This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Salinas Valley.
Within 14 days people on my yard and in my building began showing COVID symptoms. As I stated, they quickly shut visiting down, which meant no one could see their families. This along with not being able to get out of the cell for exercise and socialization led to a rash of cell fights and petty disputes.
Men who had been cellmates for months, even years, were now at each other’s threats. Prison has always been a dangerous place, but the restrictions put in place by the administration seemed to make it even more so.
As men in the same predicament took their frustrations out on one another. Eventually they started testing us and for the part the men here were eager. Though the tests were voluntary and rather painful (at first) almost everyone took them as often as they were given the chance.
Personally, I’ve been treated five times. Once they began testing things were eased up and we started to have a regular schedule we could count on.
There was/is still a limit on the numbers of people allowed to yard, dayroom, and work or education programs. But there was at least a schedule we could work with and to look forward to. As eager as the men were to get treated, vaccinations were another story. They began with the older more susceptible men just like out there.
But when they started letting anyone get the shots, it got racial. At least from what I saw, the White and Mexican inmates took the shot while the majority of the Black inmates refused to.
Being Black myself, I have to admit to being skeptical at first as well but ultimately, I took it. Not out of an overwhelming trust in the vaccine itself. But because I know that before it’s all said and done whether or not an inmate has been vaccinated will be to decide who is eligible for certain future privilege.
Now that the vaccinations are available our restrictions are easing a bit more. Things are still nowhere near normal, and it’s been over a year since anyyone here has been able to embrace their loved ones.
But we like all of you out there have slowly gotten used to the new normal and are trying to make the most of it. It’s still a crazy and trying time, but as always life, even in prison goes on. Most of the men shy away from letting feelings be seen but all bets are off in the midst of quarantine shutdowns.
Forced us to face life in new grappling ways for motivation to get out of bed each day. The walls are closing in, depression on the rise. Voices of demon in my head spewing lies normally even keeled.