This story was told by a person incarcerated at San Joaquin County Jail.
UCI: So thanks for calling. Why don’t you give us a little detail about what’s going on in your facility right now?
Caller: Okay. Well, I’m in Chino and, you know, we seen everything on the news at first, you know, and you seen how, you know, certain officials were kind of downplaying it, you know, in – in the political world, so we weren’t quite sure. Then you started seeing the pandemic. You know, I’m, like, whoa, okay.
Then it, you know, when the numbers start really hitting, you start getting, you know, you – it catches your attention. And I remember when they said they were going to – what did they say – downsize the amount of games for baseball, and that was, like, that was a really eye opener right there; you know? And then it start – people were saying, oh, they’re taking it too far.
So, you know, you hear opinions; you know? And then you have to formulate your own. That was kind of interesting; you know? Because you don’t want to be gullible, but at the same time, you don’t want to be, like, you know, in panic mode; you know what I’m saying?
UCI: Oh, sure.
Caller: So that, you know, so you want that balance; you know? And then, you know, my sister’s a nurse over at Stanford, so of course I speak to her in, you know, the Bay Area. I’m way down here. So it’s different regions, obviously.
But then I remember when I was in the gym working out in the afternoon and then they recalled – there’s four buildings on my yard – four housing units – 200 men in each dorm, in each building.
Caller: And they recalled the people that lived on the first floor of one of the buildings because they were going to move because they wanted to have 100 beds available for when this hit. And that was really – when I seen that, when I seen my friends, you know, like wondering, like, why are [unintelligible] and then we find out that – that they’re moving on a dime, that was, like, okay, okay. And –
UCI: When was that, may I ask?
Caller: What’s that?
UCI: When was this?
Caller: I didn’t hear you.
UCI: Oh, when – I’m, like, when was this? Like, was this in March or?
Caller: Oh, I would say, wow, you know what? I would say, like, oh, maybe February, March.
Caller: Maybe March, April. Could have been there. Yeah, I would say around there. That’s a good question. Ooh, you know what? Maybe a little bit after. Maybe early, like, April, May maybe, something like that. April.
I don’t know. Because there’s four yards in this facility – big yards – but this was the – what was crazy is because they were bringing people from other yards into the quarantine units. And then, you know, you’d see the medical, you know, van pull up. And then all the officers, of course, they don’t want to be around that, but it was their job for transporting; you know?
And they have the gowns on, and then they put an inflatable tent in a little – they call them mini yards. You have one main yard and then each building has what they call a mini yard, a secure little mini yard, and they put – where I was living at, they put one there. And that was, you know, they were putting it up at night, like at 8:00, 9:00 people looking out their windows saying, hey, they’re putting up a tent outside.
And, of course, that piqued everyone’s curiosity, and that’s another, you know, red flag; you know? But they were bringing everybody from different yards here. Then they were full at one time – completely full. And then, of course, I don’t know if you know, but Chino was leading the pack in, like, ground zero and in deaths. I don’t know if you heard about that.
UCI: A little bit.
UCI: Yeah, we – we’ve heard a little bit, but I’d be curious what you experienced [unintelligible]
Caller: Yeah, Chino [unintelligible] there’s dorms, there’s dorms in another yard, and it’s – the beds aren’t six feet apart. So they’ve been socially distancing us now because, obviously, it hit them hard. And with deaths involved, you know, there’s more than likely going to be litigation behind that; you know what I’m saying?
Caller: And, you know, I mean, then they shipped a bunch of dudes out that were at risk if they were to catch COVID-19, and when they landed them in San Quentin, all these guys, they were stigmatized big time.
Caller: San Quentin went up in arms. Like, what are you shipping these guys here for? And then I don’t know if it’s a result of the people they shipped there because they weren’t – I mean, to our – to their knowledge, they weren’t positive, but, I mean, lo and behold, you know, the numbers hit over there in San Quentin and, like —
UCI: Mh-hmm –
Caller: – it’s a – it’s an actual door; you know? It slides on the track, so it – you can’t see in. You just got to look through a little window. But over there at San Quentin, it’s old school just those bars. You know how you have bars, just metal bars where you can see in the entire cell? Because you can only imagine the airflow in that area; you know what I’m saying?
Caller: There’s nothing to restrict it. There’s just nothing to – the noise, it’s – you got to – these buildings are gargantuan. They’re, like, five stories with 50 cells on each tier, so you got times two, that’s 500 people.
UCI: This, when you talked about the people who were stigmatized when they got transferred, how did you hear about that?
Caller: Yeah, because some – well, some of them wrote back, hey, guys, you know, we’re, you know, because we, you know, we’re kind of buddies, some of us; you know? And they were saying that, oh, and then the – I guess the pandemic hit so hard over there that it – the kitchen, you know, because they have free staff that come in, you know, civilians that, you know, run the kitchens; you know? They’re, like, cooks and stuff and maybe a food manager, but they got hit so hard that they weren’t able to come in, you know?
And, of course, you know, supervise the inmates to cook, so they weren’t even – so they were just catering food inside the prison. And then one my friends went back saying that he thought he was eating Olive Garden it was that good. Because they weren’t able to cook the, you know, the routine meals there because there was no free staff there to conduct the, you know, the shifts. So that was pretty heavy.
And then when I saw the captain here, we got a really good captain here on my yard. Very hands-on. And he took one of his workers and they were spraying, like, every area that they’re – you have a line, you know, like, say, to go in the chow hall – obviously we call it the chow, but it’s called the cafeteria to you – or like the canteen line where you go and purchase store goods, and then, like, the medical line where you go, you know, get your, you know, like your medication, you stand in line, whatever. They were spraying Xs for us and orange Xs, like, every six feet.
And then, I mean, he – they were, like, 50, 60 yard long these, you know, these Xs. You know, not the size of them, but the length, really, really – how shall I say – signifying social distancing. This is where you will stand when these lines are in place.
Caller: And then the masks – then the masks came. Obviously, they handed out three masks per inmate. That was a – that was a sign, obviously. And then we just had the cloth ones at first. And then, I guess, they stepped up the game and they got us the N95s.
UCI: Oh, you did I never heard that.
Caller: Yeah, everyone’s required. If they see you without an N95, you are – you will be approached; you know? Which is good, obviously. You know, I’m even wearing mine right now talking in the phone.
UCI: Oh, you sound great.
Caller: Yeah, you can only imagine how many people, you know, I mean, look what I’m holding. How many people use this – we got three phones, but still; you know? And I got me a hand sanitizer pump in my cell, small one, so I can keep, you know, I’m on it. And then you know what?
Then I – then they made my unit, right, they – they ended up that unit, they made it just regular housing again. The one that the people were in, and then what they did is a unit that I was in, they completely – because the – Sacramento was ordered by a judge that they want 100 beds available for the wave or the second wave as well, if it comes, in one unit. And the unit that they picked was the one closest to medical, and it was the one that I was in.
So on a dime I had to move to the gym because they got a court order that they could put 50 beds in there. Being in the gym with 50 people, you know, not in a cell where I can kind of, you know, there’s no walls, there’s no door, I was really exposed, but – and then the whole yard was quarantined except for the gym. That was crazy. You would think it would be the other way around, but the whole yard was quarantined except for the gym.
So they were asking us, hey, who wants to volunteer for the kitchen; you know? And your reward, obviously, is to bring back, you know, say it’s hot links that night. Well, you’re going to get a gang of hot links to bring back and, you know, feed your friends or whatever you want to do, but I didn’t do it, but everybody was. And that was also a wow, you know, they’re struggling for, you know, laborers; you know what I’m saying? Because if – because the regulars that go in, they’re quarantined so they’re not about to go in no chow hall.
Caller: And yeah. And then going to the store, if you’re on quarantine, you know, you’re supposed to – well, with – when you’re not on quarantine, you go – everyone has a CDC number, and the first week of each month, anybody who has their last two numbers from 00 to 33. It’s done in thirds, so 00 to 33, they’ll go to canteen the first week of the month. And then, of course, 34 to 66 will go the second week, and then from 67 to 99, they’ll go the third.
But if you’re on quarantine, then for the first time ever, I never seen this before, but you would just fill out your canteen slip, they would pick it up, and they call it a sign and – what do they call it – pack and drag or something. So the workers, they even got volunteers. They would just do your canteen, put them in big garbage bags, put them in like a transport bin, and they would just bring your canteen to you in the building.
Which, you know, that was cool; you know? But I never seen that before. But, obviously, who’s seen COVID before; right? It’s, you know, you got to hit – you got to figure it out; right?
Caller: So you know, it’s a lot going on here, big adjustment. And then we don’t – we’re not allowed to go to yard or the other buildings or different tiers, so when we go to the yard, it’s just me and – and the people that I – that house on my floor; you know? There’s 100 of us.
But, you know, maybe we’re down, like, to 85 or something, but we only go to the yard together, so it’s real social distancing going on right now. And then we’re being cell – cell fed. There’s – we haven’t been in those chow halls for maybe – maybe four months.
So the food comes to us, you know, to decrease, you know, the movement, people sitting at tables together. Because at first you could – there’s four tables. I mean, there’s four seats at a table, you know, how, like, in a square?
And then they – they started, you know, doing feeding very slowly, and they would, like, bleach all the tables and stuff in between each feeding, you know, because there’s four buildings. And they were only running, so that was eight – eight feedings, eight sessions of feedings. That’s a long night. And then they said, hey, no more four people at a table.
Yeah, so, as you can see. And then, like, right now, you know, it’s a – what shall I – you know, we got these hand pumps. We only got 60 seconds left, so –
UCI: Yeah, is there anything –
UCI: Yeah, yeah, yeah, most nights, yeah, most nights we’ve got someone on the line to take calls, so if – if there’s anyone else there who wants to share their story, you know, make sure they – they get the number; okay?
Caller: Oh, sure. Oh, you mean – well, should I call back and finish the story like in another night or what?
UCI: Oh, I mean, you certainly could. But is there anything, you know, in the last, like, 30 seconds that you want people to know just in case you can’t get through again or something?
Caller: You know, some people kind of took it serious and some don’t, but I think the most of us, everyone else is now. You know what I’m saying? And then the visiting, obviously there’s no visiting, so that gets people. We – they just started.