This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Centinela.
Dear PrisonPandemic, Hey how are you! Well I received your message and yes, it did find me in good health. First off I want to thank you for taking the time to reach out with the kind thoughts.
I understand that you’re a student and the purpose is to help us with future reform. But it’s heartwarming to know that someone out there cares about someone like me.
That gives me a lot of hope. In all honesty, my first impression at your letter excited me. I thought I’d gained a friend and pen-pal. That’s what most prisoners pray for, a connection to the outside world.
Well PrisonPandemic, a little bit about myself, I’m a 39 year old Hispanic male. Who was born and raised in the city of festivals, Indio, California. Home of the Coachella Music Festival.
I’m serving a three-strike sentence of 27 years for a stolen vehicle. I’ve been incarcerated for about 12 and a half years already. With recent changes in the law, I’m looking to be reviewed by the board of parole hearing for release sometime in the next five years. The pandemic has hit us very hard in here, and for me it was most difficult early on.
It was mainly my concern for family on the out’s. In here there was so much confusion. Program was shut down immediately, masks and social distancing enforced.
That eliminated our access to the day room area where we’re able to normally socialize with the other inmates, play games like chess, dominos, card games, etc. Use the showers and phones. We are on scheduled showers and phones now.
Our phones are also in the day room area and because the distance between each phone was less than six feet, the faculty decided to shut down every other phone to create a six foot distance. That affected us big time because now we don’t get calls every day.
They did eventually have engineers re-mount the phones at six feet distance. But then the facility imposed another new rule saying between each call the phone must be sanitized and sit for 10 minutes before the next use. Those ten minute gaps add up a lot of time in the day so unfortunately we still can’t call our families as often as we used to.
The biggest impact for me personally has been the rehabilitation and self-help programs. I also am a student taking face to face college courses. I have about 12 units left before achieving my degree in psychology. However, this pandemic has turned a lot of programs into correspondence packet courses.
I just don’t get the same out of it. I learn a lot more from face to face classes with a personal professor teaching me in person.
Even self help groups are better in person, when you can exchange stories, and hear other inmates talk about their experiences. There are not many programs running due to the pandemic. A lot of inmates are out of job assignments.
Stuck in their cell most of the day. Today for instance, I’ll be in my cell all day until 6:45 tonight, I’ll have one hour half access to the day room area if I’d like to attend. Keep in mind this access to the program just opened up about two weeks ago, since the pandemic started.
Since March 13, 2020, we have not had any access to the day room area. I was infected with COVID around December of 2020. Caught in a wave that swept this institution. Inmates went down every 20 minutes.
Some were taken by ambulance. We’ve had one facility on my yard. During the time that I was infected, I was not allowed out of my cell at all. 24 hour lockdown for three weeks.
I was given cough drops and pedialyte for hydration. After three weeks I was cleared. Most recently I was given my first shot of Moderna. It’s been absolutely tough in here.
For the most part I try to stay busy in my cell by working on my college work, drawing. I’m a very gifted artist. I do very well with portraits, that’s my preference, realistic art, but I do marvel comics and fantasy art as well. However, I’d prefer to draw for someone I’m acquainted with.
I also stay active with working out. I love to work out. It takes away all my stress. I’m a very confident and positive person, I will overcome this. Thank you for your message.
It would be nice to hear back from you but if you can’t, I understand fully. Hopefully this quick letter helps you all out. Take care and stay safe.
If there’s anything specific that you’re trying to gain a better understanding on, just ask? I’ll be happy to keep you or anyone else on the team in regular correspondence to stay updated on the changes as they occur.
Prison reforms is hype right now, so thank you all for caring. I’m serving 27 years for a stolen vehicle. That’s a lot of us in here serving extreme sentences for non-violent offenses.
Truly appreciate that we’re simply in your thoughts.