Every two hours, an announcement blares on the loudspeaker in both English and Spanish: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, inmates and staff should be sure to wear their masks and keep areas sanitized at all times.”
For the most part, the announcement goes unheeded, and thus COVID is now spreading in the institution once again.
The majority of inmates have been fully vaccinated for the past few months, and thus life here had begun returning to “normal.” But most COs have not been vaccinated and, just like in the world, nobody was wearing masks, although the service announcements continued to drone on. So, COVID is circulating once again and we’re being punished due to their lack of vigilance. After all, the only way COVID can get in is if the officers bring it.
Although they are supposed to have their temperatures checked daily before they enter the facility, officers have told me that they everyone just drives past the booth (where they are supposed to be checked) on the way to and from work. If they are serious about prevention, why don’t they demand that if an officer isn’t vaccinated, they are at least tested weekly? (Note that this is what President Biden mandated.) But I guess that would take too much work. Companies, leagues, etc., are all finding ways to operate while incorporating proper protections, but here, one COVID case gets us all locked down.
Mask and Vaccine Mandates are Spreading Everywhere Except Among Prison Guards
‘And we’re the ones who pay for it,’ says one prisoner
A guy in my unit told me he wasn’t feeling well two days ago, so I took the precaution of making sure I disinfected our phones, computers, etc., after each use. He told an officer the next day he wasn’t feeling good and they should have taken him out to quarantine immediately. Instead, they led us all out past them for our hour of rec time, then they quarantined them. Sure enough, an hour after they were led out to be tested, they called lockdown and we haven’t been out since. In other words, they unnecessarily exposed the whole block to COVID and we are punished for their incompetence!
Here’s what’s also crazy: They also tested everyone in the block. What is the use of testing us if they are still going to quarantine? Why not quarantine only those who test positive, especially since most of us are vaccinated?
First, they tested us with a rapid test on July 27, the day we got locked down. Then again 14 days later. On the 17th day, when we were thinking we’re coming out, they came and moved about eight guys out of the block, claiming they had tested positive. But why the wait? They could have been moved when they were first tested and now you’ve exposed the whole block again. Then, today (Monday, Aug. 6), they came and moved more guys, even though they had tested negative, just because they lived next door to the guys who were moved on Friday. To top it off, they moved me to the “real” quarantine block only because my cellie had to be quarantined before being released [he is being sent home today]. So again, I’m being punished for no sound reason.
Oh, and guess what? Now the officers are wearing masks. But I haven’t been given one. And I can’t get one because they don’t pass them out or sell them. They expect the men to clean the masks they passed out months before I arrived. (I had kept the mask I came with when I was transferred from USP Hazelton but the staff lost it when I was sent to the hole [solitary confinement] after my cellie was caught with a shank [homemade knife].
We only come out of our cells for 10 minutes for a shower Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That means we can’t call or email our loved ones; we’re even denied calls with our lawyers.* Why not have a roll-around phone like they do in the hole? I’m not even being given any mail. On top of that, we can’t charge our MP3 players or have rec time. Meanwhile, the officers sit around each other, who brought COVID in.
Throughout all this, they don’t tell us shit. When guys act out, in frustration, anger and depression, the guards respond with gas guns and basically tell them/us to get fucked, when all we’re trying to do is get some answers.
*Buzzfeed News reports that in California, the state saves money by restricting visits to prisoners: With no visits from March 2020 to January 2021, the correctional system calculated that it saved over $35 million. This is true elsewhere as well. Incarcerated people around the country worry that some restrictions implemented during the pandemic could remain in place even as vaccination rates rise. Now, as the state rolls out its plan for reopening prisons to visitors, advocates and systems-impacted families across the state are calling for a new law that would reestablish visits as a right rather than a privilege.