EVANSTON, Ill. --- As Category 4 Hurricane Florence barrels toward the South Carolina coast, more than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate. But inmates in the state’s prisons have been told they will stay put, reminding some advocates of a similar decision during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, which left some inmates in flooded prisons.

David M. Shapiro, a clinical associate professor of law in Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, says South Carolina’s decision not to evacuate prisoners could be a mistake. Shapiro is available to speak with the media.

Shapiro is the director of appellate litigation in the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center. His national practice focuses on protecting the rights of men and women caught up in the criminal justice system. Shapiro has litigated appeals in nearly all of the federal circuits and obtained victories in appellate and trial courts across the country. He can be reached at 202-746-2225 or david.shapiro@law.northwestern.edu

Quote from Professor Shapiro:

“Failure to evacuate a correctional facility during a natural disaster sends a message to prisoners and their families that their lives don’t count. It can lead to extreme violations of constitutional and human rights -- prisoners locked in cells filling up with water mixed with sewage, pregnant women having no care, and the like. All of this was demonstrated by the experience of Hurricane Katrina at the jail in New Orleans. I hope we’re not doomed to repeat this horrifying history.”

Northwestern professors also are available on other aspects of Hurricane Florence, including the general evacuation order, the storm’s severity, expected flooding and infrastructure issues.

Northwestern evacuation systems expert Hani S. Mahmassani can discuss weather emergency response evacuation planning and implementation, including predictive modeling of the behaviors of transportation systems and individuals. Mahmassani, director of Northwestern’s Transportation Center and professor of civil and environmental engineering at McCormick, is traveling internationally, but reporters can contact him at masmah@northwestern.edu to ask written questions or request a Skype interview.

Quote from Professor Mahmassani:

“South Carolina appears to have learned from the recent experience of other areas that to be effective, evacuations must start well ahead of the expected time that the hurricane will hit. Evacuating over 1 million people is always a challenge, and getting an early start is essential otherwise all systems break down and the process becomes a painful ordeal for all concerned.”

Other Northwestern experts available for comment:

  • Daniel Horton, head of Northwestern’s Climate Change Research Group and an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, can speak about the meteorological and geographical impact of the storm and how and where the flooding could occur. He also can speak about how climate change has the potential to make these events stronger and more impactful. He can be reached at 847-467-6185 or daniel.horton@northwestern.edu. 
  • Joseph Schofer, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, can speak about the risk and damage to various infrastructure components after a devastating hurricane makes landfall. He can be reached at 847-491-8795 or j-schofer@northwestern.edu.

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