This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women).
December 17th, 2020
Hello students of UC Irvine. I received your letter from the PrisonPandemic project and immediately was interested in writing back.
On December 1st, I was at my job where I work construction and I felt my body completely shut down. I knew the instant I was sick. That night I had a high fever, chills, and body aches but did not report my symptoms to the staff for fear of relocating me to another part of the prison where the living conditions are filthy and not to mention unsanitary.
Well to my surprise, the housing unit where I am living got tested for COVID-19 the very next day. While outside of my cell, I noticed lots of inmates were real sick and just like me, they were scared to speak up because no one wants to move to that filthy place here in the prison.
On December 5th at 8:30 p.m., one of the sergeants came to my cell window and told me to pack my stuff because I had tested positive for the coronavirus. I was moved to a place in the prison where they only allow you to shower on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and when I was able to shower that Monday, the water was freezing cold. No hot water. This part of the prison is called CTC. The rooms there are so cold it’s impossible to get from under your covers.
On Tuesday, December 8th, I was moved to that place in the prison where no one wants to come. This part of the prison is called RC. While living here in RC, the room the officers put me in was filthy! It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in over a year. There was no mattress so me and another girl that was moved here with me had to grab one from this closet and that was filthy!
I saw what looked like rat poop on the floor. The mattress was so dirty it took me 20 minutes just to clean it good enough to put on a sheet. The doctor that I saw in CTC said I was to be quarantined for two weeks which should mean that I’ll be leaving here in two days. I forgot to mention that the screen in my room has huge holes big enough for a small animal to climb in my room and my window is broken. It doesn’t close all the way. Needless to say I freeze every night.
One of the questions you guys had in your letter was how do you feel about your safety inside? My safety is in danger obviously, I caught the virus.
I have witnessed messed up things in here. Some of the officers refused to wear a mask. Even if you ask them, they will not put one on. From my window where I’m housed at I can see the culinary docks. I witness every day officers and inmates not wearing a mask and when I see a few officers together almost always they don’t have their masks on. It’s usually around their chin!
Times have been hard in here. Officers demand us to wear masks or we will get a disciplinary report. But they can be without it. It is not fair. On top of everything it’s been extremely stressful to not be able to see my family.
I’m hoping to return to general population in two days. They have not tested me again since Saturday the 5th so my fingers are crossed. Thank you for letting me share my story.