This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Vacaville.
Suddenly I felt symptoms that included coughing and a runny nose. As soon as I reported it I was immediately quarantined and tested for COVID-19. I was relocated in the adjustment center. I had never felt sicker in my entire life while vomiting, I felt as though there was something evil inside me trying to escape. I was dehydrated even after drinking plenty of water – and my concern began to grow.
Inside adjustment center the telephones are rolled to us on a dolly, and we talk on the phone inside our cells. While speaking to my mother, she told me to repeat this prayer after her, “Dear Lord, I accept you in my life as my personal savior. I believe that you died on the cross for my sins and rose on the third day.”
A few days later the doctor came and told me I tested positive for COVID-19. He told me, “Typically if your body is healthy enough you can fight off the virus, on the flipside there’s the possibility of death.” After no treatment was offered I became belligerent, arguing that I wasn’t being given any medication.
I was told that – were I to be prescribed pills – my oxygen levels would become low. Nonetheless the doctor prescribed me the meds anyways and my oxygen levels did become low. The nurses kept telling me to “breathe again,” “breathe harder,” “take deeper breaths.”
Inmates around me were just sick as well, and their morbid sounds were just as hideous as mine. Ambulances could be heard and seen transporting inmates to outside hospitals. “Man downs” were reported about fifteen times a day, and the ER at SQ was filled to capacity.
I made it a point to stay tuned in to radio news and found that CDCR inmates were dying at a fast rate; mainly San Quentin. Activist and protestors were in front of our prison campaigning for us. In turn, a tear rolled down my cheek as I heard a woman on the radio saying, “People are dying in there, please help them.” Her compassion allowed me to see the good in such people.
Consequently, CDCR began six month early releases to reduce population density, and the mortality rates. In so far that San Quentin was constantly on the news my family became worried and the emails started pouring in. A service provided by J-pay for a small fee while the pandemic is active.
Luckily for inmates, college prison projects and LSPC (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children) began to intervene they sent us care packages comprised of tasty morsels and stationary supplies. LSPC kept us abreast of new laws being implemented with regard to due process rights. For a while there we even had food caterers sending us luscious food from the streets and staff were provided with a food truck serving complementary burritos.
In retrospect, the most difficult – of my plight with COVID – was being shunned by everyone. I’d be escorted somewhere and the CO escorting would say, “I got a positive guy here.” People would back away as if an outlaw entered a saloon with his gun drawn.
All in all, 28 inmates and one staff member died at San Quentin. The smoke eventually began to clear and the virus was more controlled and held at bay. Yard; critical workers; and mental health groups are the only movements taking place; as well as medical.