Being incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic

Hayes, Jamil



Being Incarcerated During The Covid-19 Pandemic Being honest, for awhile I stopped writing. I gave up believing that it was only a waste of ink and paper. With everything going on in the world right now, what difference would it make by writing articles about prison and my experiences? My articles wouldn't be a cure for the virus, bring unity to a divided nation, or create jobs for the jobless. I felt it would only be selfish by writing about my experiences. But as I sat thinking, my mind brought me to the brave slaves who made journals, writing about their experiences during the time of slavery, the horrific things they witnessed and experienced on a daily bases. Only because of them that we know and have knowledge of the true events that happened from the side of the oppressed. History is written by the oppressor and influenced by their opinion and view, that being said we only get one side of the story. There will be a time in the future when society will want to know about the prison system during the time of the Covid-19 and if people like myself didnt write about their experiences and give first hand events of what they're facing and witnessing then the only thing people will know is what the politicians and prison officials decide to document. Future society will only have a one sided story from the oppressor. And we all know that the grusome horrific events will be kept out. Their verson will be sugarcoated and reacdunted. What I call the disney verson. Its only right that the people get whole story and that means also getting the story from the side of the condemned, the oppressed. Writing down my experiences ect will be like reliving the henious events again but in order to give the people the truth of the hardships inmates as well as myself experienced during the virus, its a price I'll pay. One of the biggest fabricated lies prison officials told the people is that prison is the safest place or one of the safest places to be during the pandemic. Saying that is like saying there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Making those statements can only be proven false by investigating, by finding out for self. Society would rather just believe what the elite say than to find out the ruthless hard core truth. Fact is, prison is not one of the safest places to be. In fact it was the opposit. In 2020 the Georgia as well as prisons all across America are over crowded. Social distancing are one of the biggest stretiges used to fight Covid-19. Scientists believed by eliminating big gatherings it could slow down the passing on of the virus from one person to the next. So how can prisons be the safest when their overcrowded with inmates? One might say, the government passed laws to release prisoners who were more prone to catch Covid-19 to protect inmates and stop the spread throughout the prison system. And I will bring you back to reality by pointing out that 2 a small percentage of inmates who fit a strict guideline were released and the law released elder inmates with health problems who didn't have violent charges and also inmates in federal prisons only. There is common knowledge that federal prisons are alot more controlled and maintained than state prisons. It is truth that the government did release a small percentage out of a huge population of prisoners due to the virus, but out of the very few none were out of the state prisoners where circumstances are harsher and the population are 2 times greater than they are in the federal prisons. So by bringing this to light, until a person does their research it is easy to believe the maniotic statement the prisons are one of the safest places to be during the virus. Now I will go indept of why its not in the conditions inmates face on the daily bases. As an inmate if you didn't have access to the outside world, you wouldn't know how serious the virus was in how it was killing thousands of people across the world. How? Because not much changed inside prisons, at least to protect inmates. Things actually got worse as time went on. When the virus first hit society it was early January of 2020. At my prison nobody spoke on it. C.O's came to work and kept to their same routine. Inmates in the lockdown units were the most ignorant about the virus because of being locked down 24 hours a day due to the Tier Program. I am one of those inmates on Tier. The difference between alot of inmates and myself is that I do have access to the outside world so I could keep up with the updates and news. As the virus got worse the conditions got worse, especially for us inmates locked down. The prison system already had a huge issue with the shortage of officers but when the virus came into the picture that problem increased trumendously. There is times in which we didnt see an officer all day because officers were quiting. C.O's refused to come to work where social distancing was impossible and risk attracting the virus especially when they weren't even being paid well. It was easier to stay home where it was safe and collect a stimulus check and unemployment which to advise you wouldn't recieve if you worked. So with a very few C.Os to work a whole prison, inmates especially locked down were neglected. Our food alot of the time sat exposed to rodents and elements in the air for hours before it was given to us. Our food would sit all to the point another inmate who wasn't locked down would pass it out. It became on a daily our food was ice cold before we recieved it. It became often that our showers were denied simply because there wasn't anyone to excort us to the showers. Being locked down 24/7 we depended on officers to feed us, take us to showers, pass out toiletries ect. We couldnt even flush our own toilets. So without C.O's to do their jobs, urine and worst sat in our 3 toilets. It was the worst in the summer time. I experienced things that only seem fit for a POW camp in WW2 not an inmate in the American prison system. As I write to you now its officially 1 pm Aug 20 2020 and our lunch trays sit exposed and have sat on the cart since they arrived around 10 AM. And still theres no C.O to pass them out. There's times that inmates have to set fires in order to get a supervisor to the lockdown units. And there's times I as well as other inmates had to be in a smoked out cell inhaling smoke for hours at a time because fires were set and still no one came to put them out. Fires became a norm in my dorm. Being locked down there isn't much you can do for yourself and thats frustrating. There's plenty of nights I pray viciously to God that I survive threw this. Living conditions are barbarrick. There's no one here to pass out chemicals to sanitize our cells. We sit vurnable. The conditions are perfect for the virus to spread. We inmates feel so weak and helpless back here on the lockdown units. Our laundry isn't being washed, whatever we send out to be washed don't return or sits outside our cell untouched. Rats and roaches roam freely around not even afraid of us anymore. If you are blessed to be able to contact outside family, you can tell them whats going on and they can call. Most cases no one answers the prison's phone and if someone do answer they will refuse to tell your family anything. Being in prison during the pandemic you would think prison officials would take traumatic measures to protect inmates and C.O's yet they don't. Inmates and the view C.O's who do work are under extreme pressure and stress. Medical is almost no existant. Nurses are overworked and put under stress to the point they gave up trying to help us. I seen an inmate yell for help while the nurse was making rounds giving out medication and she ignored him. He was a inmate with health issues. I can't say exactly all his illness but this time he broke his ancloe. He stressed to and even shown his leg to the nurse. The only thing she did was slide a sick call form under his door. It is known that it will take weeks if at all before you get to see a doctor. There's no C.O's to excort inmates. All constitutional rights are violated constantly, but who can an inmate actually contact to advise of the violations we face? We are forced to indure the extreme circumstances. All this causes friction between the C.O's and inmates. Too many occasions C.O's argue with stressed out inmates which leads to violence. Inmates refusing to allow C.O's to close door flaps resulting to C.O's shooting the dorm up with pepper spray inside paint balls. There isnt too many quiet days in my dorm. Inmates throwing bodily fluids at each other and C.O's and C.O's shooting inmates with paint ball guns loaded with pepper spray. Its like a war zone. Either your forced to smell urine, feces or pepper spray. Its a constant war 4 zone. Inmates even take extreme measures as far as committing suicide to escape the extreme conditions. Things are so bad that it can make you very angry. The struggle of being caged like an animal 24/7 is enough. But with all the added condition its unbearable. There seem like no escape from this. Moving is not an option. I've completed the Tier Program over 6 months and stuck because there's no room anywhere. The prison system faces problem of shortage of staff at the tenth degree and over crowdedness to the twentith. As of Aug 20, 2020 theirs no cure for the Covid-19 and the prison system haven't done a thing to protect inmates. Instead of making changes prisons are becoming hubs for the virus. Places like Rikers Island Covid is spreading rapidly, yet nothing is done to help inmates. Inmates are taking their own lives in lack of options, fear is rapid, afraid of catching the virus and being left to suffer and die. The only tool we have to fight the virus is God the most high. I feel like Im in a movie, things that Im experiencing isn't reality. Then the fact no one cares who can change things. It seems like the virus wont let up no time soon and prison conditions are only getting worst. No C.O's in sight. Horrible living conditions. Poor health care. Violence on the rise and rapid. The environment now is a savage, survival of the fittest. So to conclude this article I hope it sheds light on the reality of what its like being an inmate imprisoned in the American prison system during the Covid-19 pandemic. I pray for every citizen, inmate, C.O and person fighting and trying to maintain normalcy during the Covid-19. I pray that I make it thru this and can live to tell about it. I hope that when the topic of mass incarceration is brought up this article is a help to bring light to the conditions inmates face. Be a historical article to inlighten the people to the truth. That is the only way my experiences and oppression will have purpose.

Author: Hayes, Jamil

Author Location: Georgia

Date: August 20, 2020

Genre: Essay

Extent: 8 pages

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