This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Orange County Theo Lacy Jail.
To: The PrisonPandemic project, and everyone involved in the study.
From: In response to PrisonPandemic’s letter sent to me.
I sit here today writing this letter, hoping my letter finds you all in good health, living life with an uplifted spirit, smiling. Cause if we look all around it’s really easy to see how we all have so much in our lives to be gratefully happy and smile for.
I wrote and sent out a letter not too long ago, in response to the letter PrisonPandemic had sent my friend, who happen to share it with me. This of course was before I received PrisonPandemic’s letter. Honestly, I didn’t want to seem as if I were rude or ungrateful, so I figured the least I could do is send in another letter. I hope two’s okay?!
I realized after sending my previous letter that I failed to mention the food the county jail has been feeding us. I’m not playing when I tell you I haven’t received a warm meal since a few days after Thanksgiving.
Even then we only ate warm dinners with cold breakfast and cold sack lunches. Those warm dinners have come and gone since I arrived in the county jail, April 2020.
I’m really fortunate to be able to go to store/commissary canteen. Where inmates who are lucky enough to have family and friends put money on an inmates trust account (also known as “their books”) can spend that money on hygiene, snacks, food, and little accessories.
Things that help make our time, or rather, doing time so much better. Believe me, it makes all the difference.
So imagine having to sit in jail, most likely cause one can’t make bail and have to live off two cold sandwiches, a fruit, and some cookies. Oh, and can’t forget cold mini carrots, along a cold breakfast for six months continually. Simply cause he’s/she’s indigent which obviously they couldn’t make bail, so its also possible they don’t have money on their trust account to pay for a hot meal.
I count my blessings for sure for I’ve gone without any commissary canteen myself. Since shopping in the county jail commissary is expensive and my family and friends aren’t well off. In fact, let's remember I’m from east Los Angeles. I wish I were from Orange County.
So there’s been some occasions when I couldn’t shop at the jail commissary and had no choice but to eat cold sandwiches, which sucked. I’d go to bed starving, thinking about food. Then a little later, dreaming about food. That’s when you know you’re hungry if you go to sleep and dream food.
You’ll be in bed hearing your stomach growl, feeling the pain of hunger inside. Drinking so much water I could drown in it. I’m joking around cause I have a sense of humor, but it’s really no laughing matter.
Especially when its real people going through this every single day. This can easily increase people’s vulnerability to such mental disorders as depression, anxiety, chronic stress, insomnia, and even dementia, not to mention malnourished.
Studies last year found that after a lockdown in Hong Kong, two thirds of respondents to a questionnaire reported clinical levels of depression, anxiety, or stress, and more than a fifth showed signs of psychosis risk.
That study caused me to wonder then just how many more people who are incarcerated are now suffering from some form of mild or severe mental disorder? For isolation here is a lot worse and we face certainly much worse living conditions than an ordinary person out there in the free world.
Our food situation, I’m sure isn’t helpful. But a contributing factor to the risks posed to our mental well-being.
I’ve gone days feeling like I have no energy to do anything. All you want to do is sleep your life away, since staying up is sure remind you just how hungry you are. Imagine having had cold lunches for the past 18 years straight?
Just looking or thinking about cold sandwiches will sure to make you sick. So to have both lunch, dinner, and breakfast cold is a nightmare! Thank God breakfast is cold sandwiches. At least it’s cereal, and peanut butter jelly sandwiches and not mystery meat.
It’s what we call any meat we get cause its never real meat! But processed!
What we are being fed can’t be healthy! And I’m sure our recommended nutritional facts aren’t being met.
Now imagine feeling hungry and just thinking or talking about food makes your mouth wet. Only to see others around you eating burritos, chips, snacks, drinks, and whatever else is available. Through the jail commissary canteen this happens everyday.
For the first six months of the pandemic the county of Orange was giving each inmate a bag of free commissary worth about $10 dollars in this commissary. Every single Friday.
This was being provided since we weren’t receiving any hot meals, but like any good thing, that came to an end. Once the first lockdown restrictions were lifted, as quickly as they were back on, the county took advantage and stopped issuing free commissary bags (also known as our stimulus bags!)
I think I speak for everyone when I say, “we sure miss those stimulus bags!”
Well, I have some good news, we just started getting warm oatmeal with our cold breakfast. For whatever that’s worth. I’ll tell you what thought, we’ll take it!
It’s better than nothing right? Again, I’m glad and genuinely grateful I have people who care about me kind enough to make sure I’m able to go to the commissary canteen. Pretty damn lucky or blessed! I’d like to think both.
Not bad for an East LA dude I might say!
For what it’s worth, I’d also like to say I share and I’m quite generous with my store. I don’t mind handing a soup or two to those who don’t get any. For I’ve had it done to me before as well.
But not everyone is like that. One can only hope things will get better, or to be home soon.
I want to thank everyone else who’s involved in this study. I really appreciate the letter and feel fortunate to be one to have received one of all people. Thank you!
I mean that with all honesty. It really felt good to know people are thinking of us and trying to help make a difference in this life. And let me be one to tell you all, you already have! Thank you! You all are also in my thoughts and in my prayers.
I only hope you all have enjoyed my letters as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them to you all. I hope hearing this will bring you a smile just as I’m smiling now. Take care, stay safe, and stay healthy.
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