This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Chino.
Hello UCI Student,
As you already, I am 32 years old and have been incarcerated 12 years. I’d like to describe myself as a pretty resilient individual, but this pandemic really took a toll on me mentally. Now I would like to tell you of how I ended up in Chino, which was one of the first prisons to have a major outbreak including a couple of deaths.
Originally I came here to Chino, March for a quick layover in route to be released to a transitional housing program outside of prison. At first I was happy and ecstatic to be having a sense of freedom, and having contact with my family, especially my elderly grandma who has been waiting for me to come home.
My hopes were quickly crushed due to the pandemic because right when I arrived here there was a full blown outbreak here and there was a lockdown with no outside movement. I felt like the rug was swept from under my feet, especially with so much uncertainty ahead.
In my hopes I was thinking that the program would pick me up any day but things only kept getting worser and gloomier the mood the anticipation just put even more stress on top of what was going on.
When I arrived here in Chino, this was a reception yard meaning that people come here in the start of their prison term, stay here for 90 days, get evaluated, and transfer to their destination. In other words, it was a transfer yard where people want to get to their housing where they could get situated and start their program.
So here I am in a phase I had already completed 11 years back. A lot of people were stressed out and with uncertainty in the air it just made things even worse mentally.
Especially with myself. I was just ready to leave especially because the air was becoming kind of thick. What I mean by that is coming from a place where respect is key to here the environment is just way different, like more loose and it was another adjustment I had to become used to on top of everything. Everything just seemed to be spiraling out of control.
Honestly since I’ve been incarcerated I have become accustomed to doing time in a cell. Since my security level is considered high, they house me accordingly and this is something that does not bother me. I am mentally fit and have adapted and just make the best out of any situation.
But this really took a mental toll on me like a roller coaster. I just kept going up and down, to the point where I was really dealing with mental distress something that I’ve dealt with in the past and was able to overcome easily. But this was on a constant level. It just kept coming. I felt anxious, nervous, and would even lose sleep.
Now I admit that I never really admitted to having these type of issues or ever speaking about it openly amongst my peers so I just had to remain strong and roll with the punches. I had no choice but to just choose to remain as optimistic as I could. I want to say that this lasted for a couple months of just constant mental warfare because others were also going through it which seemed to make things worse.
Even though I was going through these things I would remain productive and just feed my mind positivity. My phone calls with family would lift my spirits which were once a week for 15 minutes. I would read any productive book I could get my hands on. From self help to using the power of thought to feed my mind, courage and strength exercising. Meditating also helped me bounce back to the point where I just adapted and overcame.
What kept me sane was thinking of my family and just hanging on to the hope. I am at a stage in my prison term where going home is around the corner. I’ve actually been on this transformational path for a couple years just trying to better as a person period so I am able to succeed once I am free.
While I was at Pelican Bay I attended college, self help programs, as well as entrepreneurial programs where they teach entrepreneurship along with life skills. You see I applied these tools I learned and just kept working and telling myself that my cause is greater.
Once I got the hang of it, I persevered. Even though I struggled at first I focused on the positive and this worked for me. This whole situation was a time of self reflection and in a way was a blessing in disguise.
I became infected twice back in August and in September and luckily I had no symptoms. I do know others who here who actually suffered symptoms and they told me they felt like they were going to die.
I was shocked because this was coming from an 18-year-old friend. He recuperated luckily and I do not take this COVID-19 lightly. Really it has been a turn of events and uncertainty.
To this day most of the people that were here in reception have left to their destination but I remain probably the reason being is because of the risk of taking me all the way to Pelican Bay. Fortunately for me my time is finally up.
I will be released free in December of 2020. Right now I am under quarantine where I am pretty much slammed in my cell all day. But really it’s good because it reduces risk of becoming infected again.
I also use this time for meditation and keep working on myself. A time of reflection and just trying to be a better person period. It was hard but almost nothing is permanent.
Throughout this process it has not been all perfect especially being in a prison environment. There was negativity, hard times, and stressful periods but it was all part of the process. You just need to remain resilient, with the bad come the good.
I do understand others are not as fortunate to bounce back, but don’t give up because a struggle builds character. Now I will be paroling to a new challenge but it’s okay. I feel blessed for another opportunity and making the best of it. It will be a challenge, especially in LA County. Nonetheless I am ready.
Now I would like to thank you for caring and listening to my story I am very appreciative for the opportunity. I wanted to tackle this through an opportunistic point of view. Once again thank you for your good thoughts. It’s good to know there is good people out there who care.