Tracy

DEUEL VOCATIONAL INSTITUTION IS LOCATED IN TRACY, CA,
HOUSING 2,052 PEOPLE.

Since March 2020, there have been 546 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at this facility.

Stories from Tracy

01/21
Source of comfort
LISTEN
0:00
0:00

Source of comfort

HEAR THE FULL STORY

This story was told by a person incarcerated at Tracy.

UCI: Hmmm. That’s- I really appreciate, you know, you sharing what’s going on, because that’s not something, you know, we’re hearing right now. With, you know, the prison system, where, you know, you’re having this very interesting time. Where your facility’s being shut down, and how that’s being handled. Like I guess the watering down of, you know, PPE, that’s kind of a big deal, especially right now.

Is there anything you do to cope with being in your cell 24 hours a day? And then, you know, I know you say you filed grievances. And you also said those aren’t being, you know, heard, or they can take a very long time to get processed and to be acknowledged. So is there anything you do in the meantime to be able to cope? Are you able to call your family?

Caller: Up until- I haven’t talked to my mom, my elderly mom, in over a month. I was supposed to talk- I was trying to call her today but she didn’t answer. I do a lot of praying. I do a lot of meditating on the word.

I don’t do no- I’m not religious, but I am spiritual. I don’t believe in religion because religion is an attempt to reach God. And my spirituality is based upon my relationship with Christ Jesus, who I call on continuously, on a continuum, because that’s my only refuge.

That’s my only source of comfort in a post-pandemic, it’s the times uncertain out there, so you can imagine how it is in here. I wanna- I was gonna write what I’m telling you and be a little more specific, because I think my story needs to be- I need to really get my voice, [redacted].

The full story

Go Back

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

UCI: So what facility are you calling from?

Caller: Deuel Vocational Institution, DVI. That’s the acronym.

UCI: Perfect, thank you so much. Okay so go ahead and-

Caller: Can you understand-

UCI: Oh, go ahead, sorry, what was your question?

Caller: Can you understand me? Because I got on two masks.

UCI: Yes, I can hear you just fine. If you enunciate a little bit, but you should be fine. I can hear you just clearly.

Caller: Good deal. Thank you, Erin, you say, right?

UCI: Yeah, that’s me! So, let’s go ahead and get started. Tell me about what it’s been like during the pandemic.

Caller: Initially, it was a shock. Because I knew that the pandemic was worldwide. I had never anticipated or even expected the pandemic to hit the prison system.

And in three months, during the initial or statewide initialization of the pandemic, I became a little more concerned. Not for me or fellow prisoners, but for family members, the community at large, and the general public.

And then, when the numbers started finalizing in states. Particularly here in California, and I see the numbers continue to gravitate toward unprecedented amounts. I became really concerned. So, the graduation of concern, and intrigue, and [unintelligible].

And the president, Donald Trump, didn’t help a lot because he discounted a lot of the things. And seemed to basically set a precedent which I didn’t understand. But then when it started hitting the- infecting the prisons, I learned about that particular aspect or source of information from the San Quentin News, which is a prisoner-generated publication.

And the numbers was really frightening, because- also I’m in here on a three-strikes, property crime. I became concerned about my public- my personal safety because also I’m doing a life sentence, I didn’t wanna be, I don’t wanna die in prison.

Particularly knowing that the prison officials, the correction officials, and even administrators, they do not have a high standard of PPEs and other cleaning agents that the public at large is using. Such as sanitizing, masks were just given, initially we were given cloth masks. Now we’re finally given N95 masks, or what they’re calling KN95 masks, but it still left me with a great amount of concern. Particularly because the prison officials warn that the facility is scheduled to be shut down.

So what they seem to be doing is creating a crisis situation by withholding more PPEs and cleaning agents. So it’s become perpetually disconcerting that public servants, who are paid by the taxpayers, are perpetuating a mass pandemic in the midst of a pandemic.

So I’m really concerned about my personal safety, and the safety of others, of course. But mine personally because I don’t know if the same fellow inmates have the same amount of reservation and the level of concern that I’m exhibiting.

I’ve been filing grievances with the prison officials, and they’re discounting them, of course. There’s no real social distancing in prison because now they’re making us take on double-cells in a massive size cell, and we’re in there 23 hours a day. And we’ve got poor ventilation, and this prison that I’m in, it was built in the 1940s.

Please know that I am not a victim. I’m just trying not to be victimized. I don’t know if that makes a great deal of sense.

My hope and concern is that the staff will take this seriously, because they’re not taking it seriously. Until they take it serious, there’s gonna be- this could be my final resting place. And that’s my concern, Erin. Because I got several petitions in the courts, where I could possibly go home within the next year, God willing.

But with this pandemic and the variants, and all these ongoing battles, with the administration and signing various paperwork, it’s like I’m losing. I’m trying to stay encouraged, I’m trying to stay comforted, but the staff are not helping in this pandemic.

They’re literally not giving us any cleaning agents, and cleaning agents that they give us is watered down. We’ve got a four-man shower, and close to, I wanna say 120 guys use it every other day, and it gets cleaned maybe once a week. So there’s- it’s really filthy.

And the staff are just, the other- and it’s really a racial thing. That’s what I want to emphasize. ‘Cause the whites, who have white officers here, the Hispanics got Hispanic officers here, but there’s a low representation of Black officers who could give voice to- well even if I tell ‘em, “look, as a Black man, I’m concerned that the shower situations, they’re not getting cleaned.”

They said “Mr. Inmate,” you know, ‘cause you don’t really use my name, “well we don’t want you to- we don’t have anything to give you. ‘Till we have something to give you, what can we tell you?” So I have to take my personal cleaning agents and clean the shower.

And I’m a porter, means I’m basically an industrial janitor. And they will, they give me- that’s why I can say, speak from firsthand experience that they’re not trying to give us anything to help us offset any pandemic. It’s like they want us to die in here, or they want us to be confrontational.

But again, please know, I am not a victim. I just don’t want to be victimized.

UCI: Yeah, I mean- oh, go ahead.

Caller: I’m out here now watching them bring, they just brought like 25 inmates in from another building. Now, they don’t warn us. Only thing they do is compacting more inmates, and they’re making socially distance hard.

And the institution I’m in is DVI. Deuel Vocational Institution. This institution is being shut down. There’s currently four wings, or buildings, that are- that’s totally empty.

They could effectively socially distance each individual inmate here. But because they’re cutting down on staff, they’re basically corralling us to one area. Which makes social distance impossible. And that’s what–we’re confined to our cells 24 hours a day. Only time we’re let out is for a shower. They’re not giving us yard exercise.

So it really is, it’s really a place where it’s really infested with a lot of germs, a lot of anxiety, a lot of misery, and a lot of combativeness and confrontations. Not only between inmates and staff, but between staff and staff, or between inmate and inmate. I watched two female staff members become real confrontational on the floor in front of us.

And when I said something to one of ‘em in hopes that, that they would- the confrontation would cease, I became the target of their violent propensities. So, there are worse things, the staff here are worse than the inmates.

At least with the inmates I know what to expect, but with the staff, I don’t know what to expect. Again, I am not a victim, I just do not want to be victimized.

UCI: Hmmm. That’s- I really appreciate, you know, you sharing what’s going on, because that’s not something, you know, we’re hearing right now. With, you know, the prison system, where, you know, you’re having this very interesting time. Where your facility’s being shut down, and how that’s being handled. Like I guess the watering down of, you know, PPE, that’s kind of a big deal, especially right now.

Is there anything you do to cope with being in your cell 24 hours a day? And then, you know, I know you say you filed grievances. And you also said those aren’t being, you know, heard, or they can take a very long time to get processed and to be acknowledged. So is there anything you do in the meantime to be able to cope? Are you able to call your family?

Caller: Up until- I haven’t talked to my mom, my elderly mom, in over a month. I was supposed to talk- I was trying to call her today but she didn’t answer. I do a lot of praying. I do a lot of meditating on the word.

I don’t do no- I’m not religious, but I am spiritual. I don’t believe in religion because religion is an attempt to reach God. And my spirituality is based upon my relationship with Christ Jesus, who I call on continuously, on a continuum, because that’s my only refuge.

That’s my only source of comfort in a post-pandemic, it’s the times uncertain out there, so you can imagine how it is in here. I wanna- I was gonna write what I’m telling you and be a little more specific, because I think my story needs to be- I need to really get my voice, Erin.

UCI: Yeah, absolutely.

Caller: I need to be a voice of reason.

UCI: Yeah, absolutely. If- do you have our address, before it cuts me off?

Caller: Yes I do, it’s, P.O. box-

UCI: Mhmm.

Caller: 4430, Sunland-

UCI: Yup!

Caller: California, 91041.

UCI: Yes, please write us, we want to hear your story. But thank you so much for calling.

Caller: And thank you, Erin, for listening.

UCI: You’re welcome, have a great night.

Caller: You too, bye-bye.

UCI: Bye.

01/21
Days are dark
LISTEN
0:00
0:00

Days are dark

HEAR THE FULL STORY

This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Tracy.

The way I’ve been coping with the crisis is by praying, meditating on the words of the Bible. Journaling, attending services, and exercising along with watching sports. My days are dark because I don’t have a significant other to vent to. Nor can I be the sounding board for what God is doing in this wicked and perverse generation.

The full story

Go Back

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

Greetings,

As you know and are acutely aware, the COVID-19 crisis in California’s carceral facilities remains a pandemic inside a pandemic. Particularly, because of the correctional staff’s disdain for the inmates push to a better public health crisis. And especially during the exact same time as the racial justice crisis that remains a integral part of America’s community crisis where each day, week, month, and for year some minority (like a Black man) is being killed by unscrupulous policies.

This same occurrence has plagued the Black community during the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and this entire millennium. The Black communities have been locked down during this same period and perpetuated with the War on Drugs, which allowed mass incarceration. Take, for example, the fact that the three-strikes law allowed courts to give, for example, me six years to life for taking the screen off of a window while the occupant was home.

Although no encounter ensued, the occupant may or may not been in fear of imminent danger. I was only fleeing from gang members who tried to force me to steal an air conditioner from Home Depot’s sidewalk sale. Please know that although my crime was fueled by my crack cocaine addiction, I fully accept responsibility for my inappropriate and unacceptable behavior.

COVID-19 is and will remain the catch phrase for all pandemics. The perpetuation has just been gradual. Now, however, I come from the position of how it impacted prison as a whole. The staff here – which are 80% Hispanic, 15% White, 3% Black, and 2% Asian – is running a system that’s 60% Black, 30% Hispanic, and .07% other and 6% White.

These disproportionate general numbers are reflective of the pandemic’s effects on the minority population and the prison and courts targeting poor Blacks and minorities. Couple this with the inner working of the staff’s disdain for the Black inmates, along with inadequate cleaning supplies, PPEs, and packing inmates up like sardines makes it next to difficult to practice any type of social distancing.

What it’s been like to be inside during this time is extremely hard to articulate. Because it’s like a parallel universe where we are told one thing, but the staff are fighting against the administrator’s decision-making process.

How I feel about my safety during this time is intense by all these external factors, like cleaning supplies, PPEs, non-existent social distancing, Hispanic staff blatant disregard for Black inmates. My safety is so imperative that the more I project the concern, the more staff becomes dismissive of any effort to practice social distancing policies.

The facts surrounding the visits are understandable, but the administration should come out of the dark ages and get into the technological ages and implement a system where every inmate could have cell phone or tablets that allows for social media that permeates society.

The way I’ve been coping with the crisis is by praying, meditating on the words of the Bible. Journaling, attending services, and exercising along with watching sports. My days are dark because I don’t have a significant other to vent to. Nor can I be the sounding board for what God is doing in this wicked and perverse generation.

I remain continuously optimistic.

01/21
I don’t wanna die
LISTEN
0:00
0:00

I don’t wanna die

HEAR THE FULL STORY

This story was told by a person incarcerated at Tracy.

UCI: Tell me about what it’s been like during the pandemic.

Caller: Initially, it was a shock. Because I knew that the pandemic was worldwide. I had never anticipated or even expected the pandemic to hit the prison system.

And in three months, during the initial or statewide initialization of the pandemic, I became a little more concerned. Not for me or fellow prisoners, but for family members, the community at large, and the general public.

And then, when the numbers started finalizing in states. Particularly here in California, and I see the numbers continue to gravitate toward unprecedented amounts. I became really concerned. So, the graduation of concern, and intrigue, and [unintelligible].

And the president, Donald Trump, didn’t help a lot because he discounted a lot of the things. And seemed to basically set a precedent which I didn’t understand. But then when it started hitting the- infecting the prisons, I learned about that particular aspect or source of information from the San Quentin News, which is a prisoner-generated publication.

And the numbers was really frightening, because- also I’m in here on a three-strikes, property crime. I became concerned about my public- my personal safety because also I’m doing a life sentence, I didn’t wanna be, I don’t wanna die in prison.

Particularly knowing that the prison officials, the correction officials, and even administrators, they do not have a high standard of PPEs and other cleaning agents that the public at large is using. Such as sanitizing, masks were just given, initially we were given cloth masks. Now we’re finally given N95 masks, or what they’re calling KN95 masks, but it still left me with a great amount of concern. Particularly because the prison officials warn that the facility is scheduled to be shut down.

So what they seem to be doing is creating a crisis situation by withholding more PPEs and cleaning agents. So it’s become perpetually disconcerting that public servants, who are paid by the taxpayers, are perpetuating a mass pandemic in the midst of a pandemic.

So I’m really concerned about my personal safety, and the safety of others, of course. But mine personally because I don’t know if the same fellow inmates have the same amount of reservation and the level of concern that I’m exhibiting.

I’ve been filing grievances with the prison officials, and they’re discounting them, of course. There’s no real social distancing in prison because now they’re making us take on double-cells in a massive size cell, and we’re in there 23 hours a day. And we’ve got poor ventilation, and this prison that I’m in, it was built in the 1940s.

The full story

Go Back

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

UCI: So what facility are you calling from?

Caller: Deuel Vocational Institution, DVI. That’s the acronym.

UCI: Perfect, thank you so much. Okay so go ahead and-

Caller: Can you understand-

UCI: Oh, go ahead, sorry, what was your question?

Caller: Can you understand me? Because I got on two masks.

UCI: Yes, I can hear you just fine. If you enunciate a little bit, but you should be fine. I can hear you just clearly.

Caller: Good deal. Thank you, Erin, you say, right?

UCI: Yeah, that’s me! So, let’s go ahead and get started. Tell me about what it’s been like during the pandemic.

Caller: Initially, it was a shock. Because I knew that the pandemic was worldwide. I had never anticipated or even expected the pandemic to hit the prison system.

And in three months, during the initial or statewide initialization of the pandemic, I became a little more concerned. Not for me or fellow prisoners, but for family members, the community at large, and the general public.

And then, when the numbers started finalizing in states. Particularly here in California, and I see the numbers continue to gravitate toward unprecedented amounts. I became really concerned. So, the graduation of concern, and intrigue, and [unintelligible].

And the president, Donald Trump, didn’t help a lot because he discounted a lot of the things. And seemed to basically set a precedent which I didn’t understand. But then when it started hitting the- infecting the prisons, I learned about that particular aspect or source of information from the San Quentin News, which is a prisoner-generated publication.

And the numbers was really frightening, because- also I’m in here on a three-strikes, property crime. I became concerned about my public- my personal safety because also I’m doing a life sentence, I didn’t wanna be, I don’t wanna die in prison.

Particularly knowing that the prison officials, the correction officials, and even administrators, they do not have a high standard of PPEs and other cleaning agents that the public at large is using. Such as sanitizing, masks were just given, initially we were given cloth masks. Now we’re finally given N95 masks, or what they’re calling KN95 masks, but it still left me with a great amount of concern. Particularly because the prison officials warn that the facility is scheduled to be shut down.

So what they seem to be doing is creating a crisis situation by withholding more PPEs and cleaning agents. So it’s become perpetually disconcerting that public servants, who are paid by the taxpayers, are perpetuating a mass pandemic in the midst of a pandemic.

So I’m really concerned about my personal safety, and the safety of others, of course. But mine personally because I don’t know if the same fellow inmates have the same amount of reservation and the level of concern that I’m exhibiting.

I’ve been filing grievances with the prison officials, and they’re discounting them, of course. There’s no real social distancing in prison because now they’re making us take on double-cells in a massive size cell, and we’re in there 23 hours a day. And we’ve got poor ventilation, and this prison that I’m in, it was built in the 1940s.

Please know that I am not a victim. I’m just trying not to be victimized. I don’t know if that makes a great deal of sense.

My hope and concern is that the staff will take this seriously, because they’re not taking it seriously. Until they take it serious, there’s gonna be- this could be my final resting place. And that’s my concern, Erin. Because I got several petitions in the courts, where I could possibly go home within the next year, God willing.

But with this pandemic and the variants, and all these ongoing battles, with the administration and signing various paperwork, it’s like I’m losing. I’m trying to stay encouraged, I’m trying to stay comforted, but the staff are not helping in this pandemic.

They’re literally not giving us any cleaning agents, and cleaning agents that they give us is watered down. We’ve got a four-man shower, and close to, I wanna say 120 guys use it every other day, and it gets cleaned maybe once a week. So there’s- it’s really filthy.

And the staff are just, the other- and it’s really a racial thing. That’s what I want to emphasize. ‘Cause the whites, who have white officers here, the Hispanics got Hispanic officers here, but there’s a low representation of Black officers who could give voice to- well even if I tell ‘em, “look, as a Black man, I’m concerned that the shower situations, they’re not getting cleaned.”

They said “Mr. Inmate,” you know, ‘cause you don’t really use my name, “well we don’t want you to- we don’t have anything to give you. ‘Till we have something to give you, what can we tell you?” So I have to take my personal cleaning agents and clean the shower.

And I’m a porter, means I’m basically an industrial janitor. And they will, they give me- that’s why I can say, speak from firsthand experience that they’re not trying to give us anything to help us offset any pandemic. It’s like they want us to die in here, or they want us to be confrontational.

But again, please know, I am not a victim. I just don’t want to be victimized.

UCI: Yeah, I mean- oh, go ahead.

Caller: I’m out here now watching them bring, they just brought like 25 inmates in from another building. Now, they don’t warn us. Only thing they do is compacting more inmates, and they’re making socially distance hard.

And the institution I’m in is DVI. Deuel Vocational Institution. This institution is being shut down. There’s currently four wings, or buildings, that are- that’s totally empty.

They could effectively socially distance each individual inmate here. But because they’re cutting down on staff, they’re basically corralling us to one area. Which makes social distance impossible. And that’s what–we’re confined to our cells 24 hours a day. Only time we’re let out is for a shower. They’re not giving us yard exercise.

So it really is, it’s really a place where it’s really infested with a lot of germs, a lot of anxiety, a lot of misery, and a lot of combativeness and confrontations. Not only between inmates and staff, but between staff and staff, or between inmate and inmate. I watched two female staff members become real confrontational on the floor in front of us.

And when I said something to one of ‘em in hopes that, that they would- the confrontation would cease, I became the target of their violent propensities. So, there are worse things, the staff here are worse than the inmates.

At least with the inmates I know what to expect, but with the staff, I don’t know what to expect. Again, I am not a victim, I just do not want to be victimized.

UCI: Hmmm. That’s- I really appreciate, you know, you sharing what’s going on, because that’s not something, you know, we’re hearing right now. With, you know, the prison system, where, you know, you’re having this very interesting time. Where your facility’s being shut down, and how that’s being handled. Like I guess the watering down of, you know, PPE, that’s kind of a big deal, especially right now.

Is there anything you do to cope with being in your cell 24 hours a day? And then, you know, I know you say you filed grievances. And you also said those aren’t being, you know, heard, or they can take a very long time to get processed and to be acknowledged. So is there anything you do in the meantime to be able to cope? Are you able to call your family?

Caller: Up until- I haven’t talked to my mom, my elderly mom, in over a month. I was supposed to talk- I was trying to call her today but she didn’t answer. I do a lot of praying. I do a lot of meditating on the word.

I don’t do no- I’m not religious, but I am spiritual. I don’t believe in religion because religion is an attempt to reach God. And my spirituality is based upon my relationship with Christ Jesus, who I call on continuously, on a continuum, because that’s my only refuge.

That’s my only source of comfort in a post-pandemic, it’s the times uncertain out there, so you can imagine how it is in here. I wanna- I was gonna write what I’m telling you and be a little more specific, because I think my story needs to be- I need to really get my voice, Erin.

UCI: Yeah, absolutely.

Caller: I need to be a voice of reason.

UCI: Yeah, absolutely. If- do you have our address, before it cuts me off?

Caller: Yes I do, it’s, P.O. box-

UCI: Mhmm.

Caller: 4430, Sunland-

UCI: Yup!

Caller: California, 91041.

UCI: Yes, please write us, we want to hear your story. But thank you so much for calling.

Caller: And thank you, Erin, for listening.

UCI: You’re welcome, have a great night.

Caller: You too, bye-bye.

UCI: Bye.

01/21
Packed like sardines
LISTEN
0:00
0:00

Packed like sardines

HEAR THE FULL STORY

This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Tracy.

These disproportionate general numbers are reflective of the pandemic’s effects on the minority population and the prison and courts targeting poor Blacks and minorities. Couple this with the inner working of the staff’s disdain for the Black inmates, along with inadequate cleaning supplies, PPEs, and packing inmates up like sardines makes it next to difficult to practice any type of social distancing.

What it’s been like to be inside during this time is extremely hard to articulate. Because it’s like a parallel universe where we are told one thing, but the staff are fighting against the administrator’s decision-making process.

How I feel about my safety during this time is intense by all these external factors, like cleaning supplies, PPEs, non-existent social distancing, Hispanic staff blatant disregard for Black inmates. My safety is so imperative that the more I project the concern, the more staff becomes dismissive of any effort to practice social distancing policies.

The full story

Go Back

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

Greetings,

As you know and are acutely aware, the COVID-19 crisis in California’s carceral facilities remains a pandemic inside a pandemic. Particularly, because of the correctional staff’s disdain for the inmates push to a better public health crisis. And especially during the exact same time as the racial justice crisis that remains a integral part of America’s community crisis where each day, week, month, and for year some minority (like a Black man) is being killed by unscrupulous policies.

This same occurrence has plagued the Black community during the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and this entire millennium. The Black communities have been locked down during this same period and perpetuated with the War on Drugs, which allowed mass incarceration. Take, for example, the fact that the three-strikes law allowed courts to give, for example, me six years to life for taking the screen off of a window while the occupant was home.

Although no encounter ensued, the occupant may or may not been in fear of imminent danger. I was only fleeing from gang members who tried to force me to steal an air conditioner from Home Depot’s sidewalk sale. Please know that although my crime was fueled by my crack cocaine addiction, I fully accept responsibility for my inappropriate and unacceptable behavior.

COVID-19 is and will remain the catch phrase for all pandemics. The perpetuation has just been gradual. Now, however, I come from the position of how it impacted prison as a whole. The staff here – which are 80% Hispanic, 15% White, 3% Black, and 2% Asian – is running a system that’s 60% Black, 30% Hispanic, and .07% other and 6% White.

These disproportionate general numbers are reflective of the pandemic’s effects on the minority population and the prison and courts targeting poor Blacks and minorities. Couple this with the inner working of the staff’s disdain for the Black inmates, along with inadequate cleaning supplies, PPEs, and packing inmates up like sardines makes it next to difficult to practice any type of social distancing.

What it’s been like to be inside during this time is extremely hard to articulate. Because it’s like a parallel universe where we are told one thing, but the staff are fighting against the administrator’s decision-making process.

How I feel about my safety during this time is intense by all these external factors, like cleaning supplies, PPEs, non-existent social distancing, Hispanic staff blatant disregard for Black inmates. My safety is so imperative that the more I project the concern, the more staff becomes dismissive of any effort to practice social distancing policies.

The facts surrounding the visits are understandable, but the administration should come out of the dark ages and get into the technological ages and implement a system where every inmate could have cell phone or tablets that allows for social media that permeates society.

The way I’ve been coping with the crisis is by praying, meditating on the words of the Bible. Journaling, attending services, and exercising along with watching sports. My days are dark because I don’t have a significant other to vent to. Nor can I be the sounding board for what God is doing in this wicked and perverse generation.

I remain continuously optimistic.

02/21
So much mismanagement
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0:00

So much mismanagement

HEAR THE FULL STORY

This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Tracy.

When COVID-19 first hit, we heard a guy was supposed to go home in about three weeks. He was transferred to a facility that had an outbreak and he died. There are countless stories like this. I’m a 40 year old man, I’m in good shape and I recently (1-5-21) had a bout with COVID-19 and even though I beat it, it was a scary time, I can imagine an older gentleman experience such a intense paranoia.

I have witnessed so much mismanagement, this was an unprecedented event but all this was increased because as you know in about 2014, a three-judge federal court panel deemed CDCR to be overcrowded and a violation of the Eighth Amendment. If CDCR would of followed the three judges’ recommendation and released inmates in a timely manner, lives would of been saved because who would of knew the best medicine for COVID-19 is social distancing?!

The full story

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

I really hope this letter finds your family and your team moving forward in health, positive thought, and unconditional love. I am currently at Tracy and I have been down since 2012. By the grace of God I have become eligible for fire camp and I am currently awaiting transfer and when this happens I will be released at the end of 2021, then I’m coming right back!

Seriously, during this last nine years I have truly dug deep and become a better man, and I have experienced the deepest depths of sorrow in isolation. In 2015, things became too tough for a neighbor on the tier, he ended up cutting his own throat, then hanging himself. The depths of sorrow when you awake daily and pay for a crime you committed when you were a different person.

During this trip, I have earned 20 units toward my associate’s degree in biblical studies (I’m a Black Hebrew) I have earned my associates degree in behavioral science, emphasis on child development. I written an unpublished mentor/spoken word book titled “Words from a Friend” and I’m a certified horrible speller.

When COVID-19 first hit, we heard a guy was supposed to go home in about three weeks. He was transferred to a facility that had an outbreak and he died. There are countless stories like this. I’m a 40 year old man, I’m in good shape and I recently (1-5-21) had a bout with COVID-19 and even though I beat it, it was a scary time, I can imagine an older gentleman experience such a intense paranoia.

I have witnessed so much mismanagement, this was an unprecedented event but all this was increased because as you know in about 2014, a three-judge federal court panel deemed CDCR to be overcrowded and a violation of the Eighth Amendment. If CDCR would of followed the three judges’ recommendation and released inmates in a timely manner, lives would of been saved because who would of knew the best medicine for COVID-19 is social distancing?!

In 2020 in January, a good friend and I started a non-profit called [redacted]. Look it up on Google and follow us on IG. We developed the platform on the premises of rewarding individuals who are going to college while in prison with family reunification services. We became legal in March. We got our website up, then bam COVID-19 shut things down.

Romans 8:28: “All things work together for the good, to those who love God.” This is a horrible situation and a lot of pain and further isolation has been a never-ending reality. I hope a brighter light can be driven into these places of designed isolation.

The modern prison system was founded on the 13th Amendment adapted after the Civil War ended slavery. It was designed to create free labor (i.e., conduct leasing camps via black codes and vagrant laws). Knowing this is the foundation of the PIC, “prison industrial complex” and in this new revolution in uncovering the many forms of “systematic oppression.”

At my pretrial conference they offered me 32 months for breaking some glasses and a fight. I declined their offer, took it to trial, and received 192 months for the same crime. The tool they use as a weapon is called a “plea deal.” They threaten us with long sentences if we don’t take the deal.

Please forgive me, I tend to vent. I have many stories and real life sagas my brothers go through in here daily. I love writing and would love to dig deep with you and explore ways to enlighten and shape stories that humanize a real life struggle. I’ve done work with the Stanford Prison Renaissance, I was published in a zine called [redacted].

I’ll leave you with one of my spoken word poems called “Quicksand.” I would love to network with you ‘n grow. Please get back so we can get to work! Check out the website, at the bottom it says ‘A Production.’ That’s my nickname. I got when I was young. Hope you enjoy the poem!

Sincerely,

Quicksand by [redacted]

I didn’t know that the innocent mud would be vicious,

The “war” on drugs, a facade for a racial caste system,

When I put my foot in,

I thought I could get out,

Excuse me sir, are you hiring, get out,

A chance to succeed, seems easier to receive water in a drought,

The dope man ain’t checking my resume,

So I’m trapping in a trap,

Slavery’s abolished until I’m cracking for selling crack;

The life blood of freedom quenched because of lack,

Am I menace or I am fencing,

Convict leasing camp,

It takes a village, a raisin in the sun,

A conscious effort, daughters ‘n sons,

Quicksand got deeper, the more I struggled,

Mandatory minimums and 5 year priors,

My public pretender dumbstruck,

Over lunch they conspire,

The sand’s now at my knees

Didn’t recognize the significance

Of signing this plea,

My rights gone, the same one’s

Dr. King would bleed,

Sentence schemes and probation,

The new Emancipation Proclamation

Harsh conditions mixed with mass inflictions,

Slaves had more rights, then blacks with convictions,

Confederates baking up black codes in kitchens,

Various methods to deter voting,

Now the system’s their mistress,

There were bodies in the quicksand,

How could I miss this

“War on drugs,” “3 strikes,”

Not ropes, volts ‘n poison

The sense of justice burning inside me,

When I stand up, I’m inciting,

Am I intrinsically inferior,

Motivated by those behind me,

Locked arms with those beside me,

Blinders gone, diagnosed the problem,

Let’s start grinding

The sand’s now at my neck, (2 strikes)

I’ll scream till I’m tired,

Expose system advocates,

Tell the kids to dream higher,

Persuade our seeds to become insiders,

Real tools for survival, for those

Who bang and shoot,

Where your money goes, where your

Heart is, where you take you loot,

The quicksand got me, I’m still a rose,

With my damaged petals,

I will expose!

To [redacted]

I wrote this poem after I read “The New Jim Crow,” the systematic efforts to keep us down have been relentless, constant, and persistent, so is the fighting spirit in all of us who hang on to this humanity! I have 113 spoken word poems and several mentor stories and essays that navigate my life journey through pain and isolation, gangs, drugs, and transformation.

Sincerely.

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