This story was told by a person incarcerated at San Joaquin County Jail.
Caller: Yes, sir. I’m calling from San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp. And I’ve been an inmate for one year now. And so, when I arrived here, the pandemic was already here. We would come off the street. We could go into a booking.
And then, straight from booking, they put you in a cell, which they call an intake. So, from this intake, you would just sit here and either wait to get transferred to another part of the facility while your case is ongoing, because my case is an ongoing case.
But what concerned me the most and what I really feared was I was going to catch COVID, because while I was in this intake, the jail would just bring homeless people, people fresh off the street, straight from booking, and they would put them in my cell. And while they were sitting in this cell with me, they weren’t tested for COVID.
They were just put straight in the cell. And then they would move, and then another person would come straight from the streets from booking straight into my cell without being tested. And this was an ongoing process for months.
And I’m just like, “What the hell? Why am I being a part of this? I’m held in here with no bail. I can’t get out of here, and I’m stuck just dealing with them just throwing random people from the streets in my cell and just keep interchanging them out.”
I felt like a COVID test dummy, I mean straight up. And then, as we speak right now, I’ve been on a COVID-19 lockdown. Today is our 21st day of being locked in our cells.
We don’t come out except for every other day for showers, excluding Sundays. And we’ve been tested three times. Each time, the test results, we haven’t received. But presuming that our test results have been negative, we’re still on lockdown.
Today’s our 21st day. And that’s pretty much what I want to call and share with you guys. It sucks, you know? I haven’t seen my family in over a year. And, shit, COVID’s one hell of a thing going on.
UCI: Hey, thank you so much for sharing even just that much with me. I really appreciate that.
Caller: Yeah, no problem.
UCI: That must have been really tough. I don’t know what that’s like, but it must’ve been tough.
Caller: Yeah. I mean just sitting in a cell and then just a line of freaking homeless people, just random people into your cell without without even tests or nothing, that’s pretty rough. But, yeah, I don’t have anything in particular to say, but just, hopefully —
UCI: No. I actually, I have a couple questions that I could prompt you with if you don’t mind.
Caller: Sure. Go ahead.
UCI: I mean you already talked about some of the things that I could ask you about, but you were talking about how COVID has affected you and your family. If you wanted to talk a little more about that, I mean how being in jail during COVID has affected you and your family, your situation.
Caller: Oh, absolutely. I mean the visitings have been cancelled. So, I mean I haven’t seen anybody for a year, nearly. And the little bit of timeframe they did open up, they just closed right back off until further notice.
So, I mean I get to call them, but calling from jail, it’s expensive. I mean you’re talking seven dollars every 30 minutes just to talk to your family. And if you ain’t got the money, you ain’t talking to nobody. That’s that.
They were giving out free calls, but they took those away. First, they started off with two free calls per week. Then it moved down to one free call per week. And now there’s no free calls. And we’re also under lockdown.
UCI: Okay. Would you mind telling me a little bit more about that? Because I was told by my program that UCI is paying for any and all calls from any incarcerated person. And I was told you let you know to let any and all of your cohorts know as well that UCI will be footing the bill for any and all calls.
Caller: So, UCI is supposed to be paying for any and all calls as of right now for all inmates.
Caller: Now, does this go for just correctional facilities? Because I’m in a detention facility. So, this —
Caller: So this facility is run by sherrifs.
UCI: I can ask that right now. I can ask that right now.
Caller: But it says on the sheriff’s website and everything that they are in accordance with Title XV. And so, that’s the same thing as correctional. So, correctional and detention are two different types of places of being detained [unintelligible].
UCI: Got it.
Caller: Yeah, but as of right now, yeah, the phone calls, they’re not free. We pay.
UCI: Got it.
Caller: Do you have any other questions?
UCI: You know you can, I just want to let you know before anything else that you can always call back the same number. If you ever come up with any more details or you want to add to your story or maybe start a new narrative, please, go ahead.
And the fact that you have to pay for calls, my upper in the program is letting me know that we should pay for calls everywhere, that that shouldn’t be happening.Can you ask, I’m told to ask what system you’re using.
Caller: It is called Securus Technologies.
UCI: Can you spell that for me?
Caller: S-e-c-u-r-s Technologies, and they’re out of Texas.
UCI: Got it. S-e-c-u-r-s, Securus.
Caller: S-e-c-u-r-u-s, Securus.
UCI: Got it.
Caller: Also on the mail, the mail used to be free too. We’d be able to write a letter, and they would stamp it for us automatically and send it out. But that’s no longer the case anymore either. So, we’re having to pay for our postage to get in contact with our lawyers.
UCI: Oh, my goodness.
Caller: I mean it’s crazy. It’s like, how am I supposed to get legal help when I can’t get my calls?
UCI: You know, my leaders in the program are letting me know to, please, let you know, sir, that at least for the calls, that should not be happening. And thank you for letting us know. We’re going to get right on that and see if we can start the process of remedying that situation for you all. I don’t know why that’s happening, but it should not be.
Caller: Yeah. You know, we have a grievance process here, but the grievance process only stops here. It doesn’t go to another outside party for, to get a resolution, pretty much. So, if I was to grieve that right now, it would just be an internal thing. They would never reach out anywhere else, like having anything to do with COVID.
Male voice: It goes to the captain here.
Caller: Yeah, it just goes to the captain of the facility, and they do what they do. They have each other’s backs. They have their best interests at heart, you know?
UCI: I’m sorry, sir. You were breaking up a little bit. Could you restate the basic point of what you were just saying one more time for audio editing in case they need to grab something for the, for your recording? Do you want to restate that one more time?
Caller: Absolutely. So, there’s a grievance process here at the facility that when we grieve, and the grievance doesn’t go to an outside third party. It just stays here at the facility. So, when it’s [unintelligible] that, it just goes to the captain of the facility there.
Now, [unintelligible] also calling here and talking to you guys, that’s going to help find a remedy outside of the source, because we’re stuck in here dealing with what sort of tools we have in here. And that’s that.
UCI: That’s right. So, I think the call was breaking up just a little bit. So, just one more time. The grievance process that, basically —
Caller: Is that clear for you?
UCI: – the underlying idea is that the grievance process, the mechanism that you all incarcerated persons have, are insufficient, woefully.
UCI: Yeah. Hello, sir. Yeah. If you want to just state that one more time for me. Can you hear me?
Caller: I currently can’t hear you any longer. I appreciate your call.
UCI: Can you hear me, sir?
Caller: I hope that you guys help [unintelligible] seek a remedy. God bless and take care.
UCI: Thank you, sir.
Caller: And thanks for your interest in helping in these rough times during COVID.
UCI: Of course. Thank you, if you can hear me.