San Quentin

CALIFORNIA STATE PRISON, SAN QUENTIN IS LOCATED IN SAN QUENTIN, CA,
HOUSING 4,032 PEOPLE.

Since March 2020, there have been 2,243 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 28 deaths, at this facility.

Stories from San Quentin

11/20
Crowded in here
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Crowded in here

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This story was told by a person incarcerated at San Quentin.

UCI: So, is there anything else that you want people to know about?

Caller: Just the CDCR is not doing, they’re not putting into place or they’re not enforcing the safety and the health wellness protocols that they claim to be. They’re not enforcing their own staff to wear masks or other personal protective equipment.

They’re not – it’s not possible at all in a dormitory to socially distance. And there’s absolutely – if one person gets infected here, because of the asymptomatic period, testing will not – the person will not be tested and found to be positive within a safe amount of time to protect the rest of the inmates.

UCI: So, how many people live together in one dormitory?

Caller: The number varies by 10 or 20 per dorm but like in our dorm for example there are about 95 inmates.

UCI: Ninety-five?

Caller: Yes. And there are typically 200. But since the virus has taken place, they’ve moved out half of the bunk beds and they’ve cut the population in each dorm down by half.

UCI: So, would you say that there is an issue of overpopulation right now in San Quentin?

Caller: Absolutely. It’s been overcrowded here at San Quentin since before the outbreak.

UCI: Since even before?

Caller: Yes. And CDCR has done nothing to quell the overcrowding, even after they claimed to be enforcing social distancing policies of six feet, but they’re not doing anything to perpetuate that.

UCI: Yeah. So … So, have you been tested positive for COVID?

Caller: I have not. There have been some false positives. And but in those cases, the people are not isolated or quarantined for observation until several days after they were tested.

So, like I say, if they really have the virus, then by the time the positive tests came back, everyone else would be already infected.

UCI: Yeah, it’d be too late by then.

Caller: Much too late. The danger in this virus is through the asymptomatic period where you can be contagious and not be showing any symptoms.

That’s what makes this virus so dangerous in my opinion.

UCI: Yeah. So, from the beginning of the outbreak to now, has there been any difference in how they’ve been handling it?

Caller: None whatsoever. The only difference is that when the outbreak first began, they provided us with only cloth face masks. Simple one-layer cloth masks that were handmade by prison industry authority.

But now they are providing us with N95 respirators.

UCI: At least you guys have better masks now.

Caller: Better than nothing.

The full story

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This story was told by a person incarcerated at San Quentin. Click the play button again to hear their full story.

UCI: What facility are you currently housed at?

Caller: I’m sorry?

UCI: What facility are you currently housed at?

Caller: I’m in San Quentin State Prison in H Unit.

UCI: San Quentin, okay. So, how has the COVID situation been at San Quentin?

Caller: Well, after they brought the inmates from Chino and the whole outbreak here started, it was a huge mess. I think there have been about 28 deaths so far. And more than half of the population at one point or another was infected.

UCI: That’s a lot of people infected.

Caller: It is.

UCI: So, has staff been doing anything to help prevent the spread of COVID?

Caller: Essentially, they’re just doing what they’re being – they won’t do anything more than what they’re being forced to do by CDCR, which is the bare minimum. And in lots of cases, they’re not doing what they say they are.

UCI: Oh. So, about what month did COVID start to spread in San Quentin?

Caller: It was I think, my memory on that is not too sure. But I think it happened around May or June.

UCI: Around May or June, okay.

Caller: That was when the infected inmates were transferred here from Chino.

UCI: Oh, so prisoners have been transferring into the facility?

Caller: Yes. And what happened was the reason that that transfer caused the mass infection here at San Quentin is because after …

Well, first of all, the inmates that were transferred here from Chino were not tested for COVID-19 before the transfer. And after they were brought here, they were not quarantined for the mandatory 14 days after they were brought here to San Quentin, they were released into general population right away after arriving here.

UCI: Oh.

Caller: Yes. So, like I said, they were not tested before the transfer. And once they arrived here, they were not quarantined for safety, for observation.

UCI: So, what do you think San Quentin needs to be doing to help stop the spread?

Caller: They are testing us weekly. Every Tuesday around maybe 10:00 or so in the morning we go outside of our dorm where they have tables setup.

And we swab our noses and give the swabs to a nurse who collects them in a vial and sends them out to be processed. They are requiring us to wear N95 face masks. And they will write us up, they will give us a 115 reprimand if we’re not wearing them in common areas such as the day room or on the yard.

UCI: Okay.

Caller: Yes.

UCI: So, how have you been dealing with everything that’s been going on?

Caller: Well, I suffer from bipolar disorder and depression. And one of the first things that happened after the outbreak here at San Quentin was they stopped all medical and mental health appointments that were non-emergency.

That were just routine checkups. They stopped those completely for several months. So, for a while I was not receiving any mental health care.

UCI: Nothing? Like just …?

Caller: Nothing. No checkups. No meetings with the therapist or psychologist.

I was still being provided my mental health medication, my psychiatric medication. But there were no med checks. Nothing to oversee my mental health.

UCI: So, have they resumed health care? Like mental health care? Or is it still not available?

Caller: They have begun seeing us through telehealth. That’s like a webcam meeting with mental health professionals. They have resumed those. Usually on average about once every three months you’re instructed to meet with a mental health professional over telehealth.

UCI: Once every three months?

Caller: But they have reduced somewhat.

UCI: So, you guys only get to see them once every three months?

Caller: Yes. That’s the standard duration for mental health wellness checks.

UCI: So, this … How’s it been affecting you not being able to see your family and loved ones?

Caller: Oh, it’s been stressful both on myself and my family. The telephone service that is used by San Quentin, the Global Tel Link, has provided some free phone calls to us. So, we’re still able to communicate with our loved ones. But it’s been very stressful not being able to see them face to face.

UCI: Yeah, I can understand that.

Caller: Yes.

UCI: So, are there any …? Okay.

Caller: Are there what?

UCI: Are there any like activities for you guys to do, like classes or something?

Caller: No. Programs and classes have all been suspended. I was in the addiction to recovery counseling program, as well as printmaking, and they’re not allowing any programs or classes of any kind to take place right now.

And that’s been in place since about May or June of this year. No classes or programs.

UCI: Whoa, so just nothing?

Caller: No. Virtually no programming of any kind.

UCI: So, is there anything else that you want people to know about?

Caller: Just the CDCR is not doing, they’re not putting into place or they’re not enforcing the safety and the health wellness protocols that they claim to be. They’re not enforcing their own staff to wear masks or other personal protective equipment.

They’re not – it’s not possible at all in a dormitory to socially distance. And there’s absolutely – if one person gets infected here at H unit, because of the asymptomatic period, testing will not – the person will not be tested and found to be positive within a safe amount of time to protect the rest of the inmates.

UCI: So, how many people live together in one dormitory?

Caller: The number varies by 10 or 20 per dorm but like in our dorm for example there are about 95 inmates.

UCI: Ninety-five?

Caller: Yes. And there are typically 200. But since the virus has taken place, they’ve moved out half of the bunk beds and they’ve cut the population in each dorm down by half.

UCI: So, would you say that there is an issue of overpopulation right now in San Quentin?

Caller: Absolutely. It’s been overcrowded here at San Quentin since before the outbreak.

UCI: Since even before?

Caller: Yes. And CDCR has done nothing to quell the overcrowding, even after they claimed to be enforcing social distancing policies of six feet, but they’re not doing anything to perpetuate that.

UCI: Yeah. So … So, have you been tested positive for COVID?

Caller: I have not. There have been some false positives at H unit. And but in those cases, the people are not isolated or quarantined for observation until several days after they were tested.

So, like I say, if they really have the virus, then by the time the positive tests came back, everyone else would be already infected.

UCI: Yeah, it’d be too late by then.

Caller: Much too late. The danger in this virus is through the asymptomatic period where you can be contagious and not be showing any symptoms.

That’s what makes this virus so dangerous in my opinion.

UCI: Yeah. So, from the beginning of the outbreak to now, has there been any difference in how they’ve been handling it?

Caller: None whatsoever. The only difference is that when the outbreak first began, they provided us with only cloth face masks. Simple one-layer cloth masks that were handmade by prison industry authority.

But now they are providing us with N95 respirators.

UCI: At least you guys have better masks now.

Caller: Better than nothing.

UCI: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for calling. Thank you so much for calling us. It’s great to hear all of this about what, everything that’s been going on.

Caller: Thank you for listening.

UCI: It’s be great if you could tell other people to call in and tell us their experience.

Caller: It was actually a friend of mine that received the letter from you that gave the phone number to me and told me to call. So, I will pass this number along to other people.

UCI: Well thank you, that’d be very helpful.

Caller: Yes.

UCI: Okay.

Caller: Absolutely.

UCI: Thank you so much.

Caller: Thank you very much, sir. You have a wonderful day.

UCI: You too.

Caller: All righty. Have a good evening.

UCI: Okay, bye.

Caller: Bye-bye.

05/20
Huge mess
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Huge mess

HEAR THE FULL STORY

This story was told by a person incarcerated at San Quentin.

Caller: Well, after they brought the inmates from Chino and the whole outbreak here started, it was a huge mess. I think there have been about 28 deaths so far. And more than half of the population at one point or another was infected.

UCI: That’s a lot of people infected.

Caller: It is.

UCI: So, has staff been doing anything to help prevent the spread of COVID?

Caller: Essentially, they’re just doing what they’re being – they won’t do anything more than what they’re being forced to do by CDCR, which is the bare minimum. And in lots of cases, they’re not doing what they say they are.

UCI: Oh. So, about what month did COVID start to spread in San Quentin?

Caller: It was I think, my memory on that is not too sure. But I think it happened around May or June.

UCI: Around May or June, okay.

Caller: That was when the infected inmates were transferred here from Chino.

UCI: Oh, so prisoners have been transferring into the facility?

Caller: Yes. And what happened was the reason that that transfer caused the mass infection here at San Quentin is because after …

Well, first of all, the inmates that were transferred here from Chino were not tested for COVID-19 before the transfer. And after they were brought here, they were not quarantined for the mandatory 14 days after they were brought here to San Quentin, they were released into general population right away after arriving here.

UCI: Oh.

Caller: Yes. So, like I said, they were not tested before the transfer. And once they arrived here, they were not quarantined for safety, for observation.

UCI: So, what do you think San Quentin needs to be doing to help stop the spread?

Caller: They are testing us weekly. Every Tuesday around maybe 10:00 or so in the morning we go outside of our dorm where they have tables setup.

And we swab our noses and give the swabs to a nurse who collects them in a vial and sends them out to be processed. They are requiring us to wear N95 face masks. And they will write us up, they will give us a 115 reprimand if we’re not wearing them in common areas such as the day room or on the yard.

The full story

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This story was told by a person incarcerated at San Quentin. Click the play button again to hear their full story.

UCI: What facility are you currently housed at?

Caller: I’m sorry?

UCI: What facility are you currently housed at?

Caller: I’m in San Quentin State Prison in H Unit.

UCI: San Quentin, okay. So, how has the COVID situation been at San Quentin?

Caller: Well, after they brought the inmates from Chino and the whole outbreak here started, it was a huge mess. I think there have been about 28 deaths so far. And more than half of the population at one point or another was infected.

UCI: That’s a lot of people infected.

Caller: It is.

UCI: So, has staff been doing anything to help prevent the spread of COVID?

Caller: Essentially, they’re just doing what they’re being – they won’t do anything more than what they’re being forced to do by CDCR, which is the bare minimum. And in lots of cases, they’re not doing what they say they are.

UCI: Oh. So, about what month did COVID start to spread in San Quentin?

Caller: It was I think, my memory on that is not too sure. But I think it happened around May or June.

UCI: Around May or June, okay.

Caller: That was when the infected inmates were transferred here from Chino.

UCI: Oh, so prisoners have been transferring into the facility?

Caller: Yes. And what happened was the reason that that transfer caused the mass infection here at San Quentin is because after …

Well, first of all, the inmates that were transferred here from Chino were not tested for COVID-19 before the transfer. And after they were brought here, they were not quarantined for the mandatory 14 days after they were brought here to San Quentin, they were released into general population right away after arriving here.

UCI: Oh.

Caller: Yes. So, like I said, they were not tested before the transfer. And once they arrived here, they were not quarantined for safety, for observation.

UCI: So, what do you think San Quentin needs to be doing to help stop the spread?

Caller: They are testing us weekly. Every Tuesday around maybe 10:00 or so in the morning we go outside of our dorm where they have tables setup.

And we swab our noses and give the swabs to a nurse who collects them in a vial and sends them out to be processed. They are requiring us to wear N95 face masks. And they will write us up, they will give us a 115 reprimand if we’re not wearing them in common areas such as the day room or on the yard.

UCI: Okay.

Caller: Yes.

UCI: So, how have you been dealing with everything that’s been going on?

Caller: Well, I suffer from bipolar disorder and depression. And one of the first things that happened after the outbreak here at San Quentin was they stopped all medical and mental health appointments that were non-emergency.

That were just routine checkups. They stopped those completely for several months. So, for a while I was not receiving any mental health care.

UCI: Nothing? Like just …?

Caller: Nothing. No checkups. No meetings with the therapist or psychologist.

I was still being provided my mental health medication, my psychiatric medication. But there were no med checks. Nothing to oversee my mental health.

UCI: So, have they resumed health care? Like mental health care? Or is it still not available?

Caller: They have begun seeing us through telehealth. That’s like a webcam meeting with mental health professionals. They have resumed those. Usually on average about once every three months you’re instructed to meet with a mental health professional over telehealth.

UCI: Once every three months?

Caller: But they have reduced somewhat.

UCI: So, you guys only get to see them once every three months?

Caller: Yes. That’s the standard duration for mental health wellness checks.

UCI: So, this … How’s it been affecting you not being able to see your family and loved ones?

Caller: Oh, it’s been stressful both on myself and my family. The telephone service that is used by San Quentin, the Global Tel Link, has provided some free phone calls to us. So, we’re still able to communicate with our loved ones. But it’s been very stressful not being able to see them face to face.

UCI: Yeah, I can understand that.

Caller: Yes.

UCI: So, are there any …? Okay.

Caller: Are there what?

UCI: Are there any like activities for you guys to do, like classes or something?

Caller: No. Programs and classes have all been suspended. I was in the addiction to recovery counseling program, as well as printmaking, and they’re not allowing any programs or classes of any kind to take place right now.

And that’s been in place since about May or June of this year. No classes or programs.

UCI: Whoa, so just nothing?

Caller: No. Virtually no programming of any kind.

UCI: So, is there anything else that you want people to know about?

Caller: Just the CDCR is not doing, they’re not putting into place or they’re not enforcing the safety and the health wellness protocols that they claim to be. They’re not enforcing their own staff to wear masks or other personal protective equipment.

They’re not – it’s not possible at all in a dormitory to socially distance. And there’s absolutely – if one person gets infected here at H unit, because of the asymptomatic period, testing will not – the person will not be tested and found to be positive within a safe amount of time to protect the rest of the inmates.

UCI: So, how many people live together in one dormitory?

Caller: The number varies by 10 or 20 per dorm but like in our dorm for example there are about 95 inmates.

UCI: Ninety-five?

Caller: Yes. And there are typically 200. But since the virus has taken place, they’ve moved out half of the bunk beds and they’ve cut the population in each dorm down by half.

UCI: So, would you say that there is an issue of overpopulation right now in San Quentin?

Caller: Absolutely. It’s been overcrowded here at San Quentin since before the outbreak.

UCI: Since even before?

Caller: Yes. And CDCR has done nothing to quell the overcrowding, even after they claimed to be enforcing social distancing policies of six feet, but they’re not doing anything to perpetuate that.

UCI: Yeah. So … So, have you been tested positive for COVID?

Caller: I have not. There have been some false positives at H unit. And but in those cases, the people are not isolated or quarantined for observation until several days after they were tested.

So, like I say, if they really have the virus, then by the time the positive tests came back, everyone else would be already infected.

UCI: Yeah, it’d be too late by then.

Caller: Much too late. The danger in this virus is through the asymptomatic period where you can be contagious and not be showing any symptoms.

That’s what makes this virus so dangerous in my opinion.

UCI: Yeah. So, from the beginning of the outbreak to now, has there been any difference in how they’ve been handling it?

Caller: None whatsoever. The only difference is that when the outbreak first began, they provided us with only cloth face masks. Simple one-layer cloth masks that were handmade by prison industry authority.

But now they are providing us with N95 respirators.

UCI: At least you guys have better masks now.

Caller: Better than nothing.

UCI: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for calling. Thank you so much for calling us. It’s great to hear all of this about what, everything that’s been going on.

Caller: Thank you for listening.

UCI: It’s be great if you could tell other people to call in and tell us their experience.

Caller: It was actually a friend of mine that received the letter from you that gave the phone number to me and told me to call. So, I will pass this number along to other people.

UCI: Well thank you, that’d be very helpful.

Caller: Yes.

UCI: Okay.

Caller: Absolutely.

UCI: Thank you so much.

Caller: Thank you very much, sir. You have a wonderful day.

UCI: You too.

Caller: All righty. Have a good evening.

UCI: Okay, bye.

Caller: Bye-bye.

11/20
Herd immunity
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Herd immunity

HEAR THE FULL STORY

This story was told by a person incarcerated at San Quentin.

Caller: I don’t have any problem about telling my story because I think they should know about what’s going on over here because I don’t think the media or the outside really know exactly what’s taking place in here because, I mean, just last week they had two more positive cases in this wing right here. It’s – nothing being done to, like, track those people that – who they came in contact with because just days prior to that, that person was walking around in the building.

So, like, now once he – they, they swab us, and, okay, well, you – you tested positive, what about the people that he was living with or what about the peoples he came in contact with? So they took guys out, they took those guys out, but, like, now what about the people that the tracking system like who he came in contact with. So, like, it’s kind of like what they are doing in here right now is, like, something like that herd immunity that you hear on TV all the time.

Basically they’re saying that if you catch it and get well or you catch it and you die because there’s no – there’s no formal system that says, okay, we got – we got means to, like, to, like, kind of, like, stop this. Like right now, can you hear all the noise in here right now? This is supposed to be chow, but they supposed to be feeding, like, a tier at a time. But like now, it’s about, like, I don’t know how many people out there right now. And this is – this is what’s been taking place.

I mean, like, every week it’s, like, they got us like, you know, they are doing, like, west wing workers only work in the kitchen, and south and [unintelligible] and some of the other units, they got the units isolated but, like, those units that, it’s not really a system here. Like, it’s going to get, like, even worse right now because, like, December when it’s getting cold and stuff like this, it’s going to get worse because no one can go outside. We’re not really going outside a lot. You know, sometime like last week, we only went outside one time out of seven days.

You know, like, we were really just, like, confined –

We are being fined – confined to the quarters based on quarantine, but how that be quarantine when all these people out here just every day it’s just like tons of people just moving around, but then you say we’re on quarantine, but, like, if we on quarantine and – and these guys, they’re going to work, they’re coming in contact with each other, if you can find a means to, like, go out there and do that, especially [unintelligible]. Why can’t you figure out a way for me to see my family? I haven’t seen my family in a year.

The full story

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Caller: Yes, I’m – I’m above 18 years old. I, like, I don’t – I don’t have any problem about telling my story because I think people should know about what’s going on over here because I don’t think the media or the outside really know exactly what’s taking place in here because, I mean, just last week they had two more positive cases in this wing right here. It’s – nothing being done to, like, track those people that – who they came in contact with because just days prior to that, that person was walking around in the building.

So, like, now once he – they, they swab us, and, okay, well, you – you tested positive, what about the people that he was living with or what about the peoples he came in contact with? So they took guys out, they took those guys out, but, like, now what about the people that the tracking system like who he came in contact with. So, like, it’s kind of like what they are doing in here right now is, like, something like that herd immunity that you hear on TV all the time.

Basically they’re saying that if you catch it and get well or you catch it and you die because there’s no – there’s no formal system that says, okay, we got – we got means to, like, to, like, kind of, like, stop this. Like right now, can you hear all the noise in here right now? This is supposed to be chow, but they supposed to be feeding, like, a tier at a time. But like now, it’s about, like, I don’t know how many people out there right now. And this is – this is what’s been taking place.

I mean, like, every week it’s, like, they got us like, you know, they are doing, like, west wing workers only work in the kitchen, and south and [unintelligible] and some of the other units, they got the units isolated but, like, those units that goin’ it’s not really a system here. Like, it’s going to get, like, even worse right now because, like, December when it’s getting cold and stuff like this, it’s going to get worse because no one can go outside. We’re not really going outside a lot. You know, sometime like last week, we only went outside one time out of seven days.

You know, like, we were really just, like, confined –

We are being fined – confined to the quarters based on quarantine, but how that be quarantine when all these people out here just every day it’s just like tons of people just moving around, but then you say we’re on quarantine, but, like, if we on quarantine and – and these guys, they’re going to work, they’re coming in contact with each other, if you can find a means to, like, go out there and do that, especially [unintelligible]. Why can’t you figure out a way for me to see my family? I haven’t seen my family in a year.

I haven’t seen my family in a year. Why can’t – why can’t you figure out a way to do that? But, like, what they are doing is, like, they’re [unintelligible] to be honest with you [unintelligible] because we’re kind of like – like the undesirables I – I wrote a letter to this – to this – to the project. I wrote it around – and I would just call it right now [unintelligible] when I first got the letter, I wrote a letter [unintelligible] I wrote a letter to [unintelligible] I’m going to mail it either tonight or tomorrow.

And you’ll see some more. I got, like, more in-depth account, I got into it because, like, when we talk about – we talk about, like, the COVID-19, right, if you go back into history, we just didn’t have this name before because, I mean, you can go back into – all the way back into history where you see things that took place because if you look at the [unintelligible] that’s really being affected by this [unintelligible] like a lot, it’s like over 80 percent, it’s like the Latinx and the black community. So, like, now all these people are just dying because they don’t have a certain type of Medicare.

A lot of these people are dying, got 235,000 people that’s dead, but, like, half of that people – those people are – are people of color. So, I mean, how do we address this? Are we going to say that in time this is going to just go away, but, okay, it might go away, but, like, after what? A million people have died?

Like sometime we don’t – I mean, [unintelligible] listen to like the news on TV, and, like, you hear people saying, like, people, when you look at the person that come on TV, it’s like are you – are you a European person, and they say, [unintelligible] impression that this is really just only affecting Europeans. Like a – a 20-second sound byte to say, well, okay, [unintelligible] what they call, like, the frontline workers, [unintelligible] they are dying, but right now 40,000 people in those [unintelligible] have died.

Can you – do you understand what I’m saying?

UCI: Yeah. I – and I appreciate you giving those testimonial about your experience. I do have to – I have to ask one question just sort of like procedural. So I just have to ask you and get your actual consent. Are you freely knowingly willing to proceed under the conditions that I described?

Caller: Yeah. I mean –

UCI: Okay.

Caller: – sure. Why would – why wouldn’t I?

UCI: Oh – Right. It’s – I was going to say, it’s just, you know, it’s like a legal procedure with the university that we have to have everyone’s official consent to participate.

Caller: Yeah. Okay.

UCI: And then I was also going to ask you what facility are you currently housed at?

Caller: I’m at San Quentin, the – the [unintelligible].

UCI: Oh, okay.

Caller: They said – they said that it was, like, that passed away.

And one officer when that guy passed away, the officer, the sergeant, I was in that unit. But I moved over here, like, probably about because I thought it was like – yeah, I thought like – I guess – I guess I felt that they had this under control in this unit, but when I got over here, it’s almost the same. The fact that it was taking place over there, it’s just not making sense, can’t you hear all this noise? Supposed to be a quarantine. It’s supposed to be a quarantine that, like, just like – like disinfected. They don’t pass out disinfectant.

They say we supposed to be keeping the place clean. They said we’re supposed to be social distance, but they – they making it almost like how many [unintelligible] that you have a cellie, a cell mate, and how can you tell me I have to be social distanced when you insisting that I have a cell mate. Fortunate enough that I don’t – I don’t have a cell mate. They tried to give me one last night. But they are insisting that you have a cell mate. At one time it was going, but right now, they was insisting that if you tested negative, you have to go into a cell with a person that’s got positive.

But then they call it resolved. They got a new language, they say it resolved, they kind of got passed, but, you put a person that – that you say is resolved and after 14 days he didn’t – he didn’t get sick or he didn’t die, so they insist that he go into the cell with a guy that’s tested negative and the guy after being tested negative, they’re not even allowed to put a little work that we’re doing around here, the negative guy is not even allowed to work. So they were, like, pressuring people that’s not negative saying, okay, they can’t go out, they got to be locked up because they’re negative. It’s, like, crazy. That’s crazy.

UCI: Yeah, that – that is. So do you feel like it’s being handled differently now than it was at the beginning of the outbreak?

Caller: No, because it’s not being – it’s not handled – it’s almost about the same because when it was –

UCI: Okay.

Caller: – first started this, they – they tested. They tested, like, there was this lieutenant that came positive, and – but he had tested positive; right? But like now, they go around and they say, okay, they going to – they going to just lock this whole place down.

They’re going to test all the staff, they’re going to swab all the staff and find out if the staff don’t have it. Like – like when they came down and testing us, they pulled us out, they tested. But like now, they don’t even know how to – how this [unintelligible] being airborne, [unintelligible] we know about it, but now they’re testing staff almost weekly. But they only testing us once. I- I haven’t been tested since. And I’ve been requesting to be tested and they’ll say okay, we’re going to test you. We’re going to test your blood pressure and your temperature.

Right. Just like that’s kind of like irrelevant, because if I was sick and I couldn’t breathe, I would probably been on [unintelligible] about this, right, you spending all this – why are you spending this time coming by twice a day in the morning and afternoon taking my temperature and my oxygen because if this was a problem then someone would already know about this if I can’t breathe. See, but this is – this is all – this is all the things that they’re doing in here that seem like – it makes it – it gives the appearance that they’re doing something, but they’re really not.

I mean, it’s just like, I mean, just pay attention to, like, around December and January, it’s going to get so bad in here because nobody’s doing anything. They’re not really telling us anything. They – they just [unintelligible] announce, like, misinformation misinformation has become, like, weaponized where you where you denying us all –

So you in line, almost 80 to 90 percent of the population you saying that they are not critical workers, so they can’t go to work.

Just enough people just to make administration kind of like function, give the impression we got this under control, but they don’t have it under control. People in here today from what I understand, they from Sacramento, they went up there and they was just looking around with their pens and papers and stuff like this, but, like, they just kind of like a [unintelligible] because tomorrow is supposed to be the last day for the people that brought the lawsuit that the court said, okay they got to reduce the population by half by tomorrow.

But like now, that’s not happening because they trying to insist now that you sign a paper to be transferred. How can people sign, that goes against [unintelligible] to another institution that’s kind of like – that’s kind of like infested with this disease to – to another institution, but they still give us a paper saying I’m going to – I’m going to leave. But why would you leave because they just going to just assisting the administration to do the solution like we got this under control. I’m not going to leave.

I’m going to stay here, but I’m not going to catch it because I’m positive about I’m not going to catch this virus, but I’m just saying is that the guys that’s going to work and I’m not – I’m not really mad about it. I just I don’t understand it. But they are going to work, if you don’t go to work, then, like, they got to work, and if they got to work, then they going to figure something out because they don’t like to work. [unintelligible] outside catering company was coming in and they was, like, feeding us over here. So, like, those guys are so – I mean, they are, like, so just like they can’t stay in a cell for, like, 24 hours.

They saying we want to come out and work, so like now they stop feeding us from the catering service. They go back to this garbage that they feed us in the kitchen. They doing it right now. Yeah, that’s what’s going on right now.

UCI: What would make the situation better at your facility?

Caller: Being forthcoming. I mean, being – being, like telling us what happening. I more information on some of these – these various channels that I watch I get a lot of information from this.

And every time I see something concerning or something, I just stay here and I might just, like, you know, get what I can out of it. But like here, it’s almost, it’s like misinformation is just like a weapon. They won’t tell us anything. They put out these little memos occasionally like twice a month, something like this, or every two weeks. They will give you some, like, vague information, they will give you some information say, okay, we have – we have, like, no positive cases. But, like, that’s a lie because just last week you have five cases in this building.

But the – the little report card say, well, okay, we have no – we no have positive cases, active cases, and we have 2,000 resolved cases. But, like, resolve is just saying that I’m not sick. It doesn’t – it doesn’t imply – it doesn’t imply that I’m not making other people sick or someone hasn’t made me sick. It’s been resolved because – resolve don’t mean that you good. In like six months from now we might just drop dead. So –

Caller: So that’s – that’s where we at. And what was your name again?

UCI: My name is Payton.

Caller: I couldn’t hear that.

UCI: Payton. Like Payton Manning.

Caller: Oh, Payton. I’m saying – I’m saying I’m going to mail you – I’m going to mail into this project this letter that I got right now and you kinda see where I’m coming from so you’ll know that this is the guy that I talked to and, I mean, people need to know. [unintelligible], yeah, people need to know because it’s not even close to what the little resource managers coming up to you saying this is horrible up in here right now. It’s more than horrible.

UCI: Really appreciate you sending those letters.

Caller: Yeah. Okay. And, look, it was nice talking to you.

01/21
His last words
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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at San Quentin.

I have a bit of sad news. My father died from COVID pneumonia on Friday, January 15, 2021. He was 83 years of age.

He and mom lived alone and they had taken every possible precaution to avoid COVID-19 (masks, face shields, gloves, hand-washing, hand sanitizer, social distancing, etc.) and stayed COVID-free all year long until Christmas.

A brief gathering on Christmas exposed him and mom to COVID-19. Within days, they had a fever, cough, and body aches. On Thursday, December 31, 2020 (New Year’s Eve) they dialed 911 and were taken to the hospital.

Many feared my mother, 74, would perish because of her severe health problems and her compromised immune system. But after a week of treatment, she started to feel better and was discharged. It would not go as well for dad.

The virus had alone completely destroyed his lungs. He died afraid, in severe pain, and worst of all, alone. His last words were please to see my mom, his wife and companion of over 54 years.

His death has caused me intense emotional pain. This is the absolute worst pain in my life. I cried for days and didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, I had access to mental health staff and the custody officers in North Block, along with sergeant and captain, have been very understanding and supportive.

I still have a duty, as president, to oversee multiple special elections in all of the housing units this month, but staff has encouraged me to take all the time I need to grieve.

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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Dear PrisonPandemic Project,

I have a bit of sad news. My father died from COVID pneumonia on Friday, January 15, 2021. He was 83 years of age.

He and mom lived alone and they had taken every possible precaution to avoid COVID-19 (masks, face shields, gloves, hand-washing, hand sanitizer, social distancing, etc.) and stayed COVID-free all year long until Christmas.

A brief gathering on Christmas exposed him and mom to COVID-19. Within days, they had a fever, cough, and body aches. On Thursday, December 31, 2020 (New Year’s Eve) they dialed 911 and were taken to the hospital.

Many feared my mother, 74, would perish because of her severe health problems and her compromised immune system. But after a week of treatment, she started to feel better and was discharged. It would not go as well for dad.

The virus had alone completely destroyed his lungs. He died afraid, in severe pain, and worst of all, alone. His last words were please to see my mom, his wife and companion of over 54 years.

His death has caused me intense emotional pain. This is the absolute worst pain in my life. I cried for days and didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, I had access to mental health staff and the custody officers in North Block, along with sergeant and captain, have been very understanding and supportive.

I still have a duty, as president, to oversee multiple special elections in all of the housing units this month, but staff has encouraged me to take all the time I need to grieve.

According to my family, there are over 1,000 bodies in Santa Clara county waiting to be buried. Dad’s funeral will not take place until after Valentine’s day. Also, local laws only allow 10 individuals to attend a funeral.

Here at San Quentin, I applied for a TCL or Temporary Community Leave, to attend dad’s funeral, but it was denied because I have a violent felony conviction. I am working with Visiting staff on being able to live-stream the funeral in the visiting room via a platform called Web-X.

My dad is my hero. He and mom are my best friends. I love him deeply. I always will.

I will miss hearing his voice. Since visiting was suspended in March 2020, I am heartbroken that I was not able to see him or embrace him before he died.

I did speak to him and mom on Christmas Day. I told them that they were the loves of my life. I wish I could have warned him and mom, for the umpteenth time, to not go anywhere.

But they got tired of being locked in all the time.

I take COVID precautions seriously. Even more so now. I never refuse to be moved, tested, or to have my vitals taken.

Many on the line refuse to move, to be tested, or to be checked by the nurses as a form of protest. They don’t like to wear masks or social distance. I cringe when I see guys hug, handshakes, do fist bumps, or work out together on the fifth tier.

I respect their autonomy, but I wish I could encourage them to take this seriously. I hope my story can motivate the population to do the right thing.

By the way, my cell housing has changed to.

Sincerely.

11/20
Telehealth
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This story was told by a person incarcerated at San Quentin.

UCI: So, how have you been dealing with everything that’s been going on?

Caller: Well, I suffer from bipolar disorder and depression. And one of the first things that happened after the outbreak here at San Quentin was they stopped all medical and mental health appointments that were non-emergency.

That were just routine checkups. They stopped those completely for several months. So, for a while I was not receiving any mental health care.

UCI: Nothing? Like just …?

Caller: Nothing. No checkups. No meetings with the therapist or psychologist.

I was still being provided my mental health medication, my psychiatric medication. But there were no med checks. Nothing to oversee my mental health.

UCI: So, have they resumed health care? Like mental health care? Or is it still not available?

Caller: They have begun seeing us through telehealth. That’s like a webcam meeting with mental health professionals. They have resumed those. Usually on average about once every three months you’re instructed to meet with a mental health professional over telehealth.

UCI: Once every three months?

Caller: But they have reduced somewhat.

UCI: So, you guys only get to see them once every three months?

Caller: Yes. That’s the standard duration for mental health wellness checks.

UCI: So, this … How’s it been affecting you not being able to see your family and loved ones?

Caller: Oh, it’s been stressful both on myself and my family. The telephone service that is used by San Quentin, the Global Tel Link, has provided some free phone calls to us. So, we’re still able to communicate with our loved ones. But it’s been very stressful not being able to see them face to face.

UCI: Yeah, I can understand that.

Caller: Yes.

UCI: So, are there any …? Okay.

Caller: Are there what?

UCI: Are there any like activities for you guys to do, like classes or something?

Caller: No. Programs and classes have all been suspended. I was in the addiction to recovery counseling program, as well as printmaking, and they’re not allowing any programs or classes of any kind to take place right now.

And that’s been in place since about May or June of this year. No classes or programs.

UCI: Whoa, so just nothing?

Caller: No. Virtually no programming of any kind.

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UCI: What facility are you currently housed at?

Caller: I’m sorry?

UCI: What facility are you currently housed at?

Caller: I’m in San Quentin State Prison in H Unit.

UCI: San Quentin, okay. So, how has the COVID situation been at San Quentin?

Caller: Well, after they brought the inmates from Chino and the whole outbreak here started, it was a huge mess. I think there have been about 28 deaths so far. And more than half of the population at one point or another was infected.

UCI: That’s a lot of people infected.

Caller: It is.

UCI: So, has staff been doing anything to help prevent the spread of COVID?

Caller: Essentially, they’re just doing what they’re being – they won’t do anything more than what they’re being forced to do by CDCR, which is the bare minimum. And in lots of cases, they’re not doing what they say they are.

UCI: Oh. So, about what month did COVID start to spread in San Quentin?

Caller: It was I think, my memory on that is not too sure. But I think it happened around May or June.

UCI: Around May or June, okay.

Caller: That was when the infected inmates were transferred here from Chino.

UCI: Oh, so prisoners have been transferring into the facility?

Caller: Yes. And what happened was the reason that that transfer caused the mass infection here at San Quentin is because after …

Well, first of all, the inmates that were transferred here from Chino were not tested for COVID-19 before the transfer. And after they were brought here, they were not quarantined for the mandatory 14 days after they were brought here to San Quentin, they were released into general population right away after arriving here.

UCI: Oh.

Caller: Yes. So, like I said, they were not tested before the transfer. And once they arrived here, they were not quarantined for safety, for observation.

UCI: So, what do you think San Quentin needs to be doing to help stop the spread?

Caller: They are testing us weekly. Every Tuesday around maybe 10:00 or so in the morning we go outside of our dorm where they have tables setup.

And we swab our noses and give the swabs to a nurse who collects them in a vial and sends them out to be processed. They are requiring us to wear N95 face masks. And they will write us up, they will give us a 115 reprimand if we’re not wearing them in common areas such as the day room or on the yard.

UCI: Okay.

Caller: Yes.

UCI: So, how have you been dealing with everything that’s been going on?

Caller: Well, I suffer from bipolar disorder and depression. And one of the first things that happened after the outbreak here at San Quentin was they stopped all medical and mental health appointments that were non-emergency.

That were just routine checkups. They stopped those completely for several months. So, for a while I was not receiving any mental health care.

UCI: Nothing? Like just …?

Caller: Nothing. No checkups. No meetings with the therapist or psychologist.

I was still being provided my mental health medication, my psychiatric medication. But there were no med checks. Nothing to oversee my mental health.

UCI: So, have they resumed health care? Like mental health care? Or is it still not available?

Caller: They have begun seeing us through telehealth. That’s like a webcam meeting with mental health professionals. They have resumed those. Usually on average about once every three months you’re instructed to meet with a mental health professional over telehealth.

UCI: Once every three months?

Caller: But they have reduced somewhat.

UCI: So, you guys only get to see them once every three months?

Caller: Yes. That’s the standard duration for mental health wellness checks.

UCI: So, this … How’s it been affecting you not being able to see your family and loved ones?

Caller: Oh, it’s been stressful both on myself and my family. The telephone service that is used by San Quentin, the Global Tel Link, has provided some free phone calls to us. So, we’re still able to communicate with our loved ones. But it’s been very stressful not being able to see them face to face.

UCI: Yeah, I can understand that.

Caller: Yes.

UCI: So, are there any …? Okay.

Caller: Are there what?

UCI: Are there any like activities for you guys to do, like classes or something?

Caller: No. Programs and classes have all been suspended. I was in the addiction to recovery counseling program, as well as printmaking, and they’re not allowing any programs or classes of any kind to take place right now.

And that’s been in place since about May or June of this year. No classes or programs.

UCI: Whoa, so just nothing?

Caller: No. Virtually no programming of any kind.

UCI: So, is there anything else that you want people to know about?

Caller: Just the CDCR is not doing, they’re not putting into place or they’re not enforcing the safety and the health wellness protocols that they claim to be. They’re not enforcing their own staff to wear masks or other personal protective equipment.

They’re not – it’s not possible at all in a dormitory to socially distance. And there’s absolutely – if one person gets infected here at H unit, because of the asymptomatic period, testing will not – the person will not be tested and found to be positive within a safe amount of time to protect the rest of the inmates.

UCI: So, how many people live together in one dormitory?

Caller: The number varies by 10 or 20 per dorm but like in our dorm for example there are about 95 inmates.

UCI: Ninety-five?

Caller: Yes. And there are typically 200. But since the virus has taken place, they’ve moved out half of the bunk beds and they’ve cut the population in each dorm down by half.

UCI: So, would you say that there is an issue of overpopulation right now in San Quentin?

Caller: Absolutely. It’s been overcrowded here at San Quentin since before the outbreak.

UCI: Since even before?

Caller: Yes. And CDCR has done nothing to quell the overcrowding, even after they claimed to be enforcing social distancing policies of six feet, but they’re not doing anything to perpetuate that.

UCI: Yeah. So … So, have you been tested positive for COVID?

Caller: I have not. There have been some false positives at H unit. And but in those cases, the people are not isolated or quarantined for observation until several days after they were tested.

So, like I say, if they really have the virus, then by the time the positive tests came back, everyone else would be already infected.

UCI: Yeah, it’d be too late by then.

Caller: Much too late. The danger in this virus is through the asymptomatic period where you can be contagious and not be showing any symptoms.

That’s what makes this virus so dangerous in my opinion.

UCI: Yeah. So, from the beginning of the outbreak to now, has there been any difference in how they’ve been handling it?

Caller: None whatsoever. The only difference is that when the outbreak first began, they provided us with only cloth face masks. Simple one-layer cloth masks that were handmade by prison industry authority.

But now they are providing us with N95 respirators.

UCI: At least you guys have better masks now.

Caller: Better than nothing.

UCI: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for calling. Thank you so much for calling us. It’s great to hear all of this about what, everything that’s been going on.

Caller: Thank you for listening.

UCI: It’s be great if you could tell other people to call in and tell us their experience.

Caller: It was actually a friend of mine that received the letter from you that gave the phone number to me and told me to call. So, I will pass this number along to other people.

UCI: Well thank you, that’d be very helpful.

Caller: Yes.

UCI: Okay.

Caller: Absolutely.

UCI: Thank you so much.

Caller: Thank you very much, sir. You have a wonderful day.

UCI: You too.

Caller: All righty. Have a good evening.

UCI: Okay, bye.

Caller: Bye-bye.

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