SATF

CALIFORNIA SUBTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT FACILITY IS LOCATED IN CORCORAN, CA,
HOUSING 5,297 PEOPLE.

Since March 2020, there have been 3,014 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 7 deaths, at this facility.

Stories from SATF

02/21
Mistakes happen
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Mistakes happen

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at SATF (California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison).

I first heard about the COVID-19 in February 2020, and like many people, I didn’t think it would’ve turn out to be a worldwide pandemic it has become. The prison administration here at SATF/State Prison at Corcoran (Substance Abuse Treatment Facility) has taken extreme measures to keep the virus out of its facilities from the moment California began shutting down. In fact, prisons like San Quentin, Lancaster, and others went through infections and outbreaks much earlier than here.

Obviously mistakes happened, but I’ll not delve on fault finding. Instead, I only wish to provide the experiences of people in prison during the coronavirus pandemic.

As things worsened on the outside, and Governor Gavin Newsom called for the shutdown of California, prison officials began implementing measures to safeguard SATF/SPC from COVID-19. One of the first measures that deeply impacted the lives of the people in prison was the discontinuation of visitors from outside who are not essential to the safety and security of the prison. This means that volunteers for self-help and college programs, and family and friends cannot come into prison for classes or visitations, respectively.

Other measures were about wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping social distance. The last measure was impossible for the facility that I am in because it is a dorm setting where the double bunks are set in close proximity, and where there are 12 to 14 people per pod, which is at about 90-100 percent capacity. Prison administration alleviated the problem by transferring almost half of the population to other prisons.

All of these precautions were enforced and met with resistance at first, but in the end they were begrudgingly followed. The reasons for the resistance was the lack of serious attitude about the COVID-19 and that people in prison feel that they are being punished with these precautions for something they didn’t cause. Moreover, the majority of the prison population believe that the coronavirus could only be brought in by prison staff.

The full story

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at SATF (California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison). Click the play button again to hear their full story.

To whom this may concern,

I don’t know how or where you got my information, or why you decided to reach out to me. I don’t have a problem with it. It is good to know there are people on the outside, other than my family and friends, who are thinking about and believing in me.

In answering your call for submission, I’ve enclosed a five-page story about my and other people’s experiences in prison during the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope it’s not too long.

Thank you for your time and efforts. I wish you all the best in what you do.

Sincerely

***

The Pandemic Within

I first heard about the COVID-19 in February 2020, and like many people, I didn’t think it would’ve turn out to be a worldwide pandemic it has become. The prison administration here at SATF/State Prison at Corcoran (Substance Abuse Treatment Facility) has taken extreme measures to keep the virus out of its facilities from the moment California began shutting down. In fact, prisons like San Quentin, Lancaster, and others went through infections and outbreaks much earlier than here.

Obviously mistakes happened, but I’ll not delve on fault finding. Instead, I only wish to provide the experiences of people in prison during the coronavirus pandemic.

As things worsened on the outside, and Governor Gavin Newsom called for the shutdown of California, prison officials began implementing measures to safeguard SATF/SPC from COVID-19. One of the first measures that deeply impacted the lives of the people in prison was the discontinuation of visitors from outside who are not essential to the safety and security of the prison. This means that volunteers for self-help and college programs, and family and friends cannot come into prison for classes or visitations, respectively.

Other measures were about wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping social distance. The last measure was impossible for the facility that I am in because it is a dorm setting where the double bunks are set in close proximity, and where there are 12 to 14 people per pod, which is at about 90-100 percent capacity. Prison administration alleviated the problem by transferring almost half of the population to other prisons.

All of these precautions were enforced and met with resistance at first, but in the end they were begrudgingly followed. The reasons for the resistance was the lack of serious attitude about the COVID-19 and that people in prison feel that they are being punished with these precautions for something they didn’t cause. Moreover, the majority of the prison population believe that the coronavirus could only be brought in by prison staff.

Despite all the precautions taken, an outbreak ultimately took place. It began with isolated cases, which were then followed by program shutdown and COVID-tests. As the outbreak became apparent, prison officials designated one of the three buildings in the facility as a quarantine building.

It began moving all of the infected people there and moving the non-infected people to the other two buildings with the intention to stave off the outbreak. However, things didn’t turn out as planned, as the outbreak continued to grow. Prison officials this time put the whole facility on quarantine and moved the rest of the people who’ve yet to test positive to another facility where there are so-called settings so that each person can be isolated from those that might infect them.

These actions by the prison officials, as good as they may sound, were futile. Due to the incubation period, and the four to five days it takes for the test results to return, people began showing symptoms after they have moved to the other buildings. Thus, cross-infections occurred. The outbreak lasted a month. There was no death in the facility that I am in but, last I checked, there were six deaths in this prison. Overall, and even to this day, only about five percent of the population have never been tested positive for COVID-19.

Most infected people showed symptoms such as lost of taste, fatigue, and persistent coughs to name a few. The majority of the people recovered from the illness in a couple of weeks and did not have any lingering problems. Those with major complications took longer to heal and have many lingering problems. Perhaps the most astounding, although not surprising, thing is no medical treatment was given. The infected people were basically told to “ride it out” by medical staff.

Through it all, the only thing that negatively impacted the people in prison the most, other than the loss of visitation, was the mental toll of moving. The stress of each move and the knowledge that you could be move if your test comes back positive was unnerving. Anyone who has moved to a new place, or have traveled can understand the loss of what little comforts he or she accustomed to.

It’s the uncertainty that we have to deal with when going to a new place. Like, for example, meeting new people who come with their own personalities and quirks, or moving to the bunk area without knowing if it is infected with COVID-19 by the previous occupant. On top of that, many were dealing with the coronavirus that is affecting their health.

Many readers may think that prisoners don’t have feelings or don’t deserve empathy, and they would be wrong to think so. Prisoners were once regular individuals of society, and have feelings and emotions that in every human being. Furthermore, many has families on the outside. The fact that they committed crimes that have lasting and devastating effects on families and communities does not mean that they don’t have feelings and emotions.

They are locked up in prison because of their criminal behaviors, and not because they lost their humanity. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT defending criminals or prisoners, myself included, nor I am justifying criminal behaviors. I only wish to present aspects that are inherent in prisoners but that are largely ignored or dismissed by society. That is why I am referring to prisoners as “people in prison.”

Again, I am not finding fault or placing blame, but only presenting the experiences of people in prison during this pandemic. The most important thing is the struggles that we all face are similar, if not the same, whether in or out of prison. The examples are the health and safety of our loved ones, how will we get through this pandemic, and when will it end?

Personally speaking, I am doing fine so far. It could be because of my practical personality, or my strong self-efficacy, or my stoic constitution, but in any case, I am able to deal with the stresses and tribulations of this crisis without much difficulty. I am not saying that I am better than anybody else. What I’m saying is that my life experiences gave me the abilities to deal with the problems produced by the COVID-19 crisis.

In short, I’m wired differently and, therefore, manage the pandemic differently. That said, I mostly deal with things that I can control, and approach things with an opened mind and a positive attitude. For example, the loss of visitation from family and friends is something I cannot control. I also understand that it is for the health and safety of everyone in and out of prison.

The things that I can control are I can call and write home to stay connected with family. Another example is my safety. I watch the news and all the numbers that they reported show less than one percent of the infected people died, and a little more than that have complications. I am healthy and don’t have any underlying problems.

Thus, I feel confident that, even if I did contract the virus, I would most likely recover in no time. So I do what I can control, which are wearing a mask, washing hands, and keeping social distance. To this day, I’ve yet to test positive for coronavirus, so thankfully, haven’t the chance to test my theory.

As far as coping with the pandemic, I stay busy. Yes, I do have time (no pun intended), more than what I know what to do with it. Yet I’ve found myself doing many things to keep me busy. The bulk of the works were the four classes that I took at Bakersfield College last fall. As a matter of fact, college classes have been keeping me busy for the last two years. I was on the verge of graduating with multiple associate degrees this spring, but due to the pandemic, it is now postponed until next spring, or even further.

I can’t control when I can graduate, but I can do my class works and mail them in to be graded. It is precisely my college education that enabled me to write this story, which is at the risk of sounding smarter than a prisoner should sound. Or maybe not, I don’t know. That is something I can’t control. What I can control is writing this story and let the readers judge for themselves.

Ultimately, I hope that the readers keep an open mind and a positive attitude when dealing with the pandemic. I’m not basing my advice on hard science. There is no need to.

Anybody who observe life can see and understand that it is filled with many positive things. Even though those positive things don’t all pay the bills, or restore what was lost, they can help anyone to get though the bad times. More importantly, they give all people the strength to hold on until this crisis is over.

01/21
Very bad symptoms
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Very bad symptoms

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This story was told by a person incarcerated at SATF (California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison).

My fear became reality that in spite of mask wearing, many inmates became illed by this deadly virus. As testing became available for us, so did the amount of inmates who were testing positive for COVID-19. From this prison yard, I could see the level two yard inmates being escorted out their pods to be quarantined, week after week.

I was growing concerned just to think how terrifying it was to die of breathing problems, living in eight-men pods and spreading the virus from inmate to inmate. I am in a two-men cell and I thought I was safer than those in eight-men pods.

One morning, as I watched the news, they talked about 667 inmates being infected with COVID. Then two weeks later another 770-something inmates and staff were infected with COVID. D yard level four inmates went on a lockdown because 300 inmates came out positive in the very few weeks when testing had just begun.

Inmates from my yard, level three, had to go to the central kitchen and take their assigned job and cook for all the yard at this facility. My cellmate was one of these people going over to a level four yard and do the work.

He was so afraid of catching the virus where many inmates from that yard had just come out positive a few weeks before. Little by little, inmates from my level three yard started to give positive COVID tests.

Testing began here every Friday and then twice a week. One morning after seeing many inmates testing positive ,the building I was in was going to be used as a quarantine block. And then the movement began. Groups as many as 10 inmates were being moved to other buildings from shift in and shift out.

My group was the last one to leave building one around a time we went to building three where as weeks went by the testing and the COVID positives kept coming up. Two weeks later, my celly came out positive. He had many symptoms from fever to fatigue to weakness. He told me he had never felt like that before. I gave him some Tylenol and two days later he felt better.

The day they told him he was positive I was concerned with my health due to the fact that two years ago I caught valley fever, another respiratory disease which almost killed me. Having the valley fever still in my system and dealing with COVID, I thought it was going to be tough for me.

I was told I had to move to two building because I had been exposed to COVID. They ended up turning three building into quarantine block when hundreds of inmates tested positive. I was moved by myself to two block that same night. The cop told me he was going to put another inmate in there with me.

This inmate went in to live in another cell with someone else but the next morning he was told he came out positive and was moved to one of the quarantine blocks. Two days after being in two block I went to test. This time I came out positive.

That same day many other who also came out positive were told we are going to be quarantined. All two quarantine blocks were filled with COVID positive so we were moved to A yard level two gym. We were close to 50 inmates inside a gym, some with mild symptoms, some with very bad symptoms.

Many would share their stories of how they got it and how their smell and taste was lost for many weeks. My symptoms were very mild. I only experienced sore throat, headache, and runny nose and some flem. We spent from 14 to 20 days cooped up in a gym where some nurses use to come to check our vitals twice a day.

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This story was told by a person incarcerated at SATF (California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison). Click the play button again to hear their full story.

I am currently housed at SATF-SP at Corcoran. During my 16 years of incarceration, I have seen massive movement of inmates two times. The first time was in 2008 when because of overcrowding we were shipped to Mississippi to an out-state private prison where our safety was put at great risk.

Many inmates lost their lives. Others were badly injured after so many riots and other picked up unnecessary felony charges. My second experience was in the COVID-19 pandemic during the months of November and December of 2020. I never thought this virus was going to come near me or my fellow friends or inmates, but it did.

My fear became reality that in spite of mask wearing, many inmates became illed by this deadly virus. As testing became available for us, so did the amount of inmates who were testing positive for COVID-19. From this prison yard, I could see the level two yard inmates being escorted out their pods to be quarantined, week after week.

I was growing concerned just to think how terrifying it was to die of breathing problems, living in eight-men pods and spreading the virus from inmate to inmate. I am in a two-men cell and I thought I was safer than those in eight-men pods.

One morning, as I watched the news, they talked about 667 inmates being infected with COVID. Then two weeks later another 770-something inmates and staff were infected with COVID. D yard level four inmates went on a lockdown because 300 inmates came out positive in the very few weeks when testing had just begun.

Inmates from my yard, level three, had to go to the central kitchen and take their assigned job and cook for all the yard at this facility. My cellmate was one of these people going over to a level four yard and do the work.

He was so afraid of catching the virus where many inmates from that yard had just come out positive a few weeks before. Little by little, inmates from my level three yard started to give positive COVID tests.

Testing began here every Friday and then twice a week. One morning after seeing many inmates testing positive ,the building I was in was going to be used as a quarantine block. And then the movement began. Groups as many as 10 inmates were being moved to other buildings from shift in and shift out.

My group was the last one to leave building one around a time we went to building three where as weeks went by the testing and the COVID positives kept coming up. Two weeks later, my celly came out positive. He had many symptoms from fever to fatigue to weakness. He told me he had never felt like that before. I gave him some Tylenol and two days later he felt better.

The day they told him he was positive I was concerned with my health due to the fact that two years ago I caught valley fever, another respiratory disease which almost killed me. Having the valley fever still in my system and dealing with COVID, I thought it was going to be tough for me.

I was told I had to move to two building because I had been exposed to COVID. They ended up turning three building into quarantine block when hundreds of inmates tested positive. I was moved by myself to two block that same night. The cop told me he was going to put another inmate in there with me.

This inmate went in to live in another cell with someone else but the next morning he was told he came out positive and was moved to one of the quarantine blocks. Two days after being in two block I went to test. This time I came out positive.

That same day many other who also came out positive were told we are going to be quarantined. All two quarantine blocks were filled with COVID positive so we were moved to A yard level two gym. We were close to 50 inmates inside a gym, some with mild symptoms, some with very bad symptoms.

Many would share their stories of how they got it and how their smell and taste was lost for many weeks. My symptoms were very mild. I only experienced sore throat, headache, and runny nose and some flem. We spent from 14 to 20 days cooped up in a gym where some nurses use to come to check our vitals twice a day.

After 20 days in the gym, the rumor was that CDC didn’t want to pay correction officers for their overtime at the gym, so they moved us to C yard active level four. We spent two weeks in a two-men cell at a high custody level four where we didn’t get no program, only a shower twice a week.

After one whole month bouncing from yard to yard of all different custody levels, we finally came back to E yard. The news was that every one on this yard had already caught COVID so the testing had diminished.

One years had passed without seeing my family. My sisters wish they could see me and my mother is always mad at me. I spoke with her but my incarceration has separated us physically and emotionally growing hard. She’s in our hearts.

I only hope this pandemic doesn’t affect my family. I have noticed my son stopped texting. So did my sisters. My mom don’t talk with me. Visitation here at this prison are virtual. I don’t feel comfortable even asking my people to schedule one for 30 minutes and listen to them through earbuds.

When things have been rocky in my family, this pandemic has made it rockier even more. The only way to cope with this is by asking God to help me even when I am wrong. Things here in prison haven’t been easy. Our program has been cut down to a five percent.

We only get one hour or recreation time in the yard, out of 24 hours of each day. We have no movement to any vocational or educational program. Some buildings get only one hour of dayroom. Healthcare are only responding to the COVID crisis unless it is an emergency, then medical staff will see us. Complaints of 602 or medical 602 are taking it from three to six months to be evaluated. Medical necessities are being delayed, cancelled, or postponed due to the COVID crisis.

Like I said my only way to cope has been with prayer to God, exercising to release stress, and drawing, reading, and writing to spend time productively. To deal with this confinement, I also have been watching a lot of TV and playing video games in my table.

I have run out of food so sometimes I go hungry. My only way of making some money was by selling cards and my artworks or portraits. Now I cannot expose it in the dayroom because we either don’t have any dayroom or we are only there for one hour.

These times are tough being in a little cell for 23 to 24 hours with another man who, for the most part, likes to argue and fight with other men. I have to find many ways to protect myself and even battle with my own self because any smell, sound, look, or even taste can trigger bad emotions or thoughts, which may lead to violence. So I have to be very humble and educate myself in order for me to not fall victim of others or myself.

This COVID pandemic, combined with my incarceration, have been the toughest months in my prison term. Everyone here complains and talk to one another but there is no one who listens to us. We only have to become strong and patient until the day we go home.

I feel sorry for those who I knew and fell victims of this deadly virus. I am lucky enough to still be alive. Only still growing concern with the new strains of this virus which, slowly but surely, are creeping up into our counties and very soon will be in our prisons to make matters worse.

My only hope strength and prayer is to God. His is my fate and future while I am still alive.

02/21
Burden on them
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Burden on them

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This story was told by a person incarcerated at SATF (California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison).

Caller: I mean, man, it’s harder to stay in touch with loved ones. Visit them, see them. I have a little son, you know, it’s hard to explain to him that, like he understands, COVID and all that, but it’s hard to explain to him why he can’t see me or come visit, you know? So, it’s kind of a burden on them also. It just makes it more difficult to be in touch, just the letters, you know?

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Caller: Well right now, they’re barely starting to provide vaccines for those who, uh, wish to take ‘em. I personally signed a refusal. I don’t know, call me crazy, but I’m still like kind of skeptical. I know they’re still doing studies and more research on them, so I like wanted to hold back on that, you know?

UCI: Mhm.

Caller: One of the guys that did get a, take the vaccine, he had a seizure on the patio the, what was it, Saturday? Friday? So, I mean I know it’s not that common, but that made me actually think like “woah maybe that’s why I didn’t,” you know? Then again, I don’t know if it’s attributed to that and if it’s something else, but I heard he had just recently got the vaccine, you know?

UCI: Do you know how was COVID-19 handled at your facility at the beginning of the outbreak versus now?

Caller: Well, now there’s more, um, awareness you could say, proper ways to, hm, deal with situations and individuals in order to prevent COVID. Um, I first thought this thing, like anything, anyone on the street, in prison, people they don’t know the proper protocol, you could say. How to deal with it or prevent it, so, now that they do.

Like at first we had just basic one layer cloth mask, face mask. And now they pass out N95 masks, face masks. And things like that help for dealing with this.

A little more knowledgeable you could say, you know? Take the programs, we used to get yard everyday. Now it’s every other day, and only our building. So, they’re minimizing obviously the amount of people in one place at a particular time.

UCI: And is there anything that you think would make the situation at your facility better?

Caller: Make it better? I mean it’d be nice to get some visits, you know? From our family. From our friends. I know based on the condition, the situation, that might not be possible.

I mean we’re getting tested weekly for, uh, we’re getting COVID testing. At first they weren’t testing us. Matter of fact I even went through, I got quarantined once in another block, a different building, because I came in with one of the free staff, which was a physical therapist.

And I can show they think I had it, so they quarantined me just as precautionary, you know? Huh. But that was the beginning of the stage when they still didn’t know what they were doing obviously like they quarantined me and left my celly in the building, which I had been in my cell for about a week and a half or two weeks.

So he would have been exposed if that was the case. But I was the only one that was quarantined, so. It wasn’t as organized, or, you know?

UCI: Mhm.

Caller: But now they’re dealing with it a little better I guess you could say.

UCI: Yeah. Do you have any video visits at your facility?

Caller: Um, you know what? They just started ‘em not too long ago. I wanna say like around the holidays, maybe December or so? So yeah that is one option that has been provided recently, which is another plus, you know?

UCI: Yeah. How have you personally, what have you been doing to cope with the crisis? Or have you been coping with the crisis?

Caller: Man. I wanna say school more than any single- we’re not going physically, but the education department based off of so many people being in one place, you know? They have to find a new environment, but I’m doing college courses, matter of fact I just received my AA degree in Liberal Arts, Sociology. So I was able to complete that through correspondence courses, you know?

UCI: Oh! Congratulations!

Caller: Yeah, thank you. So that was an accomplishment that I was able to, you could say one of my coping mechanisms.

UCI: Yeah.

Caller: I enjoy doing that and reading, studying, working out. It’s a good stress relief from being in cell living- I’m in cell living right here. So, I mean, it can be a bit difficult, you know?

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

Caller: I mean, man, it’s harder to stay in touch with loved ones. Visit them, see them. I have a little son, you know, it’s hard to explain to him that, like he understands, COVID and all that, but it’s hard to explain to him why he can’t see me or come visit, you know? So, it’s kind of a burden on them also. It just makes it more difficult to be in touch, just the letters, you know?

11/20
Filthy, infested
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Filthy, infested

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at SATF (California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison).

Dear student from UCI,

I received your letter. But wondering how you’d come across my name and number? Just so happens I have plenty of stories and experience to share. Probably enough to write my own book! Over 20 years in the system and recently with the pandemic. Crazy cause we’ve just been hit by it (in my yard).

I am currently re-housed in a cell on quarantine, and this is quarantine #3 for me since the pandemic started. Even though I tested negative every time! It’s weird, though, because I’ve been experiencing symptoms, such as loss of taste, muscle aches, fatigue, weakness, and chills, but no temperature.

They “herd” us around, our property in tow, where they feel we should go. The conditions on A-yard are filthy! The place is infested with flies. You must fight them off, just to eat lunch, make coffee or even sleep. I’d get woken up middle of the night if my whole head and face weren’t covered. The cold air blows through our dorm throughout the day, don’t take off your sweats! Everybody caught a cold and then the virus.

The phones are on until 12:30 midnight right by my bunk, and then certain individuals, early risers, wake anywhere from 3:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. It’s just impossible to get any peace of mind here. It’s psychological torture. We’re already doing time, but they can’t/won’t just leave you alone to do your time! It’s constantly changing, moving. I’d kill myself if I was a lifer!

Most lifers and inmates who’ve been down a while have lots of property and they expect us to pick up and leave when they snap their fingers. I can tell you, your tax dollars don’t go towards our food and clothing! It’s so they can ball out of control!

Filthy, infested

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02/21
Will it end
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Will it end

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This letter was written by a person incarcerated at SATF (California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison).

Many readers may think that prisoners don’t have feelings or don’t deserve empathy, and they would be wrong to think so. Prisoners were once regular individuals of society, and have feelings and emotions that in every human being. Furthermore, many has families on the outside. The fact that they committed crimes that have lasting and devastating effects on families and communities does not mean that they don’t have feelings and emotions.

They are locked up in prison because of their criminal behaviors, and not because they lost their humanity. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT defending criminals or prisoners, myself included, nor I am justifying criminal behaviors. I only wish to present aspects that are inherent in prisoners but that are largely ignored or dismissed by society. That is why I am referring to prisoners as “people in prison.”

Again, I am not finding fault or placing blame, but only presenting the experiences of people in prison during this pandemic. The most important thing is the struggles that we all face are similar, if not the same, whether in or out of prison. The examples are the health and safety of our loved ones, how will we get through this pandemic, and will it end?

The full story

Go Back

This letter was written by a person incarcerated at SATF (California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison). Click the play button again to hear their full story.

To whom this may concern,

I don’t know how or where you got my information, or why you decided to reach out to me. I don’t have a problem with it. It is good to know there are people on the outside, other than my family and friends, who are thinking about and believing in me.

In answering your call for submission, I’ve enclosed a five-page story about my and other people’s experiences in prison during the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope it’s not too long.

Thank you for your time and efforts. I wish you all the best in what you do.

Sincerely

***

The Pandemic Within

I first heard about the COVID-19 in February 2020, and like many people, I didn’t think it would’ve turn out to be a worldwide pandemic it has become. The prison administration here at SATF/State Prison at Corcoran (Substance Abuse Treatment Facility) has taken extreme measures to keep the virus out of its facilities from the moment California began shutting down. In fact, prisons like San Quentin, Lancaster, and others went through infections and outbreaks much earlier than here.

Obviously mistakes happened, but I’ll not delve on fault finding. Instead, I only wish to provide the experiences of people in prison during the coronavirus pandemic.

As things worsened on the outside, and Governor Gavin Newsom called for the shutdown of California, prison officials began implementing measures to safeguard SATF/SPC from COVID-19. One of the first measures that deeply impacted the lives of the people in prison was the discontinuation of visitors from outside who are not essential to the safety and security of the prison. This means that volunteers for self-help and college programs, and family and friends cannot come into prison for classes or visitations, respectively.

Other measures were about wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping social distance. The last measure was impossible for the facility that I am in because it is a dorm setting where the double bunks are set in close proximity, and where there are 12 to 14 people per pod, which is at about 90-100 percent capacity. Prison administration alleviated the problem by transferring almost half of the population to other prisons.

All of these precautions were enforced and met with resistance at first, but in the end they were begrudgingly followed. The reasons for the resistance was the lack of serious attitude about the COVID-19 and that people in prison feel that they are being punished with these precautions for something they didn’t cause. Moreover, the majority of the prison population believe that the coronavirus could only be brought in by prison staff.

Despite all the precautions taken, an outbreak ultimately took place. It began with isolated cases, which were then followed by program shutdown and COVID-tests. As the outbreak became apparent, prison officials designated one of the three buildings in the facility as a quarantine building.

It began moving all of the infected people there and moving the non-infected people to the other two buildings with the intention to stave off the outbreak. However, things didn’t turn out as planned, as the outbreak continued to grow. Prison officials this time put the whole facility on quarantine and moved the rest of the people who’ve yet to test positive to another facility where there are so-called settings so that each person can be isolated from those that might infect them.

These actions by the prison officials, as good as they may sound, were futile. Due to the incubation period, and the four to five days it takes for the test results to return, people began showing symptoms after they have moved to the other buildings. Thus, cross-infections occurred. The outbreak lasted a month. There was no death in the facility that I am in but, last I checked, there were six deaths in this prison. Overall, and even to this day, only about five percent of the population have never been tested positive for COVID-19.

Most infected people showed symptoms such as lost of taste, fatigue, and persistent coughs to name a few. The majority of the people recovered from the illness in a couple of weeks and did not have any lingering problems. Those with major complications took longer to heal and have many lingering problems. Perhaps the most astounding, although not surprising, thing is no medical treatment was given. The infected people were basically told to “ride it out” by medical staff.

Through it all, the only thing that negatively impacted the people in prison the most, other than the loss of visitation, was the mental toll of moving. The stress of each move and the knowledge that you could be move if your test comes back positive was unnerving. Anyone who has moved to a new place, or have traveled can understand the loss of what little comforts he or she accustomed to.

It’s the uncertainty that we have to deal with when going to a new place. Like, for example, meeting new people who come with their own personalities and quirks, or moving to the bunk area without knowing if it is infected with COVID-19 by the previous occupant. On top of that, many were dealing with the coronavirus that is affecting their health.

Many readers may think that prisoners don’t have feelings or don’t deserve empathy, and they would be wrong to think so. Prisoners were once regular individuals of society, and have feelings and emotions that in every human being. Furthermore, many has families on the outside. The fact that they committed crimes that have lasting and devastating effects on families and communities does not mean that they don’t have feelings and emotions.

They are locked up in prison because of their criminal behaviors, and not because they lost their humanity. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT defending criminals or prisoners, myself included, nor I am justifying criminal behaviors. I only wish to present aspects that are inherent in prisoners but that are largely ignored or dismissed by society. That is why I am referring to prisoners as “people in prison.”

Again, I am not finding fault or placing blame, but only presenting the experiences of people in prison during this pandemic. The most important thing is the struggles that we all face are similar, if not the same, whether in or out of prison. The examples are the health and safety of our loved ones, how will we get through this pandemic, and when will it end?

Personally speaking, I am doing fine so far. It could be because of my practical personality, or my strong self-efficacy, or my stoic constitution, but in any case, I am able to deal with the stresses and tribulations of this crisis without much difficulty. I am not saying that I am better than anybody else. What I’m saying is that my life experiences gave me the abilities to deal with the problems produced by the COVID-19 crisis.

In short, I’m wired differently and, therefore, manage the pandemic differently. That said, I mostly deal with things that I can control, and approach things with an opened mind and a positive attitude. For example, the loss of visitation from family and friends is something I cannot control. I also understand that it is for the health and safety of everyone in and out of prison.

The things that I can control are I can call and write home to stay connected with family. Another example is my safety. I watch the news and all the numbers that they reported show less than one percent of the infected people died, and a little more than that have complications. I am healthy and don’t have any underlying problems.

Thus, I feel confident that, even if I did contract the virus, I would most likely recover in no time. So I do what I can control, which are wearing a mask, washing hands, and keeping social distance. To this day, I’ve yet to test positive for coronavirus, so thankfully, haven’t the chance to test my theory.

As far as coping with the pandemic, I stay busy. Yes, I do have time (no pun intended), more than what I know what to do with it. Yet I’ve found myself doing many things to keep me busy. The bulk of the works were the four classes that I took at Bakersfield College last fall. As a matter of fact, college classes have been keeping me busy for the last two years. I was on the verge of graduating with multiple associate degrees this spring, but due to the pandemic, it is now postponed until next spring, or even further.

I can’t control when I can graduate, but I can do my class works and mail them in to be graded. It is precisely my college education that enabled me to write this story, which is at the risk of sounding smarter than a prisoner should sound. Or maybe not, I don’t know. That is something I can’t control. What I can control is writing this story and let the readers judge for themselves.

Ultimately, I hope that the readers keep an open mind and a positive attitude when dealing with the pandemic. I’m not basing my advice on hard science. There is no need to.

Anybody who observe life can see and understand that it is filled with many positive things. Even though those positive things don’t all pay the bills, or restore what was lost, they can help anyone to get though the bad times. More importantly, they give all people the strength to hold on until this crisis is over.

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