This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Valley State.
One building had a majority of the inmates refuse testing and the whole building was isolated for nearly two months. No access to phones or outside activities. This is how they forced us to comply, threaten what little freedoms we had left.
We broke. We complied. Not because it was the right thing to do but because we really had no choice.
Speaking of choice, we were finally offered a vaccine. A lot of inmates took it. Not due to a want or trust that it was safe to do, but out of fear and the feeling of not having a real choice.
I took the shot. Not because I wanted to but for the lack of choice. I thought “What option do I really have? Not take it, get sick, and possibly die or take it and hope it protects me and it was safe.” Most of the guys I talk to felt this way.
I understand the need to vaccinate and be socially responsible, but as an inmate we are at the mercy of prison officials and correctional officers to keep us safe. They failed. Inmates and correctional officers died.
The only difference is us inmates get to die alone with no love or support. No comfort. Why? Because prison is overcrowded and correctional officers were not responsible. All the pain we inmates endured and continue to endure will be forgotten.
We suffer in silence and we hold resentment and anger. Not at society or medical professionals but at the prison system that is overcrowded and ill-equipped to handle a mass medical crisis. These are the thoughts and a point of view of an inmate surviving a pandemic in prison.
I am thankful UCI is collecting stories about the effects of COVID in prisoners. That there will be a record of the human cost paid in prison. I, like others in prison, are coping by simply having hope.
We also develop strong personal bonds with other inmates. We create micro families and support each other. We survive and look to better days. We are human. We matter. We just are.
With all honesty.