This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Salinas Valley.
Imagine my frustration and anger when they refused to take the precautions. I provided and started catching COVID. I’m one of the fortunate ones though as all of those I’ve loved who caught it were only able to recover. Now although they immediately shut down contact visits, other than that, at first there were little to no restrictions here.
But once they did put restrictions in place it was like being in the hole, only worse.
In the hole there is a 23 and one program, where a man spends 23 hours in their cage and is allowed out for an hour a day to either go to the yard, use the phone, and/or shower. But initially we weren’t even afforded that. For the first several weeks of restriction we received no yard at all.
And we’d only get to shower every three or four days. Finally, after a couple of months they began showering us every other day, giving us weekly yard, and allowing us to use the phone on our shower days.
Of course, this meant spending large amounts of time in our cells. This is hard enough for the average person, during normal times, but now there was the added stress, fear, and uncertainties of a global pandemic. So, for those of us who suffer from anxiety and or depression this was extremely distressing time.
There were a lot of men behind the walls dealing with and trying to conceal mental health issues.
As a result, prior to the pandemic, there were mental health professionals whom we could speak with every 90 days or so. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but once the restrictions were implemented, when I needed someone to talk to most, my sessions were cut completely. Forcing me to sit in this cage and deal with the issues alone.
Thankfully, I had my writing to help me cope, but a lot of the other cats weren’t so lucky.
One of the few positives, at least one this yard, is that we never really had those mask wearing controversies. Maybe it was due to everyone being so glued to the news, but as soon as they issued us masks the men here were willing to wear them. Some had already fashioned makeshift masks out of cut off sweats and beanies, and were wearing them prior to the prison issuing us new ones- real ones.
Men might forget to put one on, but I never saw or spoke with anyone who just refused to wear one.
About two months in we began to hear reports of guards and inmates in other prisons and on other yards catching COVID, but at that point this yard was COVID free. Still, the administration wanted to clear a whole building to put people with COVID into.
So, they began moving people from yard to yard and building to building. Although this may have seemed like a good idea, due to COVID’s asymptomatic transmissibility, all it served to do was spread the virus.