This letter was written by a person incarcerated at SATF (California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison).
I first heard about the COVID-19 in February 2020, and like many people, I didn’t think it would’ve turn out to be a worldwide pandemic it has become. The prison administration here at SATF/State Prison at Corcoran (Substance Abuse Treatment Facility) has taken extreme measures to keep the virus out of its facilities from the moment California began shutting down. In fact, prisons like San Quentin, Lancaster, and others went through infections and outbreaks much earlier than here.
Obviously mistakes happened, but I’ll not delve on fault finding. Instead, I only wish to provide the experiences of people in prison during the coronavirus pandemic.
As things worsened on the outside, and Governor Gavin Newsom called for the shutdown of California, prison officials began implementing measures to safeguard SATF/SPC from COVID-19. One of the first measures that deeply impacted the lives of the people in prison was the discontinuation of visitors from outside who are not essential to the safety and security of the prison. This means that volunteers for self-help and college programs, and family and friends cannot come into prison for classes or visitations, respectively.
Other measures were about wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping social distance. The last measure was impossible for the facility that I am in because it is a dorm setting where the double bunks are set in close proximity, and where there are 12 to 14 people per pod, which is at about 90-100 percent capacity. Prison administration alleviated the problem by transferring almost half of the population to other prisons.
All of these precautions were enforced and met with resistance at first, but in the end they were begrudgingly followed. The reasons for the resistance was the lack of serious attitude about the COVID-19 and that people in prison feel that they are being punished with these precautions for something they didn’t cause. Moreover, the majority of the prison population believe that the coronavirus could only be brought in by prison staff.