This story was told by a person incarcerated at Fresno County Jail.
UCI: You are free to share.
Caller: I guess, I suppose that it would be better if you ask me questions. What exactly would you like to know?
UCI: Of course. So what facility are you currently housed at?
Caller: I’m an inmate at the Fresno County Jail.
UCI: And so what has the COVID situation been like at your facility?
Caller: Well, I was, my booking date when I was first arrested was March of 2021. And when I was first booked in, you know, we were told to wait outside. We sat in a chair, we watched each individual, and we got a 15-minute quick test right then and there.
I came out negative. I wasn’t positive myself, and I wasn’t positive before. I never got it on the outside world.
But when I came in, I came into what they call a pod, an area of 50 to 60 people. But around two weeks later, they let people in. Outside they would test us, but when the people come in, we go to what they call a sick hall, and it’s basically like a small checkup.
So, when somebody comes back positive, a whole pod goes on quarantine. We’re not allowed to go to the gym. We’re not allowed to have visits. We’re not allowed to basically exit the pod for any reason whatsoever.
The correctional officers do a good job. They wear protective gear. They wear their masks. They wear gloves. They wear how a surgeon would prepare for surgery, you know, like a smock, you know, just to protect themselves, and they’d serve us our food and then leave.
But recently, our visits have been, were taken away in March. I don’t know how long they were taken away before that, but when we opened up visits, it was around the end of June, around June 26. We’re allowed to see our family. No one under the age of 18 is allowed, so it’s kind of sad.
Some people can’t see their children or what not, but it’s understandable. They don’t want to risk getting children sick.
But as long as somebody is 18 and older, they’re close family or friend, and they have a vaccine, and they can prove that they have their vaccine with either a vaccine card or they can take a test that proves that they’re negative, but it has to be within the 72 hour period.
You know, but it’s been fairly well. They were caught. I guess the county before I got here, they were giving out what they call quarantine packages. It would consist of $20 worth of food because the inmates were not allowed to order commissary or, as they call canteen.
But recently, that’s been lifted. I guess they told us that it’s too much for the budget for them to be giving every single inmate in the jail free packs while on quarantine. But I guess, you know, they just cut that off because they said it was too much for the budget.
So, they let us and allowed us to do canteen. Our canteen process is basically we order with bubble sheets. Now that’s changed. Recently they had tablets now that we order from.
But the process of getting our canteen was the people that would bring us our delivery, they were a different company, they would give us a paper that we would have to sign our initials on, and we’d give it back to them, and they’d give us our food that we ordered.
But any time we’re on quarantine, they don’t give us our papers, they don’t give us our receipts, they don’t give us a copy. They let the COs, the correctional officers, handle the canteen on the quarantine pod. They just hand us our stuff. We don’t have to sign anything. We have a wristband for identification, and we show that and we get to receive that.
Before I got here, some of the other inmates, they told me they were caught lying on the news. The county jail told the news stations that they’re providing a mask and bars of soap every two weeks. Apparently, they asked the COs about that, like, “Where’s our soap? Where’s our masks that you’re supposed to be providing us?”
The COs were just pushing it off, saying, “That’s not true. We don’t provide that.” And what not.
So, you know, this county is not very, how would I say, promising with their word, per se. You know, but they do the best they can and what not. When were, usually they start, they were spraying our entire pod every night. They would spray it with like hand sanitizer, you know, and they would wash the walls.
They would wash the doors. They would wash our tables and sinks and bathrooms and everything, but they stopped doing it after a while, and that seemed pretty unsanitary. It seemed very unprofessional. Why start doing it and then stop doing it?
And you know, it doesn’t make sense if we get tested outside, and somebody new comes in, and they test positive; what does that tell you about the outside test? That it’s not very accurate, or they’re just sending sick people from the outside world into a pod with people who aren’t sick, and then we’re all punished by that because that one person is at risk of infecting us all. So, why would they send someone in who has it to a bunch of people that don’t and then get us on quarantine?
And how would they be positive if we tested them outside and they were negative? You know, It really doesn’t make any sense. But that’s pretty much a small summary. Is there any more questions you can ask me?
UCI: That was wonderful to hear. I’m really glad you shared that. You mentioned that the officers in your facility had masks and gloves. Did they offer you guys anything of the sort? Did they offer you sanitizers?
Caller: There’s not. They give us masks for when we go for our visitations or when we exit the pod to go to what they call Bible studies. But in the pod, mainly nobody really wears their masks until we have a reason to go outside of the door.
But they really. Like I said, they said they were providing new masks every two weeks and a bar of soap, but that was just a big lie right there. You know, we pointed that out as the inmates. I wasn’t here at that time, but I assume it’s true.
What do these inmates have to lie about, you know? I don’t see why they would have to lie. They’re not a big fan of the COs; they’re going to lie to the news and say they’re providing these things when they’re not. That’s just not right, but there’s not much as an inmate that we can do about that, you know.
UCI: Yeah, I’m with you on that one. I agree. What about, have you been vaccinated?
Caller: Me personally? No, I don’t believe in the vaccination myself. That’s just a personal choice. It was kind of interesting. Every month or two, they offer us the vaccine if we want it. And that’s fair. You know, that’s a good thing. Most people deny it; some people get it.
But this last time around, they basically bribed us. They put a message on the TV, and they said that if you get the vaccine, you get $30 in the free commissary, you get a bag of coffee and all this. They’re making it, you know, they’re making it, they’re just basically bribing. They’re making it sound like a great deal, you know?
At the end of the day, a person like me, I see it as, wow you know, a lot of people just sold themselves for $30. Everybody was excited and happy, “Oh yeah, we get free food!” and what not. But at the same time, I feel like nobody’s really concerned about the side effects and aftermath of getting the shot, whatever that may be.
When I came here, I never got the vaccine throughout the entire year when the pandemic started. I was never sick. As soon as I got here, four months in, I got COVID. I couldn’t taste. I couldn’t smell. It was hard to breathe.
I just laid in my bed for two weeks. I asked them if there was something that they could do about that. Their only solution was to put us in what we call “The hole.” You know, to me, that would be more of a punishment than anything.
It’s understandable that they would separate us from other people and not want to risk other people getting sick, but at the same time, it’s just why would you put somebody in that small area like that just because they’re sick? They need some help. They need some medicine. Shit, take me to the hospital if you can. I don’t feel well.
I asked the COs myself, you know, the correctional officers, and they basically said, “Yeah man, If you want to go somewhere, all we can do is put you in the hole and separate you from everybody else.” So, I just kind of toughed it out. We were on quarantine at that time anyway, so there was no point.
But during the quarantine usually lasts two weeks, but it would be 23 days, it’ll be 24 days, and every time somebody would leave the pod, there would be a fight, and this person would be escorted out. And during quarantine, they would just reset the quarantine. Basically, if you were 11 days in and somebody left, then everybody would have to start that process over, and it would be back to day one, which seems completely, I don’t know, unfair. But I guess that’s the way their rules are, you know, I suppose.
UCI: I do agree with you. I can see why that will be unfair to have everything restart.
Caller: Yeah. Any further questions you have for me?
UCI:Yeah, how have you been coping with the crisis? Has it been difficult for you personally?
Caller: Yeah. Myself, personally, I just have a lot of little mental issues here and there. A lot of pet peeves. I’m very bothered by a lot of things.
But, you know, this is not really a safe place. You know, I’m personally in a PC pod, is what they call it, protective custody, but there is no, it doesn’t seem very protective. It’s still a jail. Violence happens. Things happen.
People come up on the news due to the seriousness of their crime, and if it’s something that involves, you know, kidnapping or human trafficking or something like that, that person gets assaulted, that person gets beat. It’s not a very easy thing to cope with when you see that type of violence. You know.
But we all try to keep calm. We all try to talk politics, as they say. We make rules. There’s groups of different people, as we call them “Cars,” the Black car, the White car, the Mexican car. We’re basically segregated by race. But it’s just the way it is. We can’t really do much about it.
At the same time, the way to cope with it personally, I write. I write every day in here. Some people read. Some people just sleep. Some people pace back and forth and do absolutely nothing, you know. Everybody has their different ways.
UCI: Writing is wonderful. That’s a great way.
Caller: Yeah, I love, it passes the time, you know? Six hours goes by on a day when you write, and that’s fine with me, you know.
UCI: Is there anything else you want people to know about your experience?
Caller: I’d say just don’t go to jail. Do the right thing. The law is not a hard thing to follow. And I hope everybody understands that, you know, this is not the place to be.
UCI: Yup. Thank you very much for calling. I really appreciate you sharing your experience. It’s very brave of you to call and tell us.
Caller: Yeah no problem. I found it very interesting. Thank you for letting me talk to share these stories.
UCI: Of course! Thank you again for calling. It’s because of you that our organization is so amazing.
Caller: Alrighty, ma’am. They’re about to cut us off. You have a good day, ma’am.
UCI: You too.