This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Salinas Valley.
So getting to a bit about inside these walls and growing up in here. I mean, there’s so much people of society don’t know about in here unless they have a family member who’s incarcerated. And even then, those of us in here can tell our loved ones about the abuse, living and medical conditions, retaliations, disrespect, and dehumanization we live with on a daily basis. At the end of the day it is like my family telling me of their struggles the last 25 years.
I only have an understanding because of what they tell me, but I really have no idea because I have not been there nor have they been in here, and believe me when I say they are two very different worlds. I came in young as I said earlier, but in a place where there is constant violence, concrete and steel, you get old and sick (mentally and physically) quick and unseen like the wind in a way.
This is an ongoing pandemic (prison or CDCR) and the human cattle that live within these walls. To your COVID questions though, because I could write you a story about being incarcerated and the “going ons” inside here, but that’s for another time and I am sure you are busy. Apologies for dragging on, but every story needs some kind of context. Well you asked how it has been from the beginning, middle, and now during the pandemic?
At first it was like “oh the CDCR is just looking not to run programs” (an excuse basically), but then they started shutting down programs, jobs and then visits. And we (the population) knew it was real when everything was on the news about COVID-19 and the world coming to a stop. So for some it got hard, but for others in the beginning if you were a “critical worker” or as you all know them, essential workers, you were the only ones allowed to move around the institution.
Then staff or COs starting getting infected, not knowing they come in and before you knew it everyone was getting it, scary no doubt. Being that a lot of inmates have health/mental issues beforehand, throw in something like COVID-19 and our risk goes up 10-fold. They were keeping a list of people who tested positive with the rest of the population who tested negative, and no one knew until it was too late.
By this time (December 2020/January 2021), well into the pandemic, they decided to make or turn one of the buildings into a “COVID-19 building” for those who test positive. By then a lot of us had symptoms, some light or beginning stages and some ended up in the hospital. Myself and my cellmate tested negative constantly.
The constant tests were one, due to me being a “critical worker” and though, the medical staff was not recording who or when they tested inmates, so a lot of us were tested over five times, and finally our test came back positive (myself and cellmate). It was scary, but what can you do in here and we were thankful that our symptoms were light, we were quarantined for two weeks and put back in the same building we came from.