The following has been transcribed (with minimal edits for clarity and format) from handwritten letters by our correspondent “Leather,” who is currently serving a sentence in the Orleans Justice Center—a.k.a. Orleans Parish Prison (OPP), which is run by the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office (OPSO)—because of charges related to a family dispute, subsequent warrants, and the labyrinthian carceral state in general.
Death Behind Bars
As we all know, jail is a very dangerous place and it’s for multiple reasons: one, death is always around the corner. Tonight (6/25/2020) I lost a very dear friend and fellow inmate, Christian Freeman, who I’ve had the pleasure (so to speak) of being locked up with this past year. People die all the time in this jail but when someone dies because of neglect by the jail I gotta let it be known the way they mistreat us, because my friend Christian didn’t have to die, and the reason he died was because there was no deputy on our pod. When his celle [cellmate] realized something was wrong with Chris he pushed the panic button for the deputy in the booth, no answer. Where was she? At that time Chris’ celle notified other inmates. We all pushed our panic buttons and then we all started to beat down (that’s when all inmates kick their doors at the same time as hard as possible). When this is done it sounds like an earthquake. It took deputies 15 minutes to respond and another 10 minutes for nurses and EMTs to show up. That’s a ridiculous response time considering we’re in a four story building and it’s eleven o’clock at night and the jail is already on lockdown… I only give you the facts. I only try to paint you a vivid picture with my words so you can feel how inhuman the jail is, my friend.
Christian Freeman was a 35 year-old middle-upper class white guy from a good family and I wonder if OPSO is gonna say anything about his death, which is the reason I’m writing this. Because truth of the matter is this happens to us inmates all too often and it goes unnoticed. All you get is maybe a phone call from the chaplain. We are dying in here and no one seems to care. It took almost 30 minutes for any medical staff to get to Chris. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt if they would have gotten to Chris sooner he would have lived. Like I said before I’m not writing off what someone told me. I was there on A-1. I saw my friend lying on that stretcher turning blue and as they continued to give him oxygen, I prayed and prayed but I knew he was gone. And when this one EMT turned around our eyes locked and she cursed. I motioned, is he gone? Even though I don’t think she was supposed to say anything (coroner’s job) she said yes and stared at the ground heart broken. She was just as upset as I was, maybe cause it’s her passion to save lives or wishing they could have done more. I don’t know what the official cause of death was and I probably know less than y’all. I just hope he didn’t suffer. But what I do know is OPSO has got to do better than this medieval health care system that they have in this place or there’s gonna be a lot more lives lost. So this is dedicated to Christian Freeman. RIP.