Centinela

CENTINELA STATE PRISON IS LOCATED IN IMPERIAL, CA,
HOUSING 3,475 PEOPLE.

Since March 2020, there have been 865 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 1 death, at this facility.

Stories from Centinela

01/21
Spreading COVID
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Spreading COVID

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This story was told by a person who has a loved one at Centinela.

Caller: I’m calling regarding my loved one at Centinela State Prison. He actually got COVID due to negligence due to the C.O.s testing positive and still able to work. Just because they’re not showing symptoms, they were still able to work. So there was an outbreak at Centinela in November, December I believe, and my husband was one of them. Let’s see, the C.O.s aren’t wearing any masks. Let’s see, the food is being prepared by the C.O.s so they’re getting just cheese and crackers most days.

Okay and then my husband was on quarantine for almost a month, I think actually over a month. And they never retested him, the doctor just cleared him. So our whole thing is you’re just releasing people back into dorms that are- or buildings that don’t have COVID but how do you know they don’t still carry it? And it’s- I’m sure it’s still spreadable.

So that’s our whole thing. They’re not allowing phone calls certain days because they’re saying, “Oh they have to clean them,” which they’re not cleaning. The inmates are doing it themselves. They’re using their own cleaning supplies to clean the phones to make sure they’re not catching COVID because the C.O.s aren’t doing it. And that’s pretty much it.

Oh yeah and then they’re holding packages in store. I mean how are they going to eat if they’re only getting cheese and crackers. How are they gonna, you know, their immune systems, how are they gonna be strong enough to fight something as COVID? So that’s pretty much it.

The full story

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This story was told by a person who has a loved one at Centinela. Click the play button again to hear their full story.

Caller: I’m calling regarding my loved one at Centinela State Prison. He actually got COVID due to negligence due to the C.O.s testing positive and still able to work. Just because they’re not showing symptoms, they were still able to work. So there was an outbreak at Centinela in November, December I believe, and my husband was one of them. Let’s see, the C.O.s aren’t wearing any masks. Let’s see, the food is being prepared by the C.O.s so they’re getting just cheese and crackers most days. So my whole thing is, can I give names of the C.O.s or no?

UCI: If you want to you can. Again, we’re gonna have a team that goes over and listens to it and sees if they think it should be taken out. Then they can decide that.

Caller: Okay and then my husband was on quarantine for almost a month, I think actually over a month. And they never retested him, the doctor just cleared him. So our whole thing is you’re just releasing people back into dorms that are- or buildings that don’t have COVID but how do you know they don’t still carry it? And it’s- I’m sure it’s still spreadable.

So that’s our whole thing. They’re not allowing phone calls certain days because they’re saying, “Oh they have to clean them,” which they’re not cleaning. The inmates are doing it themselves. They’re using their own cleaning supplies to clean the phones to make sure they’re not catching COVID because the C.O.s aren’t doing it. And that’s pretty much it.

Oh yeah and then they’re holding packages in store. I mean how are they going to eat if they’re only getting cheese and crackers. How are they gonna, you know, their immune systems, how are they gonna be strong enough to fight something as COVID? So that’s pretty much it.

UCI: Yeah. Thank you so much. Is there anything else you would like to share about you or how it’s affecting you? I know it’s your loved one.

Caller: Yeah it is my loved one and it’s just super stressful, the fact that you’re not getting what you need to eat. I mean, he’s- hold on, sorry I thought I heard my daughter crying.

UCI: No worries.

Caller: He’s lucky enough to be able to have money on his books to be able to eat but they’re keeping their store from them. They’re not allowing them to go to store. So just the constant stressing of, “Oh my god he’s not eating,” “Oh my god he has COVID.” It’s just- it’s been very very very stressful.

And the fact of how they’re just releasing people back into other sections of the prison and who knows if they don’t have COVID? I mean these C.O.s are walking around positive with no masks and yelling at inmates to wear their masks, but they’re not following protocol either.

So I think- it’s been super super stressful and we went a long time without him catching it, but it’s just the lack of care for the C.O.s because at the end of the day they really don’t care about the inmates. I mean they are people too, no matter who, you know, what their crime, what they’re in there for. So, it’s just a sad situation.

UCI: Yeah. Is there anything you would like to say about reduced visitation and how that’s been hard? Or phone calls?

Caller: It’s been very hard, especially because we do have a two-year-old and we were only going up there twice a month. So he got busted when I was almost due, so I mean these visits, we cherished. We loved them, I mean my daughter knows who her dad is but, I mean she is two years old so, those little bit of visits we did have it was- she was shy at first but she would warm up to her dad.

Now it’s just like, when I talk about him she’s just like, “No I don’t want to go to daddy.” So now that we’re finally gonna get our first video visit this Sunday, and I’m trying to get her excited about her dad again. She’s like “No I don’t want to,” and that’s heartbreaking. And I know we put her- he put himself in that situation, but it’s just very hard on the kids. I can deal with it, it’s just- it’s sad to see my daughter, you know, react like that.

UCI: Mhm.

Caller: So, yeah. It’s been hard.

UCI. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing. If there’s anything else, again, you’d like to say, feel free to mention anything.

Caller: That is it. It’s just very sad and negligent. The prison- the prison has um- the- to these inmates. It’s just really sad. And it’s sad that they don’t want to admit to anything. They think they’re doing nothing wrong. And it’s just- how is the outbreak happening? The inmates don’t go anywhere. I mean they’re bringing it in and nothing’s being done and it’s just sad. But that’s it.

UCI: Well thank you very much for participating in PrisonPandemic, and I’m really glad that you got our phone number. Please consider telling anyone you know that could be useful to give information. Tell anyone you know about us and if they would like to call in.

Caller: Okay.

UCI: Thank you so much.

Caller: Thank you so much for hearing me out. Thank you.

UCI: Of course! Bye.

Caller: Have a good night. Bye bye.

11/20
No mask on
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No mask on

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Centinela.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

To whom it may concern,

I am an inmate at Centinela State Prison in California. My family gave me your information and told me that I should write to you. I tried filing grievance and appeals to CDCR even sending them to the Office of Appeals in Sacramento. The department has completely ignored the time restraints regarding appeals and haven’t respond at all. I have log numbers for these appeals as proof.

None of the corrections officers or staff here at Centinela practice social distancing. They all sit right next to each other on the same benches, in the same little offices, at the podiums, most of the time with no masks on. I am writing this to you even though I fear retaliation from the correction officers if they read it. They say taking away all our family contact is for our physical health, what about our mental health? Isn’t that just as important? Someone has already tried killing themselves on this yard during this pandemic.

We haven’t seen our families in over eight months. And just last week out of nowhere, they took away more of our phone calls. I asked the assistant warden, “Why are you doing this? Isn’t the CDCR supposed to be helping us maintain our family connections? So that I can be apart of my children’s life so hopefully they won’t grow up to be criminals and I can break that cycle?” He told me, “Use a pen and paper to communicate with your children and that having no visit is a small sacrifice.”

Hearing this come from an assistant warden just shows me that the CDCR cares nothing about our mental health, our family connection, our rehabilitations, none of that. They say they took the phone calls because between each call the phones needed to be sanitized for 10 minutes. But they don’t sanitize the showers for 10 minutes between each use. Not at all in fact. They don’t sanitize the work bars 10 minutes between each use. No, they only target the phones and our family contact.

Are they just waiting for people to kill themselves? Family is the reason I behave, the reason I strive towards rehabilitation, the only thing to look forward to and they continue to take that away. They enforce all these COVID rules on us, so much so that we can’t see or talk to our families. But the correction officers don’t have to wear their masks, don’t have to social distance, and they are the ones who will be bringing in COVID, not us.

I feel like they are violating our human right to a family and creating a cruel and unusual environment. They haven’t even given us cleaner for the phones or anyone assigned to clean them between each use. They just took the phones. Inmates are forced to go to indoor assignments with staff from the outside who can easily have COVID or they will be disciplined. I haven’t been given any disinfectant once for myself since the start of this pandemic. Anyways, thanks for your time, concern, and for listening.

Take care, God bless.

No mask on

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02/21
Absurd orders
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Absurd orders

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Centinela.

I say this, cause once the prison went on lockdown and voluntary COVID tests became mandatory and quarantine was being prolonged approximately 40 days. I knew in my spirit that the powers that be were now taking all advantages during this pandemic as an opportunity.

I’ve filed multiple grievances stating their preventive measures aren’t adequate to stop the spread. Even medical personnel agreed yet nobody wanted to bring their concerns to the right authorities. I became a target to silence and witnessed systematic manipulation rehearsed and transpire before me by attacking my rehabilitation with rule violation reports to deem me a program failure.

I witnessed the guards influence medical personnel to implement absurd orders to justify their cause using medical as a crutch. I’ve been moved around several times and even put in medical isolation without any medical diagnosis, exposure, or positive COVID test results. I thank God, I haven’t tested positive due to speaking up.

I take my life serious and health to me is very important. Positive inmates are being housed with negative inmates. I’ve been put in cells that wasn’t thoroughly cleansed prior to me moving in.

We wore P.I.A.-made cloth mask for approximately nine months. Guards and free staff wasn’t required to wear mask until eight months of being in the pandemic. We are currently under mandatory issue of N-95 mask, while some of the guard in our housing units constantly aren’t wearing mask and wearing surgical mask.

It’s traumatic to hear a guard say, “Everybody will eventually have it in jail.” I’m paranoid to a degree daily, not knowing if the person I live with antibodies have worn off and if he can possibly pass it on to others and even me. Out of 173 inmates in my unit, only 20 inmates was negative including me.

I don’t like that certain staff act like the inmates are a threat to their health and safety when they are the ones constantly in contact with the outside public, giving access to come and go within the facility.

The full story

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Centinela. Click the play button again to hear their full story.

I am more than honored to give a voice and share my personal experience as a current incarcerated inmate in hopes not only bring positive reform but a change to the core of the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation to manifest.

As someone with a very distinguished voice and strong personality, it has been a blessing and a curse at various times. I say this, cause once the prison went on lockdown and voluntary COVID tests became mandatory and quarantine was being prolonged approximately 40 days. I knew in my spirit that the powers that be were now taking all advantages during this pandemic as an opportunity.

I’ve filed multiple grievances stating their preventive measures aren’t adequate to stop the spread. Even medical personnel agreed yet nobody wanted to bring their concerns to the right authorities. I became a target to silence and witnessed systematic manipulation rehearsed and transpire before me by attacking my rehabilitation with rule violation reports to deem me a program failure.

I witnessed the guards influence medical personnel to implement absurd orders to justify their cause using medical as a crutch. I’ve been moved around several times and even put in medical isolation without any medical diagnosis, exposure, or positive COVID test results. I thank God, I haven’t tested positive due to speaking up.

I take my life serious and health to me is very important. Positive inmates are being housed with negative inmates. I’ve been put in cells that wasn’t thoroughly cleansed prior to me moving in.

We wore P.I.A.-made cloth mask for approximately nine months. Guards and free staff wasn’t required to wear mask until eight months of being in the pandemic. We are currently under mandatory issue of N-95 mask, while some of the guard in our housing units constantly aren’t wearing mask and wearing surgical mask.

It’s traumatic to hear a guard say, “Everybody will eventually have it in jail.” I’m paranoid to a degree daily, not knowing if the person I live with antibodies have worn off and if he can possibly pass it on to others and even me. Out of 173 inmates in my unit, only 20 inmates was negative including me.

I don’t like that certain staff act like the inmates are a threat to their health and safety when they are the ones constantly in contact with the outside public, giving access to come and go within the facility.

We started getting video visits, but that didn’t last long. Any time they get a new positive test result, we’re back on quarantine lockdown. We have no access to self-help groups, religious services, certain jobs, and outside yard activities such as basketball, cards, handball.

We only go out once a week for an hour. No dayroom and they have restrictions on phone use. Fifteen minutes once a week, while 10-minute disinfected waiting period in between calls.

What’s sad is, prisons in other states have reported they’ve given inmates canteen free without charge. Free phone calls, extra quarterly packages, and outside food sales. We was getting free phone calls three, four times a week but it turned into only twice a month.

If the free phone call falls on the weekend A2-B classified inmates aren’t allowed to use the phone. People who refuse to COVID test aren’t allowed the privilege of two packages.

Out of state prisoners are also getting time off their sentences. California is the pharaoh type in the bible who didn’t want to let the Hebrews go. I’ve heard the rumors of that inmates was to be released due to the pandemic but that has yet to be witnessed. But maybe in those prisons that have had multiple deaths due to Covid cases like San Quentin, Chino, and Lancaster.

I haven’t had a visit and I’ve lost my grandmother and cousin within a week apart, without a courtesy emergency call to make to this day. My family don’t have funds for the phone so I rely on letters, which are constantly taking long periods of time for multiple reasons.

I sense no sympathy or compassion cause most guards have trained their eyes to only see the flaws in us instead of the best. Good behavior isn’t rewarded but earned. I’m constantly wondering will I make it home alive to my family safe, with a few years to do.

I have to deal with politics and being involved with other people’s drama that I have to constantly dodge. On top of all that I have to deal with the authorities who don’t mind making my time and days miserable because they don’t like me. Trouble really do follow people and I know to those who never experienced first hand, may wonder how!?

God got my best interest in mind and I trust Him to help me get through these dark valleys as I learn to keep depending on Him and not my own efforts, understanding, and strength. I pray that many will arise and awake to the realization that God is ruler in the kingdom of men and He is on the throne. I pray many will be at peace during these times with faith and love too.

12/20
Nobody regulates
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Nobody regulates

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Centinela.

To Whom It May Concern:

I wrote to you before. My family said I should write you even though I dont know if it will make any difference. But some new things have happened since I wrote last.

Wearing masks for inmates is mandatory like I think it is everywhere else. Even though it isnt for the correctional officers, and if it is nobody is regulating that, and they are the ones who will be bringing covid into the prison. I am threatened daily with disciplinary action if I dont wear my mask and I even saw a lieutenant threaten physical violence to someone for not wearing their mask properly. And there is no way in the world that I can tell a correctional officer to put their mask on right even though they are more likely to have covid than me.

Well they have been giving us cloth masks, which are fine, because they can be washed after yard and things like that. But now N95 masks are mandatory but they only give us one, and they cant be washed. So after my mask gets all sweaty, wet, and dirty from yard, I am forced to wear it again and again, while its old soiled and probably growing bacteria.

They also changed the way they have been feeding us. I know its illegal! Even if we are just inmates you cant feed us like that. The trays are made at least an hour before they are given to us. Sitting there at room temperature with fish, chicken, cheese, etc. on them Im sure growing bacteria. But nobody regulates this they do whatever they want, and get away with it!

This is all on top of not being able to see or talk to our families for almost a year because of no visits. Then they took more of our phone calls away for ÒcleaningÓ supposedly but they dont even clean the showers. I havent been given anything to clean my cell with since the start of this pandemic!

All this combined is cruel and unusual punishment. I want to file an appeal stating all of this, but Ive found that appealing to CDCR is useless because they are the ones inflicting the cruel and unusual punishment.

They want help, they just try to sweep it under rug. Also I fear retaliation. They will get me in trouble for other things and say it has nothing to do with the appeal, but what they do will be direct retaliation for an appeal. I fear what they will do if they read what I am writing you here. But Im sick of it!

People need to know what is happening at Centinela State Prison. Thank you for your time.

Nobody regulates

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01/21
Don’t wanna see dad
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Don’t wanna see dad

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This story was told by a person who has a loved one at Centinela.

UCI: Is there anything that you’d like to say about reduced visitation and how that’s been hard or phone calls…

Caller: It’s been very hard, especially because we do have a two-year-old and we were only going up there twice a month. So he got busted when I was almost due, so I mean these visits, we cherished. We loved them, I mean my daughter knows who her dad is but, I mean she is two years old so, those little bit of visits we did have it was- she was shy at first but she would warm up to her dad.

Now it’s just like, when I talk about him she’s just like, “No I don’t want to go to daddy.” So now that we’re finally gonna get our first video visit this Sunday, and I’m trying to get her excited about her dad again. She’s like “No I don’t want to,” and that’s heartbreaking. And I know we put her- he put himself in that situation, but it’s just very hard on the kids. I can deal with it, it’s just- it’s sad to see my daughter, you know, react like that.

UCI: Mhm.

Caller: So, yeah. It’s been hard.

The full story

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This story was told by a person who has a loved one at Centinela. Click the play button again to hear their full story.

Caller: I’m calling regarding my loved one at Centinela State Prison. He actually got COVID due to negligence due to the C.O.s testing positive and still able to work. Just because they’re not showing symptoms, they were still able to work. So there was an outbreak at Centinela in November, December I believe, and my husband was one of them. Let’s see, the C.O.s aren’t wearing any masks. Let’s see, the food is being prepared by the C.O.s so they’re getting just cheese and crackers most days. So my whole thing is, can I give names of the C.O.s or no?

UCI: If you want to you can. Again, we’re gonna have a team that goes over and listens to it and sees if they think it should be taken out. Then they can decide that.

Caller: Okay and then my husband was on quarantine for almost a month, I think actually over a month. And they never retested him, the doctor just cleared him. So our whole thing is you’re just releasing people back into dorms that are- or buildings that don’t have COVID but how do you know they don’t still carry it? And it’s- I’m sure it’s still spreadable.

So that’s our whole thing. They’re not allowing phone calls certain days because they’re saying, “Oh they have to clean them,” which they’re not cleaning. The inmates are doing it themselves. They’re using their own cleaning supplies to clean the phones to make sure they’re not catching COVID because the C.O.s aren’t doing it. And that’s pretty much it.

Oh yeah and then they’re holding packages in store. I mean how are they going to eat if they’re only getting cheese and crackers. How are they gonna, you know, their immune systems, how are they gonna be strong enough to fight something as COVID? So that’s pretty much it.

UCI: Yeah. Thank you so much. Is there anything else you would like to share about you or how it’s affecting you? I know it’s your loved one.

Caller: Yeah it is my loved one and it’s just super stressful, the fact that you’re not getting what you need to eat. I mean, he’s- hold on, sorry I thought I heard my daughter crying.

UCI: No worries.

Caller: He’s lucky enough to be able to have money on his books to be able to eat but they’re keeping their store from them. They’re not allowing them to go to store. So just the constant stressing of, “Oh my god he’s not eating,” “Oh my god he has COVID.” It’s just- it’s been very very very stressful.

And the fact of how they’re just releasing people back into other sections of the prison and who knows if they don’t have COVID? I mean these C.O.s are walking around positive with no masks and yelling at inmates to wear their masks, but they’re not following protocol either.

So I think- it’s been super super stressful and we went a long time without him catching it, but it’s just the lack of care for the C.O.s because at the end of the day they really don’t care about the inmates. I mean they are people too, no matter who, you know, what their crime, what they’re in there for. So, it’s just a sad situation.

UCI: Yeah. Is there anything you would like to say about reduced visitation and how that’s been hard? Or phone calls?

Caller: It’s been very hard, especially because we do have a two-year-old and we were only going up there twice a month. So he got busted when I was almost due, so I mean these visits, we cherished. We loved them, I mean my daughter knows who her dad is but, I mean she is two years old so, those little bit of visits we did have it was- she was shy at first but she would warm up to her dad.

Now it’s just like, when I talk about him she’s just like, “No I don’t want to go to daddy.” So now that we’re finally gonna get our first video visit this Sunday, and I’m trying to get her excited about her dad again. She’s like “No I don’t want to,” and that’s heartbreaking. And I know we put her- he put himself in that situation, but it’s just very hard on the kids. I can deal with it, it’s just- it’s sad to see my daughter, you know, react like that.

UCI: Mhm.

Caller: So, yeah. It’s been hard.

UCI. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing. If there’s anything else, again, you’d like to say, feel free to mention anything.

Caller: That is it. It’s just very sad and negligent. The prison- the prison has um- the- to these inmates. It’s just really sad. And it’s sad that they don’t want to admit to anything. They think they’re doing nothing wrong. And it’s just- how is the outbreak happening? The inmates don’t go anywhere. I mean they’re bringing it in and nothing’s being done and it’s just sad. But that’s it.

UCI: Well thank you very much for participating in PrisonPandemic, and I’m really glad that you got our phone number. Please consider telling anyone you know that could be useful to give information. Tell anyone you know about us and if they would like to call in.

Caller: Okay.

UCI: Thank you so much.

Caller: Thank you so much for hearing me out. Thank you.

UCI: Of course! Bye.

Caller: Have a good night. Bye bye.

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