This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Valley State.
Early in 2020, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations or CDCR reduced program dramatically in effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We, except for few critical workers, were no longer allowed to go to work, attend school, or attend self-help groups.
Our time for recreation on the yard became reduced to two hours per day so that only one building would be on the yard at a time. The CDCR reduced our access to dayrooms to two hours per day so that only one of four hallways would be in the dayroom at a time.
These changes reduced our ability to use telephones, and all visiting was cancelled. This caused our ability to contact family and friends to decrease greatly.
The CDCR took other measures to help in these areas. They worked with our telephone monopoly, GTL, to give us two days per month of free phone calls. They gave all of us without recent write ups a credit of 84 days off of our sentences.
Eventually, they allowed short video visits. Unfortunately, telephone access was reduced to half for social distancing, which made it very hard to sign up for a phone call.
Time dragged on as it usually does for prisoners except even more slowly. Reduced programming in prison and increased isolation is damaging to inmates unless they can find a way to protect their psychological and emotional systems.
To protect myself, I needed to stay busy being productive, so I started studying Hebrew and Spanish. I had in my possession a college textbook for learning how to read Hebrew, and later, I borrowed a Spanish book from the ‘Dummies’ series from a friend of mine.