Yard to yard

This story was told by a person incarcerated at Avenal.

UCI: How was COVID-19 handled by your facility at the beginning of the outbreak?

Caller: Very poorly. Like I said, it – it went from yard – there’s six yards here. It went from yard to yard to yard to yard, and I think our yard was the hit hardest and – and first.

I know a guy here that, you know, that was a kitchen worker that he was a lifer himself and he couldn’t risk getting a write-up, and he had tested negative, but they – he had to still go to work knowing that there was positive people and – and the risk of getting it, the virus, but they – he had to go to work still to not get a write-up because he’s trying to go home to his family, and he ended up dying.

You know, he ended up passing away getting the virus, you know, and now his – his family’s, you know, suffering because of it because he was trying to go home to his family and they still made him go to work.

UCI: Is it being handled differently now?

Caller: Not really so much differently.

I feel like they’re – they – they’re letting PIA work because I feel like it benefits the prison because they make millions of dollars a year off – off PIA here, but they aren’t – aren’t letting vocations run, so – which is education. They’re not letting that run, but I feel – because they’re getting paid a – for vocations no matter what. But the PIA, if PIA isn’t running, which is the – the business they have running in our yard, then they don’t get money.

They’re – you know, they’re lost – lost out on all – millions of dollars a year. So I don’t know why they would let free staff come in and out and be around our inmates, which inmates can bring it back to the – to the building to 250 people in each building.

UCI: Mm-hmm. If possible, could you tell us about – could you tell us month-by-month how the situation has changed at your facility?

Caller: At first it was no yard. We would – we’re in our racks in dorms. They give us – they do give us masks and stuff, but, you know, like I said, the cops – the cops got tired of wearing them, the inmates got tired of wearing these masks, you know, because it feels like it’s not going to stop it anyways here.

We’re in a building with recycled air. It’s not like we have windows open; you know? It’s – it’s a prison. We’re not supposed to have windows open; you know? They’re supposed to be secure and safe from people escaping, so it’s like a – it’s like a sealed box; you know? How is the virus supposed to escape if we’re in a sealed box? You know, prison is no place for a pandemic; you know? And I feel that a lot of people are doing good trying to go home, and if they see people programming and been down 25 years and 60 years old, barely, you know, only a couple years left of their life, I feel like they should release them.

Why would you make them sit in a box and that’s pretty much like a death penalty; you know?