Donovan

RJ DONOVAN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY IS LOCATED IN SAN DIEGO, CA,
HOUSING 3,845 PEOPLE.

Since March 2020, there have been 1,013 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 18 deaths, at this facility.

Stories from Donovan

01/21
System failed
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System failed

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Donovan.

On December 9th we here at RJD experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. It started in unit 1 and 2 on facility A level III-SNY. The administration took the steps necessary at first to try to contain the situation.

They quarantined all those infected in the units 1 and 2, but then free staff in the main kitchen brought in more infections to the inmate workers in units 3, 4, and 5. On December 15th, in my unit alone approximately 30 tested, myself included. By December 17th, the test results return showing that four of the kitchen workers in my unit tested positive!! Along with several others located in units 5 and 3.

At this point the system FAILED. The CDCR did NOTHING WITH THESE INMATES – nor did they rehouse them. They slapped a “red tag” on their doors, and that was it! They were still allowed to come out of their cells, USE THE PHONES, share THE SHOWERS, and TOUCH THE RAILS!!

By 12-17-20 the ENTIRE HOUSING UNIT(S) WERE INFECTED. 3, 4, and 5. The units EXPLODED with COVID-19. Over 500 inmates EXPERIENCED COVID infections (not to mention the pre-existing infections mentioned in units and 2. In my unit 4, I was infected with COVID just two days AFTER TESTING NEGATIVE!!!

The CDCR is lying to the media!! They are releasing numbers that are missing the force of truth, and statistical numbers – because THEY NEVER ACTUALLY CAME BACK TO TEST DURING the OUTBREAK!! What commenced straight after the outbreak WAS THE SINGLE GREATEST HUMANITARIAN CRISIS I WITNESSED IN 30 YEARS OF INCARCERATION.

After the COVID-19 exploded, we witnessed many officers get stricken with COVID (while many others failed to report). Normally there’s approximately 28 to 30 officers per WATCH on every yard – during 12-17-20 and 12-29-20, there WAS NOT MORE than 10 officers in this facility on any watch (that’s five officers to man the gun towers and five officers for 900+ inmates). This prison WAS A GHOST TOWN !

In my unit alone, we lost five inmates, DEAD!! With three more still hospitalized with serious medical concerns. The last three weeks, this prison TOTAL lost over 20+ inmates and the SAME EXPLOSION OCCURRED ON EVERY YARD!! Literally thousands were infected!!!

Now the collapse and failure to PROTECT. On 12-20-20 I personally went man down. I’m 49 years old with chronic asthma and bronchitis. I reported chills, fever, shortness of breath, and vomiting, this occurred at 7:45 p.m.

When the nurse arrived, she did my vitals and mentioned that my oxygen levels were “acceptable” – then shockingly spoke these words: “Mr, we have a packed infirmary, we are overwhelmed, and we can’t do anything for you. They’re not gonna give you medications. I’m suggesting you go back to your cell, lay down, and rest”.

She handed me a BLANK medical refusal form and asked me to sign it – and said she would report it as “food poisoning”!!! And guess what? THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED!! Now this repeated itself with numerous other inmates. As medical alarm after alarm sounded throughout the yards. They knowingly returned me back COVID positive.

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Real quick,

What I’m expressing is the truth no doubt REAL business. So take what you will, and if you choose to use my name or post on PrisonPandemic, cool, but moreover I hope you will POST WITH AMENDUS.ORG AND THE MARSHALL PROJECT. Quickly keep in mind while reading this, I took the liberty of acquiring the many declarations of those inmates willing to step forward as to what they witnessed and survived the first hand! I think we owe it to the families of those that died here.

On December 9th we here at RJD experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. It started in unit 1 and 2 on facility A level III-SNY. The administration took the steps necessary at first to try to contain the situation.

They quarantined all those infected in the units 1 and 2, but then free staff in the main kitchen brought in more infections to the inmate workers in units 3, 4, and 5. On December 15th, in my unit alone approximately 30 tested, myself included. By December 17th, the test results return showing that four of the kitchen workers in my unit tested positive!! Along with several others located in units 5 and 3.

At this point the system FAILED. The CDCR did NOTHING WITH THESE INMATES – nor did they rehouse them. They slapped a “red tag” on their doors, and that was it! They were still allowed to come out of their cells, USE THE PHONES, share THE SHOWERS, and TOUCH THE RAILS!!

By 12-17-20 the ENTIRE HOUSING UNIT(S) WERE INFECTED. 3, 4, and 5. The units EXPLODED with COVID-19. Over 500 inmates EXPERIENCED COVID infections (not to mention the pre-existing infections mentioned in units and 2. In my unit 4, I was infected with COVID just two days AFTER TESTING NEGATIVE!!!

The CDCR is lying to the media!! They are releasing numbers that are missing the force of truth, and statistical numbers – because THEY NEVER ACTUALLY CAME BACK TO TEST DURING the OUTBREAK!! What commenced straight after the outbreak WAS THE SINGLE GREATEST HUMANITARIAN CRISIS I WITNESSED IN 30 YEARS OF INCARCERATION.

After the COVID-19 exploded, we witnessed many officers get stricken with COVID (while many others failed to report). Normally there’s approximately 28 to 30 officers per WATCH on every yard – during 12-17-20 and 12-29-20, there WAS NOT MORE than 10 officers in this facility on any watch (that’s five officers to man the gun towers and five officers for 900+ inmates). This prison WAS A GHOST TOWN !

In my unit alone, we lost five inmates, DEAD!! With three more still hospitalized with serious medical concerns. The last three weeks, this prison TOTAL lost over 20+ inmates and the SAME EXPLOSION OCCURRED ON EVERY YARD!! Literally thousands were infected!!!

Now the collapse and failure to PROTECT. On 12-20-20 I personally went man down. I’m 49 years old with chronic asthma and bronchitis. I reported chills, fever, shortness of breath, and vomiting, this occurred at 7:45 p.m.

When the nurse arrived, she did my vitals and mentioned that my oxygen levels were “acceptable” – then shockingly spoke these words: “Mr, we have a packed infirmary, we are overwhelmed, and we can’t do anything for you. They’re not gonna give you medications. I’m suggesting you go back to your cell, lay down, and rest”.

She handed me a BLANK medical refusal form and asked me to sign it – and said she would report it as “food poisoning”!!! And guess what? THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED!! Now this repeated itself with numerous other inmates. As medical alarm after alarm sounded throughout the yards. They knowingly returned me back COVID positive.

I had anticipated something like this happening here, and back in November had filed with the SD Superior Court on WRIT. But they dismissed my claimed as speculative!! And took no action!!! Human beings DIED!!

In the families that lost their loved ones DESERVE to know the truth! I will never stop until that truth is heard!!! We, all of us in CDCR, remain in at great risk (even if you have contracted COVID-19!!). There is NO IMMUNITY!! Your body only carries the ANTIBODIES for 90 to 120 days! Then you are susceptible ALL OVER AGAIN!!

Especially with the variants STRAINS!!! That vaccine I recommend people take. I almost died in MY CELL. But the truth is, THAT VACCINE ONLY GIVES YOU IMMUNITY for 120 to 150 days!!! From the time the LAST SHOT IS ADMINISTERED!! So you will have to take it TWICE EACH YEAR!! Which is double that of the FLU vaccine!!

So we need to start having serious conversations in SACRAMENTO about releasing offenders. Especially those of us that have been incarcerated some 27 to 30+ years and have paid full retribution for our controlling offense.

I am a non-violent offender (with absolutely no victim) sentenced to 27 to life back in 1994, for simple possession, not use!! I have done the work, been dispo-free now three years, yet got a seven-year denial (pre-COVID-19) back in 9-6-19. And when I petitioned the BPH, they denied the PTA within 72 hours of that time stamp!!!

It’s really incredible. These people are misrepresenting acts, lying to the media, and then blaming us after we have already done the time!!! It’s dehumanizing and lethal as they continue to play games with this virus. I wish everyone to be safe. PEACE.

Chronicles from RJD, LIFER.

10/20
Drawn out process
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Caller: Inmates’ concern – a big concern is not being able to see our families because visitation is shut down.

Guys are worried about one small outbreak spreading to, you know, spreading quickly. Because we don’t know what that will mean for the rest of the yard. I think a big part of it is the additional shock is over.

And the problem is this like continuing – it feels like a drawn out process for a lot of guys. And they’re kind of wanting to get back to normal, just as everybody is. But seeing each other’s family is the biggest issue right now.

UCI: Yeah. That …

Caller: You know.

UCI: … makes sense.

Caller: And, obviously, we can’t do that.

UCI: How has this been affecting your family, if you don’t mind me asking?

Caller: It has been difficult. There has been a lot of change in my family right now. And, without going into too much detail, I don’t know how I will see them in the future.

Because, well, I could have been able to see them before. But, going into the future – if visiting opens up, say, tomorrow or something – then, I won’t be able to see them. So – my family – it’s difficult because there was no like, I guess, closure. And, again, without going into too much detail, but it has been difficult in my family.

One of my close family members – I’m kind of the only person that they go see. So they kind of feel isolated that they can’t go out and see family. Because this particular family member doesn’t have a lot of family in the area. So there was that one connection.

Letters are great. Phone calls are great. But there is still something lost between that face-to-face sit down at a table with someone. So it has been very difficult for my family that is here.

UCI: I’m sorry to hear that.

Caller: Yeah. Well, it’s, you know, that’s the way it is for everybody, unfortunately. You know? Not just people in here.

UCI: Yeah.

Caller: But there’s a lot of guys who want to see their wives, a lot of guys who want to see their parents. Aging population has aging parents.

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UCI: Okay. Thank you so much. Okay. So just kind of basically like you were saying, what are some of your concerns about COVID inside right now?

Caller: Inmates?

UCI: Yes.

Caller: Inmates’ concern – a big concern is not being able to see our families because visitation is shut down.

Guys are worried about one small outbreak spreading to, you know, spreading quickly. Because we don’t know what that will mean for the rest of the yard. I think a big part of it is the additional shock is over.

And the problem is this like continuing – it feels like a drawn out process for a lot of guys. And they’re kind of wanting to get back to normal, just as everybody is. But seeing each other’s family is the biggest issue right now.

UCI: Yeah. That …

Caller: You know.

UCI: … makes sense.

Caller: And, obviously, we can’t do that.

UCI: How has this been affecting your family, if you don’t mind me asking?

Caller: It has been difficult. There has been a lot of change in my family right now. And, without going into too much detail, I don’t know how I will see them in the future.

Because, well, I could have been able to see them before. But, going into the future – if visiting opens up, say, tomorrow or something – then, I won’t be able to see them. So – my family – it’s difficult because there was no like, I guess, closure. And, again, without going into too much detail, but it has been difficult in my family.

One of my close family members – I’m kind of the only person that they go see. So they kind of feel isolated that they can’t go out and see family. Because this particular family member doesn’t have a lot of family in the area. So there was that one connection.

Letters are great. Phone calls are great. But there is still something lost between that face-to-face sit down at a table with someone. So it has been very difficult for my family that is here.

UCI: I’m sorry to hear that.

Caller: Yeah. Well, it’s, you know, that’s the way it is for everybody, unfortunately. You know? Not just people in here.

UCI: Yeah.

Caller: But there’s a lot of guys who want to see their wives, a lot of guys who want to see their parents. Aging population has aging parents.

UCI: Yeah. On a little bit of a different note, could you, maybe, walk me through how everything started in there at your facility like when the news and information first broke about the pandemic? How was everything handled? How did you and, you know, your fellow prisoners react to it?

Caller: Much like the country, it was split between how many people really took it seriously and how many people were on the verge of overreacting. There were people who were like, well, it won’t get in here, so we don’t have anything to worry about.

But, then, once people started realizing that staff coming in – they still go out and participate in life. So them coming in, there was a fear of interaction. A lot of people were annoyed with having to wear the masks and the program changing.

There was a lady named [unintelligible] who supplied the institution with many, many masks. I think it was 5,500.

So she has been a godsend. I don’t know how many people have been protected because she reacted and her people reacted so quickly.

I wouldn’t even say, “reacted.” They responded so quickly. It was – it could have helped more than we know. But there was a fear that kind of nobody really wanted to talk about. Like what happens if it does spread in here? What happens if it does get in here? If we choose not to talk about it, maybe, it won’t happen. I think there was a large percentage of the population who may not have communicated that.

But that was a feeling – a general feeling. Slowly, the programs started getting shut down. And I mean it was like, within a week, we’re gonna social distance and wear masks to we’re gonna break up yards to we’re going to – they thought one building had an outbreak. And it was quarantined for two weeks, I think.

Give or take. And work stations are broken up by buildings now. So, if you have people from all three buildings working at one place, then, one day, one building would come in. The next day, another building would come in. And it would just be on this rotating basis.

So there’s not communication in between the buildings. And, even in the dayrooms, it’s limited.

UCI: And that’s …

Caller: Does that answer your question?

UCI: Yes, that did. And that’s still what it’s like now – is that you guys are on this higher level of just everyone’s divided up and being kept separate. Correct?

Caller: Yeah. For the most part, yes.

In very limited instances, people see each other like – oddly enough, the clinic is somewhere where all the buildings come together.

UCI: Yeah.

Caller: Well, that kind of goes for our time.

UCI: Yes. Yes. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you calling in and being our test call. I’m going to turn off the recording device right now.

12/20
Weekly testing
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Caller: Facility E – at Facility E, here, in R.J.D, we haven’t actually had no outbreaks whatsoever at all. So the testing that they’re doing for their officers and staff, actually, I guess, is working. And we haven’t had no outbreaks. And that’s been the positive thing about the yard here.

UCI: Absolutely. How often would they say that – do you know how often they’re testing staff?

Caller: Well, they were doing it every two weeks. However, a new memo came out. And it said that they’re going to be testing every week now.

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UCI: Perfect. Okay. So the time is now 5:02 p.m. And it is December 1st. So, going forward, what facility are you at?

Caller: I’m at Richard J. Donovan in San Diego, California.

UCI: Awesome. Okay. And then, so let’s get into it. So tell me about your experience going through the pandemic at your facility.

Caller: Okay. Well, actually, I’ve been taking it very hard. Because, prior to COVID-19, I had a – well, I still have my job. But I’m not really going in like I used to. I work as a clerk in the education department. And I also tutor a lot of the students. And I was attending college in the evenings. And I was attending Playwrights, meditation class.

So, now, instead of going to all my programs, now, I’m just stuck in the dayroom with many other individuals that just scream all day across the tier so that I can’t even do my college work. And there’s barely any room to even exercise. So it’s been very, very, very hard to adjust to the COVID-19 in this environment.

UCI: Wow. When did – or it sounds like you guys are locked in the cell most of the day. Am I getting that correct?

Caller: Well, here, at R. J. Donovan, I’m in a facility – it’s a little different over here. I’m in an open dayroom with six-man cells. And we we’re allowed to come out to the dayroom.

However, we’re not really allowed to go out to the yard. Occasionally, they allow us. But, and then, again, it all depends on what’s going on in California regarding the tier system. Right? As of right now, we’re on the purple tier. So, now, we’re also restricted from going outside and getting any type of physical activity. And we need that, you know, to relieve some of the stress that we’re going through.

So, now, instead of me being out and doing positive things, now, I’m like stuck in the dayroom all day with other individuals – some of them that don’t even care about their rehabilitation. You know? So it’s been quite challenging to adjust. We need programs.

UCI: Are you – is your facility kind of just putting everyone in the dayroom altogether, regardless of capacity, and that’s kind of replacing the exercise?

Would you think that’s kind of what they’re trying to do?

Caller: Well, there’s a lot going on in the dayroom. We have six-man cells. And we come out to the dayroom so there’s barely enough room for us to do what we want to do. For example, right now, I’m taking correspondence college courses.

It’s kind of hard to concentrate with all the noise around me – people screaming across the tier – that I’ve actually done a lot worse on my college essays this semester because of that reason. I just – I’m at like a 45% capacity when it comes to concentration – that I receive some of my essays back – I’m like, “Oh, my God. I can’t believe I wrote this.” It’s just I’m not used to writing in that level. I know I’m capable of doing more. But it’s very, very difficult in this environment.

We’re like hamsters. Right? Like in a hamster tank. Right? And there are some people that actually clean and some people that don’t clean. The people that are supposed to be cleaning are not cleaning. Other people voluntarily clean. It’s just very, very, very bad. I’ve really taken it hard.

UCI: What do you mean by “cleaning”? Do you have certain individuals that are assigned to clean or sanitize the dayroom that don’t and so, then, other individuals feel as if they have to take over? Or do you – I mean do the COs or any staff do that?

Caller: That is exactly what is going on right here.

There are individuals that are assigned to those positions that just ain’t doing their job. They just got a bad work ethic. So other people that are, basically, picking up the slack and doing it for them. You know? Me, personally, every time I eat in the dayroom, I actually clean. I clean after myself. And, unfortunately, not everybody does that here. You know? It’s like there’s grown men here. Yeah. Exactly.

UCI: Yeah. How many – have you guys had a lot of outbreaks of COVID-19 at your facility, or have you seen …

Caller: Well …

UCI: … kind of – oh, go ahead.

Caller: Facility E – at Facility E, here, in R.J.D., we haven’t actually had no outbreaks whatsoever at all. So the testing that they’re doing for their officers and staff, actually, I guess, is working. And we haven’t had no outbreaks. And that’s been the positive thing about the yard here.

UCI: Absolutely. How often would they say that – do you know how often they’re testing staff?

Caller: Well, they were doing it every two weeks. However, a new memo came out. And it said that they’re going to be testing every week now.

UCI: That’s very interesting.

So do you find that, in your section, that you have more, I would say, health-conscious or, you know, very aware individuals, comparative to, maybe, the other parts of the facility?

Caller: Well, I know there could be more done, regarding the cleaning. What it is, is certain individuals just don’t pick up after themselves. They’re not really washing their hands.

So but there’s one individual that has actually stepped up and actually is going above and beyond and making sure that all the floors are sprayed and that everything gets cleaned around here. He’s not even assigned to the position.

UCI: That’s great. I mean, you know, definitely, I think, it’s been helping, obviously, with your facility. You know? It’s kind of very rare right now.

But, in regards to, you know, if you get visitations prior to the pandemic or have you seen, you know, how has that been handling, maybe, not being able to see family members or to have any visitation? Can you describe what that’s been like?

Caller: Well, prior to COVID, I was getting visits like once a year, even though, my family lives, predominantly, about three hours away from here.

The rest of my family, they live in Las Vegas. So that’s about a five-hour drive. So that was very difficult for them just to kind of set some time off of work to make it up here – I mean to make it down here from Las Vegas. I’ve been taking it fairly well. I do call home, just to check on my family.

But my parents, they do insist that I call more often. They want to make sure that I’m okay in here.

UCI: That makes sense. Have they given you – I mean have you thought about any like coping strategies because you’re in the dayroom so often and it is affecting your schoolwork? Have you thought of anything – has the facility provided any alternatives?

Caller: No. I did have a study room over in the other section that we would go to to try to get away from the dayroom.

However, because of COVID-19, they don’t want us in groups. So all the rooms are, actually, been shut down because of that. So what I do to cope, I do try to meditate. I also do exercise a lot. I’m really health-conscious. And I do watch what I eat. And I also exercise. And that helps me a lot just to cope with what’s going on.

But, regarding my schoolwork, I’m still slacking. I’m not at full capacity like I’m used to. In my cell, where I live at, I live with five other individuals. And these individuals don’t do nothing. And all they do is talk all day. They talk about a bunch of negative stuff. And I’m just like in the middle of this war zone. And I just –that’s why my knowledge has left. I just can’t believe it. They’re just like talking loud. I don’t do my schoolwork in there. I have to come in the dayroom.

UCI: Right.

Caller: So …

UCI: Have you …

Caller: Yes?

UCI: Oh, no. I was going to say, have you felt like the programs you’ve been a part of, you know, schoolwork and other activities, have you felt those have been negatively impacted because of the pandemic? You know, if you had certain things before. Do you feel like those have been reduced now?

Caller: Well, there’s no more volunteers allowed to come in here. So the college staff cannot come in here no more.

And, also, the other staff that run other groups – for example, I was in Playwrights, where you try to write plays. And they have actors come in and they play them out. They’re like 10-minute plays. And that was a good program for us that have creative minds, in order to write plays. And, at the same time, it was – the program’s set up to where like it helps to become a better person.

You engage in group activities. And, now that that has been taken away, I – it’s been, actually, more difficult. I’m only going to work once a week, on Wednesdays. Because it’s three blocks here. And 23 block goes on Mondays. Wednesdays will be…

And Thursdays will be block 25. But we’ll only go on at – because I work there as a clerk and a tutor.

So only six students at a time, wearing masks, social distancing, and a bit of cleaning. And that has been taken away as of right now because of the purple tier status – if you know what’s going on in California right now.

UCI: Yeah. So you’re down to once a week for work.

That must be quite the change in just the mindset of it. Did they provide any – is there any kind of schedule for how people go back to work, since it’s only once a week? I mean, you know, kind of what are they doing to help?

Caller: No. Well, what they’re doing to help the students where I work at, they’re passing out homework. I’m actually the one that passes it out. And, every two weeks, I pick it up.

01/21
Outrageous
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Caller: I, who has tested on December 15th negative, contracted COVID by December 17th. And I went man down on December 20th at approximately 7:45 p.m. When I went man down, the nurse came and see me, took my vitals and oxygen levels, and she told me, in unknown certain terms, that the infirmary was overloaded with inmates. And that she, there was really nothing that she could do for me.

She couldn’t provide any medication. I told her I was, I couldn’t breathe. I was dizzy, vomiting, had fever, chills. She suggested to me that I go back to my cell and if it got worse to go man down again.

She then did something outrageous. She asked me to file a medical refusal form, which was blank and that she would put in there that I was reporting food poisoning. And then, that’s exactly what she did.

Then sent me back to my housing unit knowing that I was COVID infected. This occurred in this building — unit four — several times. Other inmates experienced the same thing.

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I am here at R.J. Donovan, main facility. On December 12th, December 10th, we had an outbreak of isolated inmates in building one and two with COVID. The CDCR acted appropriately by quarantining the building.

Then it spreaded from free staff from the central kitchen into buildings three, four, and five. We tested in my building four on December 15th. Over 40 inmates tested. Four inmates came back positive for COVID-19 on December 15th.

The CDCR did not remove anybody from the building. They left them here to come out, touch the railing, use the phones, share the showers, walk out, breathe on every inmate. By December 17th, the entire building was infected.

Over 160 inmates. I, who has tested on December 15th negative, contracted COVID by December 17th. And I went man down on December 20th at approximately 7:45 p.m. When I went man down, the nurse came and see me, took my vitals and oxygen levels, and she told me, in unknown certain terms, that the infirmary was overloaded with inmates. And that she, there was really nothing that she could do for me.

She couldn’t provide any medication. I told her I was, I couldn’t breathe. I was dizzy, vomiting, had fever, chills. She suggested to me that I go back to my cell and if it got worse to go man down again.

She then did something outrageous. She asked me to file a medical refusal form, which was blank and that she would put in there that I was reporting food poisoning. And then, that’s exactly what she did.

Then sent me back to my housing unit knowing that I was COVID infected. This occurred in this building — unit four — several times. Other inmates experienced the same thing. And then the outbreak itself was repeating, the cycle was repeating itself on this facility as all five buildings were infected. Over 900-plus inmates.

And this is facts. Most of the infection was coming from free staff in the central kitchen. They were allowing inmates to go to work who were contaminated and they were contaminating our food. This is an ongoing problem right now. And five inmates in my building alone have died since December 15th.

And there was a report of four or three other inmates that are currently under severe critical care in the San Diego hospital right now from my building alone. A release, press release to the San Diego County press, telling them that, you know, 300-400 inmates were infected with COVID-19 which is an outrageous lie. The entire population, and I’ve talked to several inmates on every yard and they’ve also experienced the same thing.

Now, between December 12th and December 20- 29th or the 30th, we have a complete collapse here on this institution. Each yard employs 32 officers per watch. Per watch. And that’s on a normal shift. Between December 12th and December 20- 29th and 30th, there was no more than 10 officers on this yard, on any time, at any watch.

Five officers during, getting the guards hours of these buildings— five buildings— and only five officers for the whole yard on every watch. Trash, trash was stockpiled in front of each housing unit, eight feet high. There was a total collapse. There was no officers, no wardens, nobody wanted to come check on this.

They weren’t even testing anybody at the, during the pinnacle of the outbreak itself. And now we’re still dealing with them. A couple days ago, which was January 3rd, they came around with these panels that they manufactured in the program office telling us to sign them knowing that we’re willingly living amongst COVID-19, that other inmates are infected, and if we don’t sign them we’re going to be moved.

And this is outrageous because we’re forced to sign them relinquishing the CDCR from liability ’cause that’s all they ever cared about. And the problem with that is that if we didn’t sign them, then we were subject to be moved to another contaminated building or contaminated cell from an another infected inmate. Nobody wants to move. Everybody’s hunkered down in their cells.

They’re scared to eat the food. They’re scared to do anything. So, I’m asking that the Marshall Project and AMEND, AMEND, a-m-e-n-d.us.org, get involved immediately here, because several people died and we’re still at risk because, and I almost died in my cell.

And I’m a lifer for a nonviolent crime. I’ve been down the third strike for 27 years. And they’ve done nothing to advance my parole hearing to allow me to show that I’m rehabilitated, and get out of here.

You’ve got guys that are 90 days to the house, and they’re not reviewing them. Everybody here should have an equal opportunity to be reviewed for release because there’s nothing they can do to protect us.

Here at R.J. Donovan we have a total utter collapse. The system failed, people died, and the families that died, the inmates that died of the grieving ones, they need to know the truth. They need to know the truth.

The public needs to know the truth. And this is beyond deplorable what I witnessed. It is a humanitarian crisis. And the public needs to know about that. And you can use my name. I don’t care. I already filed a lawsuit.

I’m in the courts right now. I have several declarations from over 50 inmates. And they’ve seen it too. And I’m encouraging everybody to call this line, so that the public understands they are misrepresenting the facts, the truth, and the statistics.

Between December 15th, and the outbreak at its pinnacle, December 30th, they didn’t even come in doing rounds, they weren’t checking on inmates. My building alone reported over 17 medical duress alarms resulting in critical care. So, this is the facts, it’s not fiction. And I hope that you people were able to, to do something about it.

12/20
Rough on them
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Rough on them

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This story was told by a person incarcerated at Donovan.

UCI: And how has the COVID-19 situation at your facility affected your loved ones?

Caller: Yeah, it’s pretty rough on them out there, too. They’re just as concerned as I am. So, it adds a lot of stress. They don’t work, and they’re not – they don’t have very many funds. I don’t ask them for money. But the biggest thing I think is the stress.

I can say one thing about here at Donovan. At least for this facility, I don’t know, they haven’t brought it here. Nobody seems to have it. Everybody that they test, it comes back negative, or at least that’s what we’re told, if they’re being transparent.

So, it seems like they’ve done a good job of keeping it out of this facility after they knew what it was. I think it just swept through here, but we can’t get the antibody testing done to know if that’s what it was. So, we don’t know if that’s what it was or not.

We can only go by the symptoms that everybody had and how long it took to recover for everybody. There are people here that appealed it and tried to get those antibody tests, and then they told them – they denied them.

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UCI: All right. And what is your current COVID-19 situation at your facility?

Caller: Well, that’s a question I really don’t know. We [unintelligible] last January. I got really, really sick, and I thought I was about to die. I went man down, and they took me to the clinic, and then they brought me back and said, “Oh, you’ll be all right.” Well, the next day I was so bad I thought I was going to die. And I went back, and they took me straight to a hospital I was so bad.

They put me on an IV and pumped me full of fluids and all that, and then they took me and locked me down for two weeks at another facility here at R.J. Donovan and kept me locked down for two weeks. Well, when the two weeks’ quarantine was up, they had told me that I had just type A flu. But I’m telling you it wasn’t the flu.

It doesn’t take three months after being sick to recover. I could hardly walk for the next month and a half at least, you know. And it wasn’t just me. Everybody in this facility was sick. But nobody knew what it was back in January, and nobody would tell us what it was. But that’s what we believe.

UCI: Okay. So, what do you think is troubling or concerning you at this point?

Caller: Well, the concern, I didn’t- the concern is when they still bring people to our yard that’s closed to intake, and they bring other people from other yards or other prisons. We have an EOP mental health facility here. It’s one building, and it houses all the mental health people, right?

Well, we go to the yard with them, and they bring all kinds of people to put in that building, and then they go to the yard with us. They eat in the same chow hall with us. You know, we go to medical together, you know. All the buildings do.

So, our concern is them bringing other people here, and they’re going to give it to us. Now, I’ve never had anything affect me the way this did.

I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. Every muscle in my body hurt for months, and it took a long time to recover. So, I can’t believe that it was the flu, but they won’t tell us that’s what it was. So, we don’t know.

UCI: Oh, wow. And how was COVID-19 handled by your facility at the beginning of the outbreak?

Caller: Well, none of the staff wanted to wear a mask. Nobody really believed in it, that it was that bad and whatever. Now, they’re doing a pretty good job. All the staff are wearing a mask. In fact, it kind of went to overkill because they’ve got us locked down.

We don’t go to the yard. We don’t go to the chow hall. We don’t have any education. We don’t have any self-help groups. We don’t have nothing. So, we’re just completely locked down. I don’t care because I don’t want to get it and die. You know?

UCI: And what would make the situation at your facility better?

Caller: Yeah, that’s a good question. I don’t have the answer. I don’t know that there is anything that we could do other than being more transparent. You know?

One of the worst things that’s happening is because – if you have a medical issue and they have to take you out to a hospital or to a clinic or somewhere, they take you and lock you down in another facility for two weeks, and you lose your housing bed where you’re at. Then they bring you back and put you in another housing unit with other people that you don’t like and you don’t get along with, and you wind up having trouble.

So, a lot of people, they’re not seeking the medical treatment that they need. My neighbor here has had heart problems, and he was told that they needed to take his pacemaker and do some things and take him out to the hospital to do it.

And because he was going to lose the bed he was at and he had been having so many problems with housing with other people for so long, he told them, “No, I’m going to refuse the treatment.” Well, two days later he died in his sleep in the middle of the night because he didn’t want to go get quarantined for two weeks and lose his bed.

So, this is happening to a lot of people. They’re having more serious problems because they won’t seek and get the medical help that they need.

UCI: Wow, that’s such a tragedy. I’m so sorry to hear that. And how has the COVID-19 situation at your facility affected your loved ones?

Caller: Yeah, it’s pretty rough on them out there, too. They’re just as concerned as I am. So, it adds a lot of stress. They don’t work, and they’re not – they don’t have very many funds. I don’t ask them for money. But the biggest thing I think is the stress.

I can say one thing about here at Donovan. At least for this facility, I don’t know, they haven’t brought it here. Nobody seems to have it. Everybody that they test, it comes back negative, or at least that’s what we’re told, if they’re being transparent.

So, it seems like they’ve done a good job of keeping it out of this facility after they knew what it was. I think it just swept through here, but we can’t get the antibody testing done to know if that’s what it was. So, we don’t know if that’s what it was or not.

We can only go by the symptoms that everybody had and how long it took to recover for everybody. There are people here that appealed it and tried to get those antibody tests, and then they told them – they denied them.

UCI: That is not- that’s just troublesome to hear. I’m so sorry about that. And another question: What has it been like for you to have reduced visitations and programming?

Caller: Well, the programming is worse because we need that program. All these little self-help groups, they’re the best. Those are the things we need to get back out there and not come back.
I wish I had known these things that I have learned during this prison time before. I would have never come to prison.

But I really didn’t have the coping skills that I needed to survive out there. There was a lot of things that happened along the way I didn’t know how to cope with, and I made the wrong choices and wound up paying the price for it. So, here I am. But I would have never made those choices. You know? I wouldn’t have blamed anybody else and accepted responsibility for the stupid things I did.

It would have been a completely different – I would have had different behavior because I’d have had a completely character. I’m a completely different person now of who I am than I was then, and it’s all because of the self-help groups and the things that I have learned.

And I’ve almost got my degree so I’m quite proud of a few of my accomplishments.

UCI: Would you say that that’s kind of a coping mechanism you’ve been using throughout this whole pandemic during COVID?

Caller: Yes, and having emotional regulation skills and social skills and a lot of the things that I’ve learned in here have really helped me because so many people have different views, and a lot of people spit venom a lot.

We’re in prison. A lot of people haven’t learned how to act yet. So, it’s how you respond to criticism and respond to any other ignorance in the world around here that really matters. And once you learn how to respond to these things, you become a better person inside and you teach others those same skills.

I’ve found a whole different purpose in life.

UCI: That’s very interesting. Well, I know we only have 60 seconds remaining. Is there anything else you want the people to know about your experience?

Caller: No, I think I covered most of it.

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