Written May 21, 2020
We got our first word of the pandemic on March 13. That is the day prison authorities notified us that visiting all other programs were canceled indefinitely. We’d seen news coverage prior to that, but few of us had any idea of the scope of the crisis until the day our outside contact was terminated.
Withing two weeks, half the facility was put on a 14-day lockdown that authorities called “protective quarantine.” Apparently a guard in that area had tested positive. Since it can take up to 14 days for symptoms to manifest, everyone who likely had contact with this person had to be sequestered to see if they were infected.
This all made sense. It even left me wondering if the DOC had actually gotten this right. Perhaps we’d weather this crisis.
The next move was to limit the number of people who could be in a specific area at one time. I was impressed. Then the flaws in the actual execution of their plan came to light.
I went to the yard one afternoon. After 150 people entered, authorities locked the gate and began turning people away. At this level, it was easy to maintain social distancing. About thirty minutes later, I was walking the track when a seemingly endless stream of people began pouring through the yard gate.
Apparently there was a fire drill of some sort, so they evacuated an entire 175 man unit into a yard that was already at capacity. There were vast fenced-in spaces on either side of the yard. But in the midst of a pandemic, some low-level authority figure made the call to overcrowd the yard instead. After all, to them we’re only prisoners. Social distancing became impossible.
I just chalked it up to an isolated mistake. Everyone makes a mistake from time to time, and I assumed they would do better moving forward…
Three days later, I’m in the dining hall for dinner. The authorities were trying not to pack the dining hall too full, so they ran groups of 40 cells at a time, waiting for one group to finish getting their food before letting the next one go. Not exactly social distancing, but at least they were making an effort – until the meal began.
The door to the cage they keep me in opened, and I proceeded to chow. I only got halfway there and ran into a wall of people. When I turned back in an effort to avoid close contact, there was an impenetrable wall of people behind me. I was stuck in the midst of this crowd for nearly five minutes with people actually touching me on all sides. Very few of them were wearing masks.
It seems the unit staff had opened all eight tiers of 40 cells at the same time. Thankfully there turned out to be no COVID-19 in that particular crowd. Had there been, it’s unlikely they would have had enough bodybags on hand.
This was early in the pandemic. Perhaps they’d learn from these catastrophic failures before the real crisis hit…or would they?
That’s just how things go here. When we all get the infection, it will not be because they didn’t come up with policies to safeguard us. It will be because someone made a mistake, or someone executed a personal agenda and calls it a mistake. But it will happen. It does happen. It continues to happen and nothing is done to correct it. Not that anything could be. These are my early experiences. I’ll continue to fill you in as I get time. Even now, there is much more to say, but I want to get this letter out before the weekend.
Hope you are well and enjoying life. Also, I hope you have been able to get some of the assistance I keep hearing is being handed out. Seems like now is a good time to be asking the government for money. Anyways, take care and keep on living the dream my friend.