This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CMC (California Men’s Colony).
To begin, COVID-19, and its surrounding effects are surreal at best. Never could one have imagined – save a fiction writer, that those of us in prison would have so many restrictions impairing our lives… both directly and indirectly related to society.
Directly, because the pandemic, the virus itself has reached us. I myself had it, though I was asymptomatic, nevertheless the bug bit me. I was moved from my housing unit, and rehoused in a quarantine building, for a period of 28 days. The catch is, I actually caught COVID in quarantine.
The night I left they were doing random temperature checks. I’d just drunk a cup of tea, so quite naturally my body temp was a little high (98.3), and once this was reported to the main nurse, they decided to move me to the quarantine building under the falsehood that my temp would be checked the very next morning. It was. I wasn’t moved.
Unfortunately, everybody over there actually had it, and since the prison (at the time) had absolutely no cleaning ritual (they’ve since adopted a makeshift cleaning response – which is only slightly better), I was housed with and around men that not only displayed the symptoms, some of whom had to be hospitalized, I ended up getting the virus as well.
At best the rehousing wasn’t a horrible episode, time-consuming maybe, a hassle for sure, but the problem is that we only catch it (and this is one of the indirect responses) because staff absolutely (most of them) refuse to wear masks. Some men have died. One, a lifer like myself, the board didn’t want to give him a compassionate release, died mere weeks before he was set to be released. I had to witness and experience the heartache behind this tragedy.
Now truth be told I am unable to see loved ones during this period, but I am not one to get many visits as it is. After 30-plus years, the only concerns I have is whether or not they’re okay; I don’t actually need to see them. But the keeping in touch with them has been greatly affected, because like now, even though I just tested negative, we’ve been (excuse me) were quarantined because a man in this building tested positive.
After testing us, and even though the test came back negative, they quit dispensing with the semantics and just placed us on lockdown. No man left (according to science…) has quarantined, yet we’re locked down. That isn’t the only tragedy. Well, not the only one in a line of many.
But, if a man has board or any related activity, he can not go to board. Again, this is after testing negative, which will cause him to spend at least another six months or so in prison. We have to remember, though, we’re only talking about inmates. Right?