CIW

CALIFORNIA INSTITUTION FOR WOMEN IS LOCATED IN CORONA, CA,
HOUSING 1,619 PEOPLE.

Since March 2020, there have been 490 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 1 death, at this facility.

Stories from CIW

12/20
Fear of relocating
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Fear of relocating

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women).

On December 1st, I was at my job where I work construction and I felt my body completely shut down. I knew the instant I was sick. That night I had a high fever, chills, and body aches but did not report my symptoms to the staff for fear of relocating me to another part of the prison where the living conditions are filthy and not to mention unsanitary.

Well to my surprise, the housing unit where I am living got tested for COVID-19 the very next day. While outside of my cell, I noticed lots of inmates were real sick and just like me, they were scared to speak up because no one wants to move to that filthy place here in the prison.

On December 5th at 8:30 p.m., one of the sergeants came to my cell window and told me to pack my stuff because I had tested positive for the coronavirus. I was moved to a place in the prison where they only allow you to shower on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and when I was able to shower that Monday, the water was freezing cold. No hot water. This part of the prison is called CTC. The rooms there are so cold it’s impossible to get from under your covers.

The full story

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women). Click the play button again to hear their full story.

December 17th, 2020

Hello students of UC Irvine. I received your letter from the PrisonPandemic project and immediately was interested in writing back.

On December 1st, I was at my job where I work construction and I felt my body completely shut down. I knew the instant I was sick. That night I had a high fever, chills, and body aches but did not report my symptoms to the staff for fear of relocating me to another part of the prison where the living conditions are filthy and not to mention unsanitary.

Well to my surprise, the housing unit where I am living got tested for COVID-19 the very next day. While outside of my cell, I noticed lots of inmates were real sick and just like me, they were scared to speak up because no one wants to move to that filthy place here in the prison.

On December 5th at 8:30 p.m., one of the sergeants came to my cell window and told me to pack my stuff because I had tested positive for the coronavirus. I was moved to a place in the prison where they only allow you to shower on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and when I was able to shower that Monday, the water was freezing cold. No hot water. This part of the prison is called CTC. The rooms there are so cold it’s impossible to get from under your covers.

On Tuesday, December 8th, I was moved to that place in the prison where no one wants to come. This part of the prison is called RC. While living here in RC, the room the officers put me in was filthy! It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in over a year. There was no mattress so me and another girl that was moved here with me had to grab one from this closet and that was filthy!

I saw what looked like rat poop on the floor. The mattress was so dirty it took me 20 minutes just to clean it good enough to put on a sheet. The doctor that I saw in CTC said I was to be quarantined for two weeks which should mean that I’ll be leaving here in two days. I forgot to mention that the screen in my room has huge holes big enough for a small animal to climb in my room and my window is broken. It doesn’t close all the way. Needless to say I freeze every night.

One of the questions you guys had in your letter was how do you feel about your safety inside? My safety is in danger obviously, I caught the virus.

I have witnessed messed up things in here. Some of the officers refused to wear a mask. Even if you ask them, they will not put one on. From my window where I’m housed at I can see the culinary docks. I witness every day officers and inmates not wearing a mask and when I see a few officers together almost always they don’t have their masks on. It’s usually around their chin!

Times have been hard in here. Officers demand us to wear masks or we will get a disciplinary report. But they can be without it. It is not fair. On top of everything it’s been extremely stressful to not be able to see my family.

I’m hoping to return to general population in two days. They have not tested me again since Saturday the 5th so my fingers are crossed. Thank you for letting me share my story.

Sincerely,

[redacted]

12/20
Easy to catch
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Easy to catch

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women).

Hi, me being locked up I never knew that something this bad will happen. I was doing my prison time at a [redacted] and it held about 100 to 200 inmates. They had shut down the prison due to Governor Newsom wanting to support private prisons, but me doing my time there was very stressful.

It all started with one staff member getting sick. Mind you it was four dorms that held about 75 people. It was six rows that held seven beds that was only two feet apart from each other, so it was no way we could of did the six feet apart because the person who is right across from me could been sick. So it was very easy for me to catch the virus.

Mind you we is living inside of a dorm packed together like sardines sharing the same phone. It was about four phone booths. And also when we go to the chow hall, about four people can sit at a table. So during this outbreak, they still let four people sit at a table when it should have been one person per table just like it should of have been two people per row of where we sleep.

So one day these inmates got ill so news got back that she has caught COVID-19 mind you she is inside of the unit I in. So once she has caught it everybody in the unit started to fall ill. One by one people will get called out to be told that they tested positive. Row by row they was packing people’s property so it was only about three rows left.

When I remember the person who was staying in my row said he said [redacted] we are next in I had told him don’t think like that. We are OK. At the time they did give us cleaning supplies like Fabuloso, Windex, hand sanitizer, and every other day they will spray the bathroom down with bleach, and I told her I said we will be OK. We clean our area too much to get sick.

The full story

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women). Click the play button again to hear their full story.

Hi, me being locked up I never knew that something this bad will happen. I was doing my prison time at a [redacted] and it held about 100 to 200 inmates. They had shut down the prison due to Governor Newsom wanting to support private prisons, but me doing my time there was very stressful.

It all started with one staff member getting sick. Mind you it was four dorms that held about 75 people. It was six rows that held seven beds that was only two feet apart from each other, so it was no way we could of did the six feet apart because the person who is right across from me could been sick. So it was very easy for me to catch the virus.

Mind you we is living inside of a dorm packed together like sardines sharing the same phone. It was about four phone booths. And also when we go to the chow hall, about four people can sit at a table. So during this outbreak, they still let four people sit at a table when it should have been one person per table just like it should of have been two people per row of where we sleep.

So one day these inmates got ill so news got back that she has caught COVID-19 mind you she is inside of the unit I in. So once she has caught it everybody in the unit started to fall ill. One by one people will get called out to be told that they tested positive. Row by row they was packing people’s property so it was only about three rows left.

When I remember the person who was staying in my row said he said [redacted] we are next in I had told him don’t think like that. We are OK. At the time they did give us cleaning supplies like Fabuloso, Windex, hand sanitizer, and every other day they will spray the bathroom down with bleach, and I told her I said we will be OK. We clean our area too much to get sick.

So one day it was about 2:00 at night. I was knocked out asleep, I just woke up and sit up in the bed and I felt very nauseous so I ran to the bathroom and started gagging, and the [redacted] asked me was I OK, and I told him I felt ill.

So the next morning I go to the nurse’s office and she asked me what is going on. Mind you before I had went to sleep I had been crying my eyes out for hours. And I had not been eating so I told the nurse that and she said that it must be stress so I told her I will try to eat something. So the next couple of days just had started to get worse for me. I had got a pounding headache and I had lost my smell, I lost weight, I was about 116 pounds. I am already a small women. I am about [redacted] and I did not like the smell of food.

I couldn’t get up so I prayed to God. I asked him for help and my roommate had tested positive for the virus and they had moved all of the sick people to one dorm for recovery well, my health is back to normal I like to eat. I am [redacted] praise God and they tested me for COVID-19 and I am negative. But the scary part about right now, as I speak, I am at a new prison called CIW and I have only been here for [redacted] and someone had tested positive for COVID-19.

I don’t want to get sick again. This pandemic cause a little trauma for me, but with God by my side I will, we will, the whole world will be OK. I hope my story helps you a lot and may the blood of Jesus protect you for any illness, danger, or harm.

May peace, love, and joy be with you. Bye.

12/20
Pesticides
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Pesticides

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women).

Today with this COVID-19, it has been quite scary! It is a living thing and with my COPD I have a huge concern. I had a job here working in the kitchen. I worked from 5 a.m. to 9 or later! I was considered a critical worker. At that point I became very scared. I was thinking that I didn’t want to go to work, much less come out of my room. Then I prayed to God and I became at ease.

A week or so later, one of the cooks that came in here to work, came in infected with COVID. At that time, the inmates that worked around that stall were put on quarantine! Let me say that for the record, a lot of people were not wearing their masks properly, nor practicing social distance! You run into and bump into people all the time! I just mentioned to my boss that I was scared to be at work. Then I was told, “if I do not go to work during the pandemic, I would be written up.” I am growing more concerned as more people get COVID! Then I was put on quarantine because of my job and the staff came in with it.

During my quarantine, they decided to spray inside and outside of the unit for bugs with pesticides. Everybody in that unit was able to go outside, however, me and my bunkee were not. They said that because we were quarantined. I strongly said, “I can not be in here while they spray because I have COPD.” Well, they didn’t care and left me in my room! As soon as I could smell the pesticides, I began coughing and choking with a thick saliva (COPD) and I had a medical emergency.

When I was taken out to the TTA, the nurse asked me why did they leave me in the room? I said, “I didn’t have a key to get myself out,” and the staff just said, “No”! So now I get off quarantine and I am scared to go back to work. But I must go or I will get in trouble! One day at work, I ask one of the managers (a man) for a towel to clean, and in his office, he grabs me and rapes me. Then he threatened me that if I told he would hit me and I would go to jail and get a write up. It’s one thing after another at this point.

The full story

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women). Click the play button again to hear their full story.

Dear UCI student,

I have been locked up in prison since 1998, serving a 19 to life sentence. I have one daughter and she is now 29 years old. When I came to prison she was so young and I could not share with her the why’s. It was hard for me to leave her! Today, I am so close to getting a date to parole and go home.

So every person gets older in life, we all tend to get sick in some kind of way or fashion! Some not at all! I have come down with a lot of things. Some of it is due to being in prison. I got sick from eating off dirty trays from the kitchen. I also have COPD from smoking for so many years! I have had several surgeries as well. At times of being sick, I have felt as if I was going to die because sometimes when you put in a co-pay to be seen and are sick, they sometimes do not take you seriously. I’m sure it’s because some fake it just to get out of programming!

Today with this COVID-19, it has been quite scary! It is a living thing and with my COPD I have a huge concern. I had a job here working in the kitchen. I worked from 5 a.m. to 9 or later! I was considered a critical worker. At that point I became very scared. I was thinking that I didn’t want to go to work, much less come out of my room. Then I prayed to God and I became at ease.

A week or so later, one of the cooks that came in here to work, came in infected with COVID. At that time, the inmates that worked around that stall were put on quarantine! Let me say that for the record, a lot of people were not wearing their masks properly, nor practicing social distance! You run into and bump into people all the time! I just mentioned to my boss that I was scared to be at work. Then I was told, “if I do not go to work during the pandemic, I would be written up.” I am growing more concerned as more people get COVID! Then I was put on quarantine because of my job and the staff came in with it.

During my quarantine, they decided to spray inside and outside of the unit for bugs with pesticides. Everybody in that unit was able to go outside, however, me and my bunkee were not. They said that because we were quarantined. I strongly said, “I can not be in here while they spray because I have COPD.” Well, they didn’t care and left me in my room! As soon as I could smell the pesticides, I began coughing and choking with a thick saliva (COPD) and I had a medical emergency.

When I was taken out to the TTA, the nurse asked me why did they leave me in the room? I said, “I didn’t have a key to get myself out,” and the staff just said, “No”! So now I get off quarantine and I am scared to go back to work. But I must go or I will get in trouble! One day at work, I ask one of the managers (a man) for a towel to clean, and in his office, he grabs me and rapes me. Then he threatened me that if I told he would hit me and I would go to jail and get a write up. It’s one thing after another at this point.

Not being able to have any visits and see my family was getting really hard to deal with because of the COVID, and now after all this I’ve been through, I could not see my family for support or anything, I was feeling at my lowest. I was scared to talk and say anything due to all the things happening in here! Awhile after this happened, I finally broke down crying one day when I saw my mental health doctor! My safety inside prison is not feeling very safe, In more ways than one! There is no protection or safety at all in here. This has been the worse year in prison for me.

I will be glad when I get to see my family again! I have suffered too much in the past year! There should be no excuse for what has happened to me. But I am strong today because I have God in my heart and in my life. I don’t know where I would be right now without him. Thank you Jesus! Amen. I have reported what happened to me. I am not receiving any mental health or anything. I just continue to pray and stay close to God! You never know what someone is going through in here. They cannot protect me in here and I have done more than my time. I am a better and changed person! I would tell everybody that is locked up to keep God close to them at all times. It’s the only way you can make it. That goes to everybody in the world as well.

Amen. God bless you.

12/20
No food, no laundry
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No food, no laundry

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women).

And one friend in this prison, an inmate, she passed away from COVID in June. I’m in an outpatient medical unit and we are single-celled. That is the only reason I’m safe out here.

All the general population have cellmates still, and the staff used to crowd up in their offices without masks on. They basically brought it in the prison to the inmates and they are still doing it today. That’s why our warden resigned and one of our correction officers walked off.

It’s terrible here. So all the inmates are quarantined, and that means no food, no laundry, barely any canteen. And we are three months behind on our quarterly packages that we get from outside vendors, because they have no help to pull the orders from the warehouse to the property room.

And then they are opening people’s packages illegally, and then they are trying to tape it back together, and we have no warden to complain to. And the governor is too busy to hear what the hell is going on. So I’m glad you don’t mind. I’m stressed out, and I really needed that.

The full story

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women). Click the play button again to hear their full story.

Thank you for writing me during this low time in my life. I needed to hear from someone from the outside.

During this pandemic, being in this prison is hell. We have 70% of the general population in here as COVID positive. I’m pissed off because I took a total of 18 tests and they all came back negative, all of a sudden.

The unit that I reside in now, I have ‘round the clock medical care while I’m waiting to have surgery. This nurse calls up here and tells the staff to test me and two other inmates that she escorted to the shower because she tested positive for COVID-19. I said, “Are you kidding me?”

So, I had to quarantine for another 14 days, which sucked, when this woman had tested positive once before. I thought this was bullshit. Apparently she knew there could’ve been a chance it could’ve came back when she never vaccinated.

I said, “This is a fearful Christmas. What would I tell my family back in New Jersey that hasn’t seen me in 11 years?” And they know I have underlying conditions. I have a son who is waiting for me to walk out this gate in 2024. Thank God my test came back negative, but being exposed, me and my family members who died this year from COVID-19, I won’t see their faces no more when I get home.

I lost eight family members, all on the East Coast in New Jersey, New York, and Florida.

And one friend in this prison, an inmate, she passed away from COVID in June. I’m in an outpatient medical unit and we are single-celled. That is the only reason I’m safe out here.

All the general population have cellmates still, and the staff used to crowd up in their offices without masks on. They basically brought it in the prison to the inmates and they are still doing it today. That’s why our warden resigned and one of our correction officers walked off.

It’s terrible here. So all the inmates are quarantined, and that means no food, no laundry, barely any canteen. And we are three months behind on our quarterly packages that we get from outside vendors, because they have no help to pull the orders from the warehouse to the property room.

And then they are opening people’s packages illegally, and then they are trying to tape it back together, and we have no warden to complain to. And the governor is too busy to hear what the hell is going on. So I’m glad you don’t mind. I’m stressed out, and I really needed that.

12/20
Rat poop on floor
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Rat poop on floor

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women).

On Tuesday December 8th, I was moved to that place in the prison where no one wants to come. This part of the prison is called RC. While living here in RC, the room the officers put me in was filthy! It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in over a year. There was no mattress so me and another girl that was moved here with me had to grab one from this closet and that was filthy!

I saw what looked like rat poop on the floor. The mattress was so dirty it took me 20 minutes just to clean it good enough to put on a sheet. The doctor that I saw in CTC said I was to be quarantined for two weeks which should mean that I’ll be leaving here in two days. I forgot to mention that the screen in my room has huge holes big enough for a small animal to climb in my room and my window is broken. It doesn’t close all the way. Needless to say I freeze every night.

The full story

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women). Click the play button again to hear their full story.

December 17th, 2020

Hello students of UC Irvine. I received your letter from the PrisonPandemic project and immediately was interested in writing back.

On December 1st, I was at my job where I work construction and I felt my body completely shut down. I knew the instant I was sick. That night I had a high fever, chills, and body aches but did not report my symptoms to the staff for fear of relocating me to another part of the prison where the living conditions are filthy and not to mention unsanitary.

Well to my surprise, the housing unit where I am living got tested for COVID-19 the very next day. While outside of my cell, I noticed lots of inmates were real sick and just like me, they were scared to speak up because no one wants to move to that filthy place here in the prison.

On December 5th at 8:30 p.m., one of the sergeants came to my cell window and told me to pack my stuff because I had tested positive for the coronavirus. I was moved to a place in the prison where they only allow you to shower on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and when I was able to shower that Monday, the water was freezing cold. No hot water. This part of the prison is called CTC. The rooms there are so cold it’s impossible to get from under your covers.

On Tuesday, December 8th, I was moved to that place in the prison where no one wants to come. This part of the prison is called RC. While living here in RC, the room the officers put me in was filthy! It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in over a year. There was no mattress so me and another girl that was moved here with me had to grab one from this closet and that was filthy!

I saw what looked like rat poop on the floor. The mattress was so dirty it took me 20 minutes just to clean it good enough to put on a sheet. The doctor that I saw in CTC said I was to be quarantined for two weeks which should mean that I’ll be leaving here in two days. I forgot to mention that the screen in my room has huge holes big enough for a small animal to climb in my room and my window is broken. It doesn’t close all the way. Needless to say I freeze every night.

One of the questions you guys had in your letter was how do you feel about your safety inside? My safety is in danger obviously, I caught the virus.

I have witnessed messed up things in here. Some of the officers refused to wear a mask. Even if you ask them, they will not put one on. From my window where I’m housed at I can see the culinary docks. I witness every day officers and inmates not wearing a mask and when I see a few officers together almost always they don’t have their masks on. It’s usually around their chin!

Times have been hard in here. Officers demand us to wear masks or we will get a disciplinary report. But they can be without it. It is not fair. On top of everything it’s been extremely stressful to not be able to see my family.

I’m hoping to return to general population in two days. They have not tested me again since Saturday the 5th so my fingers are crossed. Thank you for letting me share my story.

Sincerely,

[redacted]

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