One year ago: ‘the moment’ in prison

Media are marking the one-year anniversary of the pandemic; these are the recollections of the incarcerated

Photo by Moritz Spahn on Unsplash

Colie Levar Long, D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility

All we knew at first was that there was a virus that allegedly came from China. Honestly, we all thought it was sort of funny early on. Based on the first reports we heard, it seemed like only older white people were catching it. It was a joke amongst ourselves: It’s a white person’s thing, sort of like karma. That was the general consensus amongst the guys in my unit.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Frankie Hargrove, then in FCI Oakdale, Louisiana

It was in mid-March and I’d been in the yard, playing guitar. Inmates literally started dropping. By that I mean passing out. Right there on the rec yard. I saw an ambulance outside, waiting to come in. And all the nurses and three guys were standing at the door, telling everybody, “Go back to your unit, go back to the units.”

Delonta Williams, then at USP Thomson, Illinois

We didn’t hear anything about the pandemic at first. Then the BOP sent a memo to everyone, letting us know we were going to be locked down because of the pandemic. It was around March 18 and that’s when, I believe, America started to take it seriously, but it was already widespread.

Rob Barton has been incarcerated for 25 years. Pam Bailey is his collaborator/editor. Learn more at

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