Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Covid Shuffle

Shelter in Place?  Stay at Home orders?  Social distancing?  It’s getting you down, right?  Well, try 90 days locked-in, locked-down, herded, contained, and disdained.  COVID-19 in Prison!  While we empathize, sympathize, and try to understand how people on the outside feel, we also roll our eyes.  “Forced” to stay home with some Netflix, YouTube, treadmills, delivery, backyards…shit, to us that would be paradise.  In here it’s a good day if you’re lucky enough to use the bathroom without two people in the neighboring stalls. On a rare occasion maybe you’re lucky enough to have a window on the back of the building where you can watch a sunrise and maybe see some wildlife, and if you lean over just right your line of sight may not include the razor wire.


If your window is on the compound side you have probably spent the past 3 months watching your friends on the way to medical.  With easily more than 700 of 1100 inmates already infected, there’s been a lot of traffic down there.  Among them, you have the seemingly healthy smiling ruefully as they are carted off to the Special Housing Unit (probably just running a fever but otherwise feeling okay). Then you have those doing what I’m calling the Covid Shuffle:  they say it feels like a bad hangover/head cold/exhaustion, and they amble down to the luxurious new accommodations. Unfortunately, there is also the all-hands-on-deck “Oh f__k we let another one die” situation. Through it all most staff just carry on with their typical indifferent attitude.


We continue to file paperwork seeking some kind of early release, in line with the federal government’s order, but the staff just acts annoyed, at times even angry, that we are trying.  Twenty men have died so far, plus one guard. We all feel like sitting ducks.


You may have heard that they tested all inmates, separated, isolated, etc.  Yes, they did test us – once – but then didn’t move anyone for another ten days!  For those ten days my cellie was a guy who had tested positive.  The unit I’m on, where guys are supposed to be negative, had two more guys infected during that ten days.  As one nurse told me, “It would appear the administration is doing the best they can to make sure every last one of you gets it.”


More testing?  Why bother?  “No need” we are told. As far as I know, somehow I’m still well after 90 days of this, and was told, “Well, you’ve probably had it, been asymptomatic (one administrator mispronounced this as “asystematic”), so what’s the big deal?  How about not wanting to risk illness or death, dude?


I don’t understand why officials can’t just tell the truth. Admit that just like the rest of the world, they can’t control the virus. That in spite of Emergency Orders, public outcry, and CDC advice, they just will not let anyone go home.  The federal prison system - driven by money, fear tactics, and politics – can’t seem to shift gears and show a little concern for human life.  Is it an 18-wheeler trying to turn around in an alley, a head in the sand hoping the problem will go away (the President’s apparent choice), or a deliberate middle finger?  Two quotes from staff:  “We can do what we want” and “We answer to no one.”


Frankly, I don’t care which of these it is, I just know that nearly my entire unit is sick and people are dying.  Was it Alexis de Toqueville in his Democracy in America who first said that you can judge a society by how it treats those at the bottom of the pecking order?  If that is true, and I hope it is, then I ask all of you on the outside, please don’t forget about us in here!  PLEASE!

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