This story was told by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women).
UCI: Please give your testimony about any aspects you think are important for people to know about the the situation of the people incarcerated during COVID-19.
Caller: I think for the female population being incarcerated in the center of California, within the center of California, that we were originally given manmade face masks that they made out of the state issue, what we call state issue clothing, and it was originally made out of our oranges. We have something called oranges, which is like reception center, so it was basic cotton and polyester, and those are the original masks that we had since the beginning of March of last year until January of this year. Now when two- a doctor and a nurse came in and they were tested positive, within two days over 700 people tested positive, Okay?
Caller: And that was based on us not having the proper protocol for procedure, protection, as far as preventive measures. Now, while the officers, yeah, while the officers are screaming six what is that? Six feet distancing, social distancing. They want to enforce that to send us back to our rooms and we weren’t coming out for seven days at a time, nine days at a time and we’re forced to live in there seven and eight deep.
Okay now today when, before we, before I contracted the virus I was begging for something called SaniGuard. I noticed that all the officers were using SaniGuard. So when I look at the difference between what they normally issue, which is Cellblock 64 versus the SaniGuard, I was able to see that the Cellblock 64 is a carcinogenic.
UCI: Oh wow.
Caller: Okay, so when we’re spraying it in our rooms, and that’s what they’re using to clean it with, they’re not doing it themselves. They’re using SaniGuard, which is food grade, which means that we can inhale it and we won’t die or anything or, you know, make situations worse or anything. So being that I’m a broncil-, I, what do they call it, bronchitis asthma? So that’s the kind of asthma that I have.
So the whole time that I was 602’ing, which is our griefing system, I was being told by the supervisors of- we have housing staff. Second, third, and first watch, and then we have supervisors for those housing staff members. And it’s from the housing staff is basic, which is like the floor people, the people that deal with this eight hours or eight hour shifts. Then we have their supervisor, which are the sergeants and lieutenants and then the captains and so on.
So on my, on this particular yard the sergeants were covering for their staff, for their subordinates, saying that they issue SaniGuard. All these different things, you know, that seem like that they were going by the book that they were enforcing this, they were enforcing that. They were saying that the signs were posted about social distancing here. Every time we walk out of our room to come out for anything there’s more than one person there, and we’re not six cubic feet away.
Our bedrooms are packed with more than six people. The rooms were created for four and I was here when it was created for four. So we’re on the max capacity with eight people in a room. And you’re gonna tell me that when we actually caught the COVID I was less than two feet away from the next person that had COVID.
Caller: In the room that I was in, yes. In the room that I was in, there were people that were 14 days clear still living there with us when we came in.
Okay, so as far as everything happening. The food portions because staff had to feed us on paper trays and things like that. We were given one ounce of potatoes instead of the four standard ounces and on one particular, on one particular day I wrote it down and showed our AVS system, which is our camera system, that instead of the normal so many ounces of food I got like one ounce of everything.
Caller: So how do you keep your body up to standards when you can’t be fed the right food.
UCI: And you have access to water though?
Caller: Yeah, I wrote down the date in my little digital things. We have something called like JPay or something. So I wrote down the date there.
But as far as washing our clothes after, COVID we sat over there for two weeks almost dying and we were unable to wash our clothes. Although they had a washing machine available, we were unable to wash our blankets. We had to bring our contaminated blankets back to the same room that were never sprayed or cleaned or anything.
So the air, the air system, it was so thick with lint and garbage on the exhaust vents that I just scraped it and put it up. You know? And sent it somewhere but you know I’m saying?
These are the kind of conditions when they want to say, oh the women are being given bleach. We read one article where the warden was allegedly, the acting warden was allegedly telling people, you know the girls get bleach and they have access to bleach. We’ve never had bleach since I’ve been here. Okay not on delta facility so everything that’s being projected, like yeah it sounds good on paper, but it’s not living out.
Caller: You have the officers that are now taking it serious enough to wear their masks. They were wearing some kind of like little ski thing and it was real flimsy. So then when we see the special on Channel 18 and it showed all the different types of masks and the ones that really work. We were flabbergasted because in essence had, as soon as the 700 inmates broke out then they started issuing us every day masks of N95. So why weren’t we given out any?
UCI: Right, at the very beginning.
Caller: Some of us have high risk right, I’m already at a medium risk because I’m out here in Chowchilla with the cocci or whatever they call that thing, valley fever, and I’m a interested party for that, you know.
So when everything comes down, I have to combat that and COVID. You don’t wanna give me a mask or you don’t wanna give me SaniGuard. And that’s where the headaches lie. So now people are doubled up and tripled up in rooms, because now they’re doing a transporting thing in order for them to transport inmates to something called CTTRP, community something, training program or something. There are only living four in a room, so what made their lives any better than ours?
UCI: That’s crazy.
Caller: This is today.
UCI: That’s yeah I was gonna ask about you with the current COVID situation was over there right now.
Caller: Right and today and why they keep saying that, oh CDCR is regulating things that they’re doing early releases. These are the people that are being released, but now they’re living in a four bedroom cell and we’re cramped up and we still have to be here to catch it. You know?
Caller: If there’s 50 people, send them to the gym.
UCI: Mhm. So is that-
Caller: That’ll be their last stop.
UCI: ‘Cause I was gonna say this other there’s tents too or they’re sending over the gym.
Caller: No, we just have, we, they created an isolation unit, but only if you’re positive. So that means that any other living unit will be sequestered. Or, you know, except to the side where you you’re not going to interact with them. We’re not worried about the interacting, we’re worried about our program.
UCI: Oh, your prog-
Caller: How are they getting four people to a room when we’re squashed with eight?
UCI: Have you had access to any medicine at all?
Caller: Yeah, they just brought the Moderna. I just got vaccinated the first part of it. I believe it was Saturday. Yeah, so you know, I’m saying Moderna whatever and I was, I’m in the medium risk so they said the high risk people were first, medium risk, and low risk and no risk and that they would go down like that.
But it still comes back to what about the preventive measures? And now when they have all these jobs that are available and then where they can create cleaning crews per building that are not porters that come out and they clean the walls, they clean the seat every time somebody uses a telephone. They haven’t even thought that far. And this is reality for us in here, so we’re now we’re not even given that.
Yeah, we’re not even given the new masks anymore. They want us to go back to the cloth masks, which I’m deathly afraid of. If I had 12 out of the 13 symptoms, the only thing I didn’t contract was the vomiting and the diarrhea and that’s because I didn’t have nothing on my stomach, all I could do was drink liquid.
UCI: Well, so but for the people that when the people did have like whoever contracted COVID, were, did you have access to medicine for that?
Caller: No, they offered us Tylenol.
Caller: And I can’t take Tylenol ’cause it’s the blood thinner and I was like I was gonna be fitted for a pacemaker. So all of my medical issues were out there, and then when, when the vitals would come by and they want to say oh well, we’re giving vitals every day. Yeah, we’re giving vital. Most of the nurses were mean, ugly, and rude.
Meaning that their attitudes and their demeanors were mean, ugly, and rude. And this is what they were doing, so they never asked caringly. Hey, are you okay? Are you okay? How do you feel today?
They were like what is your number? What’s your this? Well just go back in the room then, I’m just gonna extend you. You know it was. Everything was about punishment we’re already being punished we’re damn near dying in prison.
Caller: How much more punishment can we get? You know?
UCI: And plus visitation too.
Caller: For myself. For visitation, they just, they stopped that maybe about I want to say about six months back, but now they want you to wear a mask to go to visiting, to sit there with your family while you’re wearing a mask. So you can sit in a booth and talk on a video chat. Yeah.
UCI: That’s crazy.
Caller: That’s through. The Education Department in here is like twice, each building goes once. Once the number comes up like if you live in 15, then you go on the whatever date. Then when you live in another building then you’ll go on another day from there as well. But this month it’s twice.
It is twice a- twice this month to go to school instead of running it for the whole of whatever and it’s D yard, it’s C yard, it’s B yard. They’re doing it one day at a time, and all this crazy stuff, but everything it still comes back to the inmate is suffering.
The bottom line here is we don’t get fresh air on a regular basis, our schedules and allotted times are from 9:30 in the morning until 10:30, we never get out for that. From 11 until 12 you might get out for that. They won’t do that because at 12:00 o’clock it’s noon. So you’re supposed to get meds at that time, so why should we let you out when we just have to run meds.
So it’s a lot of, you know, everything looks good on paper here, but it’s not being applied. You know and I did myself and another person filed a lawsuit regarding this, so we’re already in the 5th.
UCI: That’s yeah, that’s what we’ve been hearing too.
Caller: There are precedents- yeah.
UCI: I’ve got a couple other questions for you.
Caller: Uh huh.
UCI: So starting from the very beginning of the pandemic, would you say, so month by month, I mean, I know it’s kind of hard to think back it in ’cause I’m sure so much has happened since then, but starting from the very beginning. Say like last March through, through the month and through the summer and then through the winter time and the spike that happened.
How was the situation at your facility like? Nobody paid attention to it? Nobody took it seriously at first and then they started taking it seriously once-
Caller: At first the officers were laughing and joking ’cause we’re swearing if they had it before, which a lot of us, even the inmates, believe that we did because prior to March. We had that November thing that the United States was recognizing as a flu, a different kind of flu, and that’s what they advertise it as. And so when I was deathly ill then, it was told to me that I just had, oh, it’s the flu symptom, not, you know, they haven’t given it the COVID-19 name.
So then I went on and I recuperated four months later, I came up on March and that’s when they slammed the whole prison and we stayed slammed for a long time.
But the officers, when they originally started out giving them temperature checks and things like that, they stopped that at the gate. So after like, 60 days, 90 days and they stopped doing it. Then it was, oh well, you test if you feel like. Well if they don’t have, if they’re a systematic, then, asymptomatic, how are they going to know to test? You get it?
UCI: Yep, and then as far as-
Caller: Go ahead.
UCI: I’m sorry go ahead.
Caller: No, go ahead.
UCI: I was gonna ask so they weren’t taking it seriously. They stopped doing the temperature checks. You know they stopped paying attention to it and then?
Caller: Right. They stopped them. They stopped them coming in at the gate from doing temperature checks where they were down to like once a month, random or something like that. But even from there, their whole sadness is, you have a lot of decent officers that work here that work hard.
They’re trying to give you, trying to give us our state issue. And they’re bombarded with doing the work of somebody else, because guess what? That person didn’t show up, so if you have a grumpy officer then this what the kind of quality that you get?
You know my dilemma was simple. Because the housing units that I was in, the officers we’re in some kind of like semi romantic relationship. So they didn’t want to open the day room, which is where you use the telephone, which is where you get on the kiosks, which is where you walk around, outside of your cell activity.
And they didn’t want to separate themselves long enough to let us get out, so I’ve been through a living hell. I’ve been nine days locked in my room straight without a break in here. That’s not even counting outside, outside with fresh air because all food was brought to us on trays, you know.
But anyway, I don’t know when or where I’ll able to call back maybe tomorrow or something. And it’s seven now, so maybe I’ll just try around this time and we can finish any other questions that you have okay?
UCI: Fantastic thank you so much and tell your friends if you can.
Caller: All right.
UCI: Thank you, I appreciate your time.
Caller: Have a nice day.
UCI: You as well. I appreciate your time.