This letter was written by a person incarcerated at CIW (California Institution for Women).
I have been incarcerated for 22 years. I have to go to the Board in order to get a suitable parole date. There are several expectations and requirements that I must meet before I present myself before the Board. COVID-19 has made it impossible for me to earn my vocation required by Board because we cannot go to our own program. There are also self-help groups that we must attend to in order to show our progress and rehabilitation. The Board will not take this into consideration and will most likely deny my suitable parole date until I meet their expectations.
I have a family and my two kids are constantly asking me when can they visit me. My brother just had twins and now they’re about to be a year and I haven’t even met them. Also when I found out my brother has cancer I was so depressed and not being able to see him made it hard. I rely on my family’s comfort to stay strong in here.
COVID-19 is also the cause for us not being able to go outside for recreational purposes. Well, I like to work out and we can go out for two hours only on certain days of the week. We need sun to strengthen our immunity and fresh air. The food they have been feeding us is not nutritious and you would think that they would want to provide healthier food so that we can withstand this pandemic.
In the middle of this pandemic, they moved me in with someone who had COVID-19. We are exposed to this pandemic because staff come in and out. They should single-cell us because I believe we will not spread it as much. We are very isolated, I mean when we’re not quarantined we get to go to the dayroom only 10 people at a time. When we’re quarantined, we are locked down and only allowed at 8 p.m. to shower.
I understand that there should be precautions, but this place is just very depressing without visiting privileges and being able to have other people from different organizations come in and visit us. There was a conflict that I experienced, and I needed the support [redacted], but I couldn’t get it.
Being in a unit 24-7 gets very tiresome because women get loud and these walls are not soundproof. It’s hectic sometimes.
To get through this pandemic I have been praying to God and reading the bible. I have been exercising in this small cell. I have been reading other self-help books and then other materials as well as watch TV. It has been stressful and fearful times not knowing whether I will get exposed to this virus.
Fortunately, I have not been exposed. There are also weary times because I think about my loved ones out there and just hope and pray they are protected from this virus.
In the beginning of the pandemic, last spring some of us in here felt like we would be left behind locked in because we believed that the staff would get infected and eventually no one would show up to feed us and let us go out to shower. Fortunately, the worst did not happen as we had anticipated due to what was being reported on media. It was dramatic and stressful in the beginning, but we have adapted and overcame the worse of this pandemic. Nonetheless, we are growing tired of being inside our units and not being able to program.