COVID-19

Justice Blind To Just Us? by Rodney Fenner

Hello world. Justice is supposed to be blind. Indifferent to race or gender. Disregarding affluence or the lack thereof. Incapable of venality. As the root word of justice implies, it should be fair. As a black man in the prison system though, I assure you Virginia’s justice is anything but. With COVID 19 ravaging our country, the imbalance of these scales is acute in the awareness of prisoners and thoroughly terrifying. From here, we watch people get infected and die. We watch people get infected, get the proper care (if available) and recover. Some receive care and still die. As an inmate in a dorm facility, I cannot socially distance or take any precautionary measures against this disease. Neither the staff, nor the officers are being tested and I know because members of both have told me. They get their temperatures checked, however, that’s nearly inconsequential because they could easily be infected and asymptomatic. So, as infections are breaking out at other prisons and in the surrounding area of this one, we are basically sitting ducks watching a short fuse. We outnumber staff and officers at least ten to one, so during a major outbreak they would be embarrassingly insufficient in caring for us. The most they could do is wait two weeks and hope we don’t die. To add insult to injury, we also have to sit here and watch other states release prisoners by the hundreds and thousands. So far, Virginia has released two hundred two prisoners. If that number sounds like a lot to you, put it next to thirty one thousand. That’s how many prisoners there are in Virginia’s system. Plus, every time any legislation is presented that would favor prisoners, it is disapproved and discarded. SB 1532, that would amend how we earn good time, and SB 91, that would make all eligible for parole, are good examples. Neither were passed. It took for the world to be entrenched in a pandemic and for the governor to issue an executive order before anything happened. Even then, the delinquent and always absent Harold Clarke (D.O.C.’s director) opposed that at every turn. With that executive order, people under a year who meet certain requirements will be released early. Supposedly, two thousand were eligible, but only ten percent of that have been set free. Tell me where is the logic in keeping a man who has three, four or five months left who’s going home anyway? Why not let him go instead of keeping him here to have his life be at an unnecessary risk? If he was to catch COVID 19, then they’d use that as an excuse why he shouldn’t be released. This system opposes us at every opportunity, even when opposition is obviously illogical and pointless. Where is the justice for us? Every day I wonder if this is the day an officer or staff member will bring the virus to us. Every day I wonder if my body is strong enough to survive if I’m infected. Every day I look around and see people with preexisting conditions and/or who generally just don’t take care of their bodies and wonder if they’ll survive. Because we’re prisoners, we don’t deserve to have a fighting chance against a disease that’s killing people? We’re not to be thought of as human anymore? We don’t have loved ones who want to see us alive and well? I know and understand that people in here have committed crimes and have sentences to do, but if we’re being completely honest, there’s a good number of us who’ve been discriminated against, railroaded and oversentenced anyway. It’s an oxymoron paradigm to believe the system works and at the same time fight tooth and nail not to release the people who’ve been through it. The question I leave you to ponder is, just because justice is supposed to be blind, does that mean she isn’t supposed to be human? Peace.

Rodney Fenner
DOC #1436377

RulaRook Fenner@FB

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