into detail on 10 incidents between May 2007 and August 2008 calling the situation “a systemic level of violence that poses a serious risk of harm to both inmates and correctional staff at the jail.”
Finding A-4 covers Inadequate Staffing and Inmate Supervision, which explains much about Finding A-2. But this section slams management of the prison, stating that “we found that OPP operates its facility without a staffing plan or analysis to establish the minimum number of security staff needed to safely manage OPP’s population.” This speaks directly to the fact that we elect whomever is popular to be sheriff. Gusman, whose prior positions in city government were purely administrative, is not a lawman or prison specialist. And evidently he hasn’t hired the kind of staff who follow basic guidelines such as this one regarding how many people it takes to safely run a prison with a large population of inmates. Does he rely on any other agencies to help him fill staff shortages when they occur? This report indicates that he has no plan.
On some occasions, the Justice Department report reveals, only a dozen officers were on duty to supervise 900 inmates! Here’s another disturbing quote, “On these occasions, the majority of the multiple occupancy cells housed more than 10 inmates and four of the eight floors had only one officer responsible for over 140 inmates.” If that nightmare doesn’t get you, how about this regarding staffing of the second largest facility at OPP, the Tents, “we found several instances during February 2007 thru May 2008 where the inmate average daily population was more than 580 and the facility had only seven officers on shift.” Of course this “places both inmates and staff at risk.”
There is a typo/flaw in the report, rather than Finding B it jumps to Finding C, (this is a typo, not indicative of anything missing from the report) INADEQUATE MENTAL HEALTH AND MEDICAL CARE. This is where the report obviously refers to Cayne Miceli’s case, though she is listed anonymously as “H.H.” Here is the section in its entirety. Note HOD stands for House of Detention.
“On January 6, 2009, H.H., a 43-year-old woman, stopped breathing while in restraints at OPP. H.H. was sent to HOD-10 hours after intake because she was considered hostile and suicidal. While in HOD-10, H.H. was placed in five-point restraints even after she repeatedly complained of asthma and breathing distress. H.H. did not receive physician or psychiatric care to determine if medication was appropriate or if placing an asthmatic individual in a five-point restraint was acceptable. Although she was under direct observation, H.H. was reportedly seen attempting to get out of the restraints. As OPP staff intervened and placed her in the restraints, H.H.’s body went limp. OPP medical staff responded to assess her condition. She was sent to the emergency room, where she was later pronounced dead.”
This is surely a brief and grossly incomplete telling of the horrors Cayne faced on her date with death at the hands of Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s staff— if indeed there were enough officers there that day to run the jail to satisfy his (now proven inadequate) level of standards.
The report also tells the horrible stories of two other inmates who in 2008 were placed in the restraint systems for more than 24 hours in one case and more than 35 hours in the other.
The damning evidence continues, “OPP has neither a restraint chair nor a safe cell. Inmates are restrained to metal beds affixed to a cell wall. The positioning of the bed prohibits 360 degree access to the inmate and, ironically, is itself a suicide hazard as even restrained individuals can strangle themselves by affixing clothing or sheets to this type of bed.”
I won’t go on with more details. We all know that OPP is a hell hole. But now it’s official, OPP is a threat to the health of all who are incarcerated and/or work there.
The Justice Department politely concludes the report with a pledge to assist and cooperate in helping OPP implement remedies. And it equally politely states that if “we are unable to reach a resolution regarding our concerns, the Attorney General may initiate a lawsuit,” and gives Sheriff Gusman “49 days after appropriate officials have been notified” to get started.
With the elections coming up, this report is damning of Gusman’s management and care, not only of the inmates and citizens of New Orleans, but of his own staff. I find this whole situation reprehensible and outrageous. I hope and pray the people of New Orleans wake up to this horror within our own government. And I also hope that the local papers cover this story in much greater detail than today’s rather short online story.
Cayne Miceli was killed by a chain of events that involved our health care system and our justice system. She received neither care or justice. She was spit-out by a for-profit hospital, then brutally handled by the justice system and died a torturous death at the hands of under-supervised public servants in a jail that is now declared a violation of our Constitution. Welcome to New Orleans, Louisiana U.S.A. in the 21st Century.
If Charity Hospital had been up and running, something we all know was possible within months of the flood and surely by January 2009, Cayne would be alive today. If Tulane/Hospital Corporation of America lived up to the highest principle of care for its patients, Cayne would have never been arrested. And if Sheriff Marlin Gusman was good at his job, his jail would not be a cesspool into which people go in whole and come out damaged or dead.
Our taxes support all these institutions and their managers, including Tulane/HCA. As we strive to make New Orleans whole again, we cannot allow these fundamental systems to operate in this manner.
And we cannot continue to elect incompetent people to positions of power, for it is killing us, quite literally.
Geez, I wonder how many of the tragedies that befall us down here are going to happen in Iowa? They’ve flooded and know what it’s like to deal with FEMA. Now they’ve had corruption of their film tax credit program resulting in their economic development director’s resignation. Who could have imagined it? Corruption in a tax credit program involving the film business! Here’s one link to their story. And here’s another.
Of course, you know how I feel about all this.
I really like the people behind the rebuilding of the Lafitte Projects. They’re nice. They said the new development will have many green and innovative features. But evidently everything must fit in nice square spaces and these trees are just not part of their vision for what the neighborhood should be.
30+ mature trees cut, 7 retained. And the beat goes on.