In all my years, yet have I been a witness to an event, occurrence or phenomenon which has been able to so drastically alter, or otherwise halt prison’s normal operations. All things outside of its razored parameters have failed in their previous attempts to affect its inner environment. All except COVID. For the first time, in my 28 years, prison has literally stopped moving.
From an inside view, the daily operations of this prison have come all but to a stand still; #stay@homeprisonversion. I share a home with 199 other guys. I can not say what the living conditions or ongoings are for those thousands of other persons housed in various other parts of this institution. They are confined to where they sleep, as we are confined to where we sleep. The entire prison is sectioned off into its 20 individual dorms/blocks and isolated from each other part. We never see those from any other section. The dorm I sleep in is stucturely built to house 170 people. Yet in the last two weeks, prison officials have squeezed in an additional 30 people by transforming the day room area, into a bed area. The day room area use to have tables and benches, but since they has been replaced with 15 steel bunk beds. Tables and benches normally purposed for therapeutic and recreational activities, such as card playing, writing, chess, legal work, socializing, etc. Thus, imagine having to sleep in your bed while its situated in the produce section of the local grocery store. Then you might be able to understand what it’s like to sleep in a prison day room. The worst part is, all 30 of these men have tested positive for COVID, a third of them are severely ill.
There is no such thing as quarantine for a prison when three fourths of its population has tested positive, there is only isolation. To isolate those who test positive with those who test positive.
Over these several weeks of isolated lockdown, staff members have continued to deliver food to us, no matter the deficient calorie count. They deliver the mail, the mandatory medications, diabetic insulin, they even come to refill the liquid soap dispensary in this dorm’s general restroom. Yet there is no delivering of information as to what the plan is for us. No delivering of medical supplies to those of us who are ill and are in need of it. Two essential aspects of our physical and psychological livelihood. The medical staff does not make rounds in here, they do not come by to check on us, we are left alone in forced isolation. Unless you count when the nurses coming aound to point a tempature reader at our foreheads. During which time, we bombard them with our questions, concerns and inquiries about what’s going on. And I’m sure we come across a bit frustrated, but we are scared and our fears have an under tone of anger. All we want to know is that we are not left to die here. That there is a plan, an ending result to bring a state of health back to what is essentially our home.
Yet there are no anwers provided. Many of us have resigned to what our fates will be. We have no choice but to rely on staff, but our confidence is wearing thin. We are a part of this system, and as such, there exist a underlining reliability between the systems parts. We are doing our part.
I doubt the system and its staff have a lack of caring or an insensitivity for us as a prison population. I doubt its a superiority complex. Instead, I believe its COVID in and of itself. Many of the staff have had their co-workers, family and friends become infected. Some have become severely ill, others to the point of death. There are some staff who have recently come back to work after having recovered from COVID. The prison is way under staffed. The staff is way over worked and more over stressed. It could be a lack of hazard pay. Whatever the case, I may not agree with every aspect of their procedure and handling of this situation, however, I do empathize with the level of difficulty presented with the magnitude of this situation. In the end, how could I expect the officials of this prison to have been properly prepared for this level of pandemic when no other administration, in any country on the planet was.
Yet do not our questions have a justifiable tone when posed to medical staff in concern of our health and well being? Is it not a valid request to be provided medical supplies to combat COVID symptoms, or atleast be given an opportunity to purchase those medical supplies from the prison commissary. It has been more then 6 weeks now since we have had access to the commissary. Is it not our right to complain?
Of the 200 guys isolated in this dorm, we’ve all tested positive and cover the range of infections. Some have full blown COVID symptoms and are bed ridden. Others are in varying stages of recovery. While the rest of are rarely six feet away from anyone else, sick or not.
Jason Bernard Thompson