Sent Thursday, March 26, 2020

(Identity not included for their protection)

“I’ve been in [a maximum-security prison in WI] for the past eighteen years, and I have never seen it anywhere close to as somber as it’s been over the past few weeks. Fear, worry and frustration have gripped and overwhelmed both inmates and staff alike. For the first time since I arrived here, the staff is actually walking around looking defeated. They are no longer exhibiting their normal superiority complex… That’s because it’s obvious that as of right now, they’re fully aware that they are not the most superior entity in the room… The Coronavirus is! 

This virus has been nothing short of debilitating to an already flawed system. Outside of showers every other day, we’ve been on complete lockdown since Wednesday, March 18, 2020. To give you an idea of what a lockdown in a maximum-security prison consists of, I would like everyone to close their eyes…. Do you all have them closed? OK, now, imagine being locked in your bathroom at home, having only your over the air channel television and AM/FM radio to accompany you. You have your toilet, your sink, and your bed is literally the size of your bathtub…It’s also almost as comfortable as your bathtub would be to sleep in as well… Do you all have the visual? Good, now imagine being in there with another person…And not just anyone, but a complete stranger… If this is too much for you to handle, please open your eyes. Open your eyes and escape this nightmare that is unfortunately my everyday reality. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been my reality twenty-four hours a day for the past eighteen years, and the Coronavirus has only made it worse and more stressful. 

Without the lockdown due to the Coronavirus, we spend far too much time in our rooms, but at least we’re able to go to work, school, the dining hall, and other leisure activities, such as recreation, chapel, library, law library, hobby, etc… But as of eight days ago, I’ve literally only left my room three times, and that was to shower. We’ve eaten every meal in our room, and get absolutely no leisure activities whatsoever. And trust me, I understand the seriousness of this pandemic and the benefits of social distancing, but my concern is, what about the inmates here who are doubled up? You could literally be as cautious as you could possibly be, and still be exposed to the virus from a reckless cellmate. In that situation, your safety, well being, and maybe even your life is completely out of your hands. It just doesn’t seem fair, does it? Then, there’s the fear of the officers leaving and coming back every day. Our visits have been canceled, so the only possible way for the virus to get into the prison is through the staff. As a matter of fact, it’s already been a case where one of the staff tested positive. The prison doctor tested positive for COVID-19 last Wednesday. The same day sixteen inmates were quarantined, followed by another sixteen the following day. They were all quarantined because they had all come in contact with the doctor. They were all released from quarantine seven days later, after not suffering from a fever and shortness of breath. They were also given a blood test, which I’m not sure is a legitimate way to test for the virus or not. The fear is that they could be asthmatic, and possibly start the spread of the virus within the cell halls where other inmates are housed. And that’s the scary aspect of this entire situation, the uncertainty of it all. It’s difficult to avoid something you know absolutely nothing about. 

Speaking for myself personally, I’m more afraid for my family and loved ones on the streets than I am for myself. Like I said earlier, our movement is limited, but I’ve got people out there on the front line, some in the medical field, some who work with charitable organizations, and some who are elderly, and there’s no telling how many people they come in contact with on a daily basis. I’ve never prayed, talked on the phone or emailed so much in my life. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want to take up too much of your time, and I sincerely thank you for taking the time to listen to my story and allowing me to give you a small visual of how were facing the pandemic behind the wall. Thank you, and please stay safe out there.”