This letter was written by a person incarcerated at San Quentin.
I wake up about 7 a.m. every day. After morning ablutions, prayers and reading, for the prayer and reading carry the testimony, I stand near the barred door of the cell and write. I pause for my prayers to read, and to eat, but mostly I write day in and day out. I’m in bed about 11:30 p.m.
See, I am in the cell with a phenomenal artist, and he reads and draws most days. We get along fairly well because we respect each other’s space, even though our space is tiny.
Let me see if I can paint the picture for you. Take an apartment bathroom and, instead of a bathtub, put a steel bunkbed in it. Then you and another adult lock yourselves in it. That’s the space. Then, you only can come outside for an hour and a half at the guard’s whim.
What I mean by that is, there’s a pattern for releases for showers, yard, and phones, but the guards here are lazy and some of them are racist and hateful. So they do the bare minimum so they don’t get in trouble, but sometimes that means two or three days between program times.
So you’re in this tiny bathroom with a steel bunkbed and can come out for 90 minutes every couple of days. That’s been the jam only for about four months or so. Before, there was less than that, and in the early stages, nothing.
A prison is about causing chaos to justify needing their budget to keep us incarcerated humans in line. Whenever there is a security issue, they lock us up, isolate us first, figure things out second, punish, punish, punish. Even in this pandemic, we are treated as the ones who brought COVID-19 to San Quentin, when that would be impossible. Staff comes and goes every single day. We are here.