The Reality Of Covid Behind Bars

In mid-March the facility where I am housed went on further modified program in regards to the Covid-19 pandemic (due to executive ‘stay at home order’) to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. 

On August 1, 2020, I woke to learn that someone in the housing unit where I currently reside was positive for Covid-19. My housing unit became the hot bed, and remain ground zero for Covid-19 for the facility… From 8/01/2020. the c/o’s came into the unit fully covered in PPE to feed us our daily meals–a few days later the temperature reached the 100’s and it was to “hot for staff to perform their duties so they opted to let inmate workers prepare and pass out our meal. What happened next is nothing short of deliberate indifference to human health and safety. Within days, nearly all of the workers became sick, experiencing covid-like symptoms; upon testing, most workers were positive and went to isolation/ further quarantine as our unit was officially in Medical quarantine since 8/01/2020. The signs were clear, the workers are 10x’s more susceptible to contracting the virus (3 months later they continue to become positive-new workers of course). As one c/o put it to me when I made my observation known, it is better you guys than us.”

Inside the Gym, it was a battle for survival. Every basic human need came only after unified protest.

– Testimony from Behind Bars

Around this time family of inmates began to protest outside the facility regarding the spread of Covid-19 within the institution. Other families demanded answers to a night time raid that targeted a great deal of Black inmates on 7/20/2020. It is believed that the raid is the direct source of the virus entering the facility as we were covid free up until this raid–and a Black inmate targeted in that raid was the first to become positive for Covid-19. However, with the pressure from Inmate families and the media, the administration applied pressure on the population, particularly to those in my housing unit. It erroneously believed that it was the family members of those in my unit that were outside protesting, and that we were having then call the media on our behalf.

Therefore, all cleaning supplies (including the desperately needed ‘cell-block 64’ disinfectant) were withheld for weeks. Inmate workers scoured the unit asking other inmates if they could donate detergent or soap Ajax-dish soap sold in canteen) so that the workers could clean the showers. Further, the television channels were restricted–and the warden stated “Tell your family to stop the protesting and I’ll give you your channels back.” 

In return, I filed a 602 grievance (This whole appeal process is a sham- no appeal ever gets granted here at CTF; even though the taxpayers allocated 9.8 million dollars this year to fix such 11 legalities) citing a number of International Human Rights) violations and detailing the above mentioned. that appeal will be decided on 10/27/2020 it will be denied, hands down). Anyhow, in the last week of August, I began to feel symptoms of Covid-19: I lost my sense of taste and smell, mental fog and loss of appetite. When I expressed concerns to medical staff–I was told to “Drink lots of water and eat lots of vegetables. ” I knew then and there that I was in trouble. When medical prescribes the cure all, magical water and ever healing vegetables, it really means, may God be with you because we’re not. On August 30th I tested positive for Covid-19 and sent to isolation to the facility Gym… Inside the Gym, it was a battle for survival. Every basic human need came only after unified protest.

There, I experienced one of the most significant manifestations of the human spirit that I ever experienced in my life; together, the sick (we all had covid; however there were men with pre existing conditions, such as CCCMS, EOP & other mental issues) formed a bond to help each other; the sick, confused, and afraid men of all races came together as one-when the c/o/medical staff did to one, they did to all of us..! 

When a nurse refused to clean, sanitize and disinfect the components of the vital machine (exposing everyone to possible reinfection of the virus) after each use; when the cops refused to provide us cleaning supplies, blankets, toilet paper or medical/602 forms–when they refused to give us are due packages/canteen where we get/purchase our basic hygiene products; when the nurses, medical refused to provide us proper medical care–the group as one peacefully protested by not participating in the daily vitals check up.

I never received any treatment or was given any medication for my physical ailments, yet was kept in isolation for 30-days.

– Testimony from Behind Bars

On a more personal note, I began to journal and document the entire Covid-19 pandemic experience. I made sure to inform medical of all my symptoms and made a record of it via medical form. Twice I was screen (medically) by nursing staff for my symptoms and prescribed medication which the doctor later denied. I never received any treatment or was given any medication for my physical ailments, yet was kept in isolation for 30-days.

Today, I am back in my cell with my cell mate who has tested negative every week for the last 3 months. I still experience mental fogs, lack of energy and my appetite is getting better. My ever fighting spirit tells me to file a law suit against the CDCR. However, that same spirit and Universal thought breaks down the reality of such litigation– I sue the CDCR, which will in turn harass, intimidate and God knows what else (which I know I can endure); and the state will force you (the tax-payers) to pay for its attorney, via Attorney General; you’ll also pay for the trial expenses; if I win, whatever monetary compensation that I may receive, will also come from the tax-payers, not the CDCR. And in turn, the CDCR will request (from the tax-payers) allocation of more money so that such violations don’t recur in its department. So, I can’t sue you, you had nothing to do with the inhumane treatment of the CDCR against those in their care. 

Your only connection is that you sign their paychecks and believe the lies that they tell you. But you don’t have to. Thomas Jefferson once said: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” Moreover, George Orwell said: “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

_ _ _ _ _ 

Editor’s note: We have posted the testimony written from within prison in its entirety with no editing except to make things clearer for text-to-speech reader applications in the transcript version. We often experience CO harassment and claims that disavow or distort. But, to better inform the public, we have added the following appendix for further information, including first hand accounts of people in prison and their families. 

For Further Reading

Reckless transferring Unite Against CDCR

Information on Covid & Pre-Covid inhumane practices – Oakland Abolition & Solidarity 

Background on 602 Grievances – Solitary Watch & Appeals Process –

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