This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Salinas Valley.
The nurses would come in everyday to do temperature checks. About 90 percent of inmates would refuse it as well as COVID tests because if a positive test would happen, our whole program would shut down. That means no yard, no phone calls, and limited canteen. When you take that from us, you are taking everything because that’s all we look forward to.
So we had sick inmates still passing around food, supplies, and other items. I live with about 200 inmates, I would say about 150 got sick, but only about 40 of those cases were documented. So it didn’t really look like it was bad, but secretly inmates were sick in their cells, like I said, from fear of going to quarantine.
We had one big bottle of watered down hand sanitizer, but the corrections officers kept it in their office until we started complaining to them. The prison started marking the ground by the medical area. It was little circles so people can social distance, it was always ignored. It was all for looks so when the big dogs came from Sacramento or other places, it looked like rules were enforced.
The main thing I had a problem with was during medication. The nurse would bring the meds. They started a program that gives opioid dependent inmates a medication called Suboxone. It is a film-like substance you place under your tongue that takes a few minutes to dissolve, which was something I was on, but the nurses would take a long time passing it out.
If each inmate that was on to take two minutes with each person so they would make us all stand shoulder to shoulder and we had to keep our masks off cause they, for some reason, don’t want people cheeking their meds on their mouth. I would tell the nurses, “Hey, you want us to stand maskless for approximately five others cause you’re too lazy to do each person individually.”
My complaints with others didn’t get nowhere. Cause if you complain you get fucked with by staff. Excuse my language.
So I was very fortunate not to catch COVID. Then one day, the correction officers came to my cell and said that I tested positive. Funny thing is I never tested when they did testing. They mixed up my name with someone else’s. So the real sick person was unknown. They still took me even after I told them they messed up. This happen to a few people.
Oh yeah, about the masks, like I said masks are hard to get once you lose it or it deteriorates. We found ourselves washing N95 masks. I think they throw them away after each use, I had mine for months. They thin out over time and get fuzz balls.
We are not allowed to have sewing needles, so I got a paper clip, flatten the back end and carved a little hole in it and sharpened the end. I would then get my t-shirt, pants, or boxer and carefully put the thread out and converted my only clothes into a mask.
I don’t have much so those few clothes I did have I used them to protect myself. I walked with no boxers for a few weeks and had to wash my shirt every day, cause I had to use my extras for masks.
It sucked cause mask access was hard to get. When you did ask you would get a runaround. “Wait until the next shift” or “We are out” is the responses. So a lot of inmates were doing this. But if you don’t have money for extra clothes you were assed out.
So if you ask me how was my personal journey through this pandemic, it sucked. I know it probably is nowhere near to others losses, but I really had to go on survival mode just to keep myself safe from this. When you don’t have clothes it’s embarrassing cause I had to rip my stuff.
The mask is the single most important thing, and when you are not provided that, you got to think other ways. You would think CDCR has money to provide that. Still to this very day, I cannot get an extra mask. I have one N95 mask since December. I did get vaccinated a few months ago so it was a relief, but masks are still mandatory to wear in certain areas, but not all areas.