This story was told by a person incarcerated at Chuckawalla.
UCI: What’s going okay in terms of the management? What’s troubling you or concerning you?
Caller: Well, what has concerned me was the fact that the facility which, I have been on for a couple of years. When the pandemic first hit the prison in March, our facility, which has three buildings on it, stayed negative for at least six months.
Okay. And while the rest of the prison was all, was popped off. I mean, we’re talking every other yard had so many cases, like crazy. You know, we were up in the thousand mark, somewhere around there. And then, we tried to stay, our buildings particularly tried to stay isolated in quarantine, away from everything and everybody.
And then, somehow, someway, I mean I have my theories, but somehow, someway, we ended up getting it over here. We’re not sure if it was from the staff or by them bringing an inmate or two from another yard over here and got us infected. And the next thing you know we all, every single one of us got infected, and became positive.
UCI: Can you tell me what month that started to happen when people started to get sick in your building?
Caller: I’d say around September.
Caller: Around September. I’m not, you know, I’m not exactly certain, but I want to say around September.
UCI: How are- how have things been since then?
Caller: Since then, I mean, you know, we’ve had, I think we’re up to 11 deaths now at the prison. We’re at probably maybe at 20, 20 to 50, somewhere around there, positives on the other yards.
And everybody’s just asymptomatic now in my yard. I mean, you know we still are demanding to wear masks. But social distancing which they keep announcing all the time is just impossible. Absolutely impossible. This has concerned me from day one. You know?
UCI: What do you think would make the situation at your facility better right now?
Caller: What would make it better is the minimization of the population. The problem is that at this prison we live in cubicles. Okay. And the way these cubicles are set up in this dormitory setting, is downstairs there are exactly six bunk beds per cube.
Okay. I don’t know how else to describe it but each bunk bed is approximately two, we measured it’s about two and half feet from the next bunk. I can literally lay on my bunk, on my back and let my arm fall over, and it will hit the next bunk, next to me. Okay, so there’s six bunk beds downstairs, and upstairs, in the cubicle upstairs there’s five bunk beds with the same amount of space.
So if you got individuals who are living in every bottom bunk, and individuals on top bunks, there’s absolutely no way whatsoever, we can stay six feet apart from each other. Social distancing is absolutely impossible. But yet they tell us, and they make this announcement all the time, you know if you’re in your cubicle it’s okay not to have your mask on.
And you know, we’re not tripping on the social distancing in your cube. But when you come out of your cube, when you come into the dayroom, or go out into the yard. We want you to wear your mask, and we want you to be social distancing. In my opinion, what sense does that make? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to me, personally. You know?
UCI: What would you most want people to know about your experience in these past couple months?
Caller: Is that, when I became positive. Okay. I was negative maybe five times after taking the nose, the thing down your nose right. I was maybe negative five times. And then all of a sudden I popped up positive.
They sent me out of here, over to another building where everybody else was positive and had pneumonia. Okay. Two days later, I passed out. Okay. On-
I passed out and they take me by 911 emergency over to the hospital, to the main hospital. Okay. And what I want everybody to know is that there are so many inmates here going to that hospital, and being treated. I mean I would want to say the best they can, but there’s just too many of us in this situation.
But for me, when I got over there, they had to do a CAT scan of my brain and my chest. Come to find out, that not only was I COVID positive, but I had COVID pneumonia in my chest. Okay. I was dehydrated.
And because I was taking blood pressure medication, the doctor told me that was a “cocktail for disaster. And that’s why you passed out and we had to get you down so quick. Because you had a seizure like episode” and I never had seizures in my life. You know?
So it’s just, being in here in these circumstances is not a good thing with this pandemic as far as I’m concerned. I want people to know because I don’t know what else can be done except for moving people. You know. We have to minimize the numbers in order to practice social distancing, in order to be safe.
And there’s no way to do, with this many people in the building.
UCI: Yeah. Is there anything you can share about how you feel about the quality of care you received?
Caller: I would say on a scale from one to 10, the quality of the care was about a six and half, seven. It’s just, to me, it got better as time went on. I guess, because they were trying to figure out how to deal with so many people, under such, you know, crucial circumstances. But, we’re not getting the right food. We’re not getting the right things that we need, when it comes to making our immune systems better and stronger, like people in society.
We’re just not. You know and to me that’s, that’s part of all the health and safety care of a human that we deserve, no matter what situation we’re in. You know what I mean?
UCI: Yes. How has the situation at your facility with COVID-19 affected your loved ones?
Caller: Oh they’re devastated. They don’t know if I’m going to live or not because I’m over a certain age, where, and I have a pre-existing condition. And you know my family wrote the governor, wrote the secretary of the state, wrote the attorney general letting them know I have a pre-existing condition. That “why can’t I be put on a certain list in order to be removed from the prison and taken home like others have,” but due to the fact they say that hypertension and things aren’t as severe as other things, is not right.
So they, of course they fear for, my safety. In a way, where it comes to my health and dealing with COVID-19.
UCI: And what has it been like for you to have reduced visitation and programming?
Caller: It is so emotional not being able to see, touch, feel, talk to in a way where you used to, dealing with your loved ones. It puts you in a situation here, where sometimes you just don’t know which way to turn, you know, you don’t know who to turn to. Because everybody is dealing with the same situation, so we’re all in the same boat. You know, you’re dealing with 200 people in this building with attitudes, different characteristics and, it’s just not a good- it’s not a good scene, it’s not a good feel.
I don’ know how, I don’t what word to use to help you understand, but it’s just not good.
UCI: How have you been coping with the crisis so far?
Caller: A lot of reading, a lot of journaling. Using, you know, as healthy coping skills as possible, trying to exercise. You know, all of our sports have been taken away, all of our activity has been taken away due, you know, I guess the governor’s order. I try to you know, meditate, pray, talk to my people on the phone as much as possible.
They’re starting the video conference visits, as of tomorrow. For example, I have an actual visit with one of my family members tomorrow for the first time. So I’ll be able to see somebody at least, in the last you know eight, seven, eight months. And that’s the only way we can cope with it. And talk about, you know, the things that we’re feeling.