This letter was written by a person incarcerated at San Quentin.
Acting warden, honorable state officials, and fellow citizens:
We began 2020 with ballot elections. Every three years, the IAC at San Quentin holds a general election to fill seats on the IAC General Council. In January 2020, the population elected IAC representatives to fill the 20 seats on the GC. In 2020, two seats were filled by individuals. The captain certified the General Council elections.
In February 2020, members of the General Council elected their leadership and filled the five seats on the Executive Committee (EC). The Associate Warden certified the EC election. Then the entire IAC met with the Acting Warden and the Chief Medical Executive. Something about a looming pandemic.
In March 2020, Governor Newsom announced a shelter-in-place order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Soon thereafter, volunteer organizations decided it would be best to stop coming into San Quentin to protect the population. Visiting with family and friends was also suspended.
On May 31, 2020, the captains retired. Then on June 2020, a bus from a prison in Chino, California arrived.
The outbreak was unprecedented. Custody officers suffered alongside the incarcerated population. They were our first responders. Starting in late June, someone collapsed almost every day. Officers ran to various ceIls, followed by nurses rushing to help transport the sick to the hospital. Then officers fell ill. The North Block sergeant got sick and passed away.
I tested positive and got sick on June. I experienced horrific pain. I couldn’t eat. I could barely move. I thought I was going to die. I cried for my mother. I went through five days in agony. Fortunately, it never infected my lungs or affected my breathing. I started to feel better on July. The relief from pain was very emotional for me. I recovered.
On July, I was informed that all kitchen staff had tested positive. Days later, we were being served catered meals. I never thought the population would be served catered meals. It was like a dream that lasted 17 days.
Kitchen staff returned on July and the correctional food manager was committed to improving the quality of our meals. The corrections secretary approved a 12-week credit for everyone and an extra package for the year.
Training for critical workers began on July. Also in July, a habeas petition template surfaced and blank copies were everywhere. A flood of habeas corpus petitions were filled in the County Superior Court.
In August, health care staff and the SQ administration published a twice-weekly newsletter, The Informed Patient. It kept the population informed on new medical information, treatments, and housing protocols.
I had a phone call with [the Inspector General's office] in Sacramento about the status of San Quentin. I met with the [CFM and the correctional business manager] to develop incentives for critical workers. Later that month, an IAC proposal to improve canteen operations and access was implemented.
In September, the EC member was released on parole. He was the IAC parliamentarian EC member. As of September 2020, the Reception Center at San Quentin was closed. On September, the IAC vice president and acting secretary was found suitable for release on parole by the Board of Parole Hearings.
In October 2020, the IAC was informed that inmates may file for a $1,200 stimulus check under the CARES Act. The IAC worked with custody staff to obtain thousands of copies of the IRS form 1040 for all inmates to file by November 4th. On October 2020, the IAC met with the Deputy Director, California Correctional Health Care Services.
In November 2020, an urgent special election was conducted, two months ahead of schedule. The population elected five individuals to the General Council. The election was certified by Captain. On November, the video visiting program began.
On December 2020, IAC vice president and acting secretary paroled. He served the population for almost a decade on the IAC. The acting vice president, the acting secretary, and the acting parliamentarian serve until a special EC election in February 2021.
In 2020, volunteer organizations such as GRIP, Project REACH, and TRUST kept in touch with members, sending reading and in-cell study materials. The Last Mile, PIA, and CTE-Coding initiated an in-cell coding program, and the Education Department sends homework assignments to all ABE students.
The Prison University Project touched the hearts of everyone in the population with their generous care packages and donation of books to every housing unit. The Ella Baker Center has also continued to advocate for and encourage the population with information about pending state legislation, reentry resources, and kind words.
Finally, to reduce food waste, they continue to provide a delicious variety of popular meals consistent with state nutrition guidelines.
On behalf of the San Quentin population, we thank you for your care, support, and prayers. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and New Year!
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