This story was told by a person incarcerated at Tehachapi.
UCI: I would like to, we want to know what’s happening at your facility in regards to COVID-19 right now.
Caller: Yeah. Well, um we’re on modified program. We spent most of our time in the cell. We are, you know, pretty much isolated. We don’t go to work. We don’t have visits. We don’t have dayroom. We’re just pretty much just going by the, you know, we’re maintaining that social distance. And the way we were doing that is, their keeping us basically just in the cell, for the most part.
UCI: And how many people are in your cell?
Caller: It’s just me and one more person.
UCI: And then, did things change quite a bit since pandemic started? If you go back few months, did you see any changes and were they helpful or did they make things worse?
Caller: Um. I mean. I think it’s just definitely gotten worse. It’s much more, it’s a lot more frustrating not being able to see the family, you know, just not being able to program like we used to.
UCI: And how are you handling this?
Caller: Can you repeat that again?
UCI: How are you handling this? It must be really stressful of course.
Caller: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s definitely, it’s definitely a frustrating situation. It’s, it can be very depressing. But, I mean, I just try to make the best of the situation by, you know, just trying to understand the situation and understand what I can control and what I can’t control, you know.
UCI: And how about your family and your loved ones? What do they do?
Caller: Well, I don’t write to them, they don’t write to me. We don’t have any contact visits so I haven’t been able to see them since March. So, I call them, I call them occasionally, and they told me that, I just found out that my niece is pregnant. She’s due this month. And she’s got the COVID. So that, you know, that worries me.
UCI: Of course, of course. How about other conditions that you can tell me about maybe PPE, like personal protective equipment? And, you explain to me social distancing is just basically staying in your cell. But what else can you think of?
Caller: Well, I mean, the only thing that they’ve given us here is, they’ve given us masks but we’ve had these masks now for, I want to say, about six months now probably. And it’s the same masks. All we do is just wash them in the sink and wear ‘em again. So, yeah. I mean, all we do is we try to maintain our social distance. But, you know, it’s, I don’t know. I can’t explain it. We go to yard and people, they play basketball, they, you know, they still, not everybody follows that social distancing.
UCI: And, I’m sorry I forgot to ask your facility name. Can you tell me what facility are you calling from?
Caller: I’m calling from California Correctional Institution.
UCI: Thank you.
UCI: Thank you.
UCI: Thank you. And, so, what do you think, what do you think would make it better? What do you think should change for conditions to get better with COVID? Can you think of anything?
Caller: How I’m gonna get better?
UCI: What do you think they can do better in the prison?
Caller: Well, I mean, maybe the vaccine. Hopefully the vaccines help, you know. I don’t know when they’re gonna start doing them but hopefully these vaccines. They’ve been talking about it and they’re saying it’s gonna, that they should have some vaccines soon. But I don’t know exactly when. I’m gonna have to let you go cuz it’s somebody else’s phone time. Do you think I can call you back in some other time?
UCI: Yes, you can. Yes, you can. You can call as many times as you would like.
Caller: Okay, it’s somebody else’s time. Thank you.
UCI: Thank you very much for participating in our program, PrisonPandemic. Please consider telling your friends about us and seeing if they would like to call us.
Caller: Okay. I will.
UCI: Thank you so much. And more patience to you. Thank you.
Caller: Okay. You too.
UCI: Thank you. Bye, bye.