This story was told by a person incarcerated at Orange County Central Men’s Jail.
UCI: So what facility are you currently housed at?
Caller: Orange County Men’s Jail.
UCI: Okay, and what has the COVID situation been like at your facility?
Caller: Not friendly.
UCI: How so?
Caller: Deputies are pretty mean. We’re not convicted, we’re still awaiting trial and it feels like they don’t care about any of us in here.
UCI: And then in terms of programs and just daily life in prison, how has COVID-19 affected all of that?
Caller: We don’t have any programs here, they’ve stopped everything. We don’t even have a Chapel.
UCI: And what has it been like for you to have reduced visitation or any at all and programming?
Caller: Very depressing. Lots of anxiety. Poor health conditions.
UCI: And how have you been coping with the crisis?
Caller: Just trying to read and draw and that’s about it. We don’t even get, I haven’t had sunshine in at least a year and a half.
UCI: And given what you have said, what do you think would have made the situation at your facility better?
Caller: Being able to go outside.
UCI: So in, so are incarcerated folks at your facility not allowed to go outside at all and just confined to like inside the building?
Caller: Inside the building yes, only.
UCI: Are there any other activities being offered?
UCI: And how has the vaccination situation been like at your facility?
Caller: They say that it’s not a forced decision to make, but they make it where you feel you are forced into getting one of the shots. If you don’t get the shot, there is repercussions, makes you feel there is repercussions for it. Like they’re gonna put us in a separate cell, away from everybody else.
UCI: I see, and in terms of distribution are there like enough to go around ’cause, or, are do you think more, like most of the incarcerated folks there are hesitant to get the shot?
Caller: They do now, but when it first came out, no there wasn’t enough. And we were still wondering, it was only a month into the shots being available for the people outside, and we weren’t given adequate information whether the shot was safe and what it was gonna do to our bodies once we had the shot.
UCI: I see, and has there any been any major breakouts of infection at your facility?
Caller: That’s a hard question to answer because they wont give us that information. We had to hear a lot of information from other people just hearsay. We weren’t told whether or not somebody had it or didn’t have it.
UCI: And, I see, and in terms of I guess prison staff how have they been handling the COVID-19 crisis. In terms of safety protocol, like are they wearing their mask and sanitizing properly and do they-
UCI: make these supplies available?
Caller: No, not at all, not at all. And they weren’t social distancing, they put us in, in tight quarters the whole time. A lot of times they come through without their mask on.
One, one deputy told us a story they he went to a donut shop before he came here and the lady got upset with him not wearing a mask which, when he walked into that store to get something, you know to get a donut to eat and then he comes here still not wearing his mask and he told us that story.
UCI: I see, and then can you elaborate more in terms of your living situation, has it, is it different now than it was at the beginning of COVID or has it stayed the same?
Caller: It stayed the same. We have a hard time getting cleaning supplies as well. Our trash situation is horrible, we’re not getting the trash removed everyday.
UCI: And to what extent do you think COVID-19 protocols are being followed at your facility?
Caller: I’m not real sure I can answer that question because I’m not sure what all the protocols they have to follow.
UCI: Oh, sorry, in terms of social distancing and having supplies and being separated from infected individuals as soon as possible.
Caller: We wouldn’t know because we don’t, they don’t give us the information that other people are infected. And the social distancing, there was no social distancing.
UCI: I see.
Caller: We would sleep next to another person that had, either had it or didn’t have it. The sleeping quarters weren’t separated.
UCI: And so, going back to my question earlier about mental health, how has your family handled not being able to visit or talk to you during this time?
Caller: They’ve been very stressed out and depressed as well, not knowing what’s happening to us.
UCI: So has there been no form of communication, or how, have you been able to communicate with your loved ones at all during this year.
Caller: We’ve had phone calls they gave us towards the, towards the middle of that outbreak, they gave us two five minute phone calls, that we could call. Otherwise our family had to pay for the phone call.
UCI: What could have made the situation better for you and your loved one?
Caller: I don’t know.
UCI: And I see, and in terms of your facility, is there anything you could see as like a glaring thing that needs to be improved?
Caller: Cleanliness, they should have somebody besides just the inmates cleaning the facility with subpar cleaning supplies.
UCI: I see.
Caller: Not once have they ever come in here and cleaned it thoroughly, a good cleaning. Not just spray solution on things and walk away.
UCI: And what else do you want people to know about your experience?
Caller: It’s a place where grown men cry.
UCI: I see. Well thank you so much for sharing, that’s all the questions I have but if you have like anything else to say now would be the time to do so. Like anything in general about your experience, if not that’s okay too.
Caller: I hope things change for us here, where we get a chance to be productive, in this society again. I hope we’re not thrown away. I hope people realize that people live here for years and years.
That’s one thing I never understood. Why they wanna throw people away and not give them a chance. The word rehabilitation doesn’t apply.
UCI: I see, well I really appreciate you sharing your experiences. And that’s why we do these kinds of things, to make sure the general public are aware of what’s going on inside these facilities. Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
Caller: No, I’m sorry, thank you very much for this-
UCI: No, of course.
Caller: For this opportunity.
UCI: So, thank you very much for participating in prison pandemic and please consider telling your friends about us and seeing if they would-
UCI: Like to call in.
Caller: Thank you.
UCI: Thank you, have a good one!
Caller: You too, bye.