This story was told by a person incarcerated at Ventura County Main Jail.
UCI: So tell me about your experience with COVID-19.
Caller: Being in here? I mean, well I’m in the hole right now so they isolated me. [Unintelligible] I’ve been exposed. I’ve been down here for two weeks.
I don’t come out. It really sucks. I don’t have no one to talk to. You know what I mean? I caught COVID but it was when I was out – out.
UCI: And so, are they quarantining you? Did you just come to jail or is it because of an outbreak?
Caller: No I – is it because of an outbreak? Yes. I’ve been here for almost two months. And it is because of an outbreak.
UCI: Are they throwing everyone in the hole or how are they stopping the spread?
Caller: Not everyone. That, I don’t know. They don’t tell us much.
UCI: So when they re – when they relocated you, how did you find out it was because of COVID? Did an officer tell you?
Caller: Yeah. Well that’s what they told us. Well they didn’t tell me right away. They told me without any help and being really [unintelligible]. And once I got to where I got to, I figured out, “okay, well I’m going into the hole.” That’s when I found out that I guess it was because of that.
But my test didn’t come out positive. I was negative. And I guess it was because someone else was – that came out positive in that section. And I guess I was exposed to it. So they, I guess, took precaution and so or whatever, and transferred me to the hole for whatever reason.
UCI: And did they tell you how long you would be there?
Caller: They said for about 10 days. It’s been more than 10 days.
UCI: Have you tried to ask them when you’ll be going back?
Caller: They tell me that they don’t have the information. That they don’t know. Or it’s up to the doctors or something like that. They tested me, they – they came to test me again and they said it was inconclusive.
But I don’t know – I mean, I don’t know. They don’t really tell us much.
UCI: So how often are you being tested now that you are in quarantine?
Caller: Well I’ve only gotten tested twice.
UCI: Were they testing you before the outbreak?
UCI: So how did they know that one other individual tested positive?
Caller: Because they – I guess, well because we were [unintelligible], we work in the kitchen and I guess one of them was feeling sick and they tested him. And he came out positive. So they started testing everybody and they put us all on lockdown. So basically everybody else was unable to come out of their cells. Like the whole facility.
UCI: Wow, that must be really tough. How are you coping with all of this?
Caller: I guess I was reading a book and I finished it. I’m trying, I don’t know, I guess I’m trying not to think about it as much. They [unintelligible] and I felt like they brought me into a place that’s even more unsanitary. Another way I guess is communicating, you know. Like even speaking with you is kind of helping me cope with what’s going on.
UCI: And are you able to talk with loved ones as well? Or no.
Caller: Yeah, yeah, sometimes. Depending if I’m able to get on the phone.
UCI: And how often are you able to get the phone?
Caller: Depends on if nobody is using it. I could probably get it maybe once a day.
UCI: Okay. So the officers aren’t restricting it. It’s more just taking turns?
Caller: Yeah, that and, yeah, that could be it.
UCI: Do you have access to programming or anything while you are in lockdown?
Caller: No, no programs. Nothing.
UCI: And so what if you wanted to clean your cell? Are you able to do that? Tell me about that experience.
Caller: Nope. No, nothing. No cleaners, no disinfectants, no sponge. There’s a bunch of trash that’s been left from prior people being in here. It’s just dirty.
UCI: Were they still making everyone clean even before the outbreak?
Caller: In the hole or in the regular general population?
UCI: Either or both.
Caller: Well, I mean, the general population, yeah. But in the hole, they don’t give you nothing.
UCI: And have people been vaccinated at the facility? Have you seen that help the number of cases?
Caller: That, I’m not too sure.
UCI: Well how’s this all been affecting your family?
Caller: That, well I guess they are just worried for me because they are not sure what is going on in here. I mean, I’m limited to you know, some type of information to even tell them.
UCI: Yeah, have they tried themselves to call the facility and get information?
Caller: No, not really. I’m actually kind of on my own out here. Kind of, you know? Yeah.
UCI: Yeah, I’m really sorry.
Caller: You’re probably the one person I’ve talked to about being in here.
UCI: Yeah, I mean it must be really tough especially because you don’t have answers to what is going on.
Caller: Yeah. Do you usually get phone calls like this?
UCI: Yeah, all the time!
Caller: And the office is located in Irvine?
UCI: We actually –
UCI: I’m sorry, can you say that one more time?
Caller: So you’re not located or have any offices located in Ventura county?
UCI: No. No, yeah we’re just out of Irvine. Have you noticed any of the officers getting vaccinated or continuing to wear masks or anything like that?
Caller: [unintelligible] wear masks. Some of them do, some of them don’t.
UCI: And have you been able to see a doctor at all during the COVID process?
Caller: I mean, they will come in here and check our vitals, but that is about it.
UCI: So do you think that if you wanted Tylenol or anything for the pain, have you seen other people be able to get access to medical care if they have COVID?
Caller: It takes a while to process, I guess. You got to fill out a form for it or anything.
UCI: And if you fill out the form, do you know how long it usually takes for anyone to get some help?
Caller: Three days. Three days. So, they will probably be dead by the time they get there. I’m just kidding.
UCI: No, but that must be really hard for some people who are really sick, yeah.
Caller: Yeah. Is it a big office?
UCI: No, not super big. No. Is there anything that you want the public to know about what it’s been like to be incarcerated during the pandemic?
Caller: Yeah, they should, like, they should release people, more people to prevent an outbreak. To prevent a lot of this. You know, especially the non-violent offenders I would say.
UCI: What has that court process been like for you and everyone else?
Caller: Court? We don’t go to court, it’s all done through Zoom.
UCI: Have you noticed people’s release dates being stalled because of the court system and COVID?
Caller: So once they sentence your date, your date is your date. Just if you have an open date, it’s processed.
UCI: Well, thank you so much for calling. We really appreciate your testimony.
Caller: You’re welcome.
UCI: Alright! Well have a good rest of your night.
Caller: What’s your name?
Caller: Okay [redacted]. So by any chance, is there any number I can call you on just in case I do get – you know, need to speak to someone or get to you?
UCI: No, w’re not allowed to give out personal information so this would be the line that we try to keep it clear for people who have stories to share.
Caller: Oh. Well I hope you find heaven. It sounds like I’m speaking to an angel.
UCI: Aw, thanks! Well have a great rest of your night.
Caller: Alright you too.
UCI: Thanks, bye.