This letter was written by a person incarcerated at San Quentin.
I received your letter of inquiry to my surprise. I found it quite heartwarming, given the fact that people are suffering all over the world, yet PrisonPandemic Project took the time to reach inside the belly of the beast, at this very trying time. For me, I find this situation just another instance that causes unnecessary hardship while paying back our debt to society.
I’ve been in prison for 25 years on a possession for sale of drugs, the first nearly 20 years was spent in Pelican Bay Prison, in Security Housing Unit, aka SHU. I would probably still be entombed there had it not being for the courts finding it cruel and unusual punishment, thus they ordered the vast majority released to mainline settings. While back there my health worsened, including having a heart attack resulting in spending a week at an outside hospital in 2009. God willing, I’ll be 70 in 2021.
Not sure that you’re aware that so far here it’s been 28 or more deaths, lost count, with nearly two-thirds of the population contacting the virus. Right now there’s legal litigation going on behind the scenes. The essence is the courts found California Departments of Correctional Rehabilitation guilty of deliberate indifference, a legal term, basically saying that they created this fatal situation here, by transferring of inmates to San Quentin, that were infected, thus knowingly infected inmates with the virus, when not a single case existed at San Quentin.
No one really knows the long-term effect of COVID-19. Right now, I’m still experiencing breathing problems after contacting it several months ago. The possibility of dying in prison behind a virus that was negligently spread by incompetence is heart-wrenching. There isn’t a day that passes in which thoughts of re-catching the virus again isn’t running through one’s mind.
After going through all that hell in SHU, the hole, then coming out to a mainline being exposed possibly fatal is hard to address mentally. Of all the prisons in California, San Quentin and Old Folsom are the most inadequate in every conceivable way. Social distancing, ventilation, two to a cell, not even designed for one person. We’re given masks to wear and occasional disinfectant. When the virus first appeared, they passed out hand sanitizers – a one time event.
As it presently stood, our collective hope is that the courts step up and order the necessary changes. CDCR has been instructed to reduce the population here at San Quentin either by transferring or releasing eligible prisoners, especially the elderly with health issues. Right now it’s been a non-starter, one must be mindful that prisons in of themselves are money-making businesses, thus it would be a disadvantage to the Department of Correction and their stockholders to release individuals. Finally, six or seven of the deceased here I knew personally, actually a couple stayed a few cells away from me.
The bottom line, speaking for myself: Life expectancy isn’t too promising, a stark reality under the circumstance here, hopefully I am wrong. Take care and please remain safe beyond the walls!