Failed response to coronavirus in Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility

Rashid released this on Feb. 20, 2012, calling it “National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners.” The Occupy Movement of 2012 was the last time mass incarceration was seriously condemned by the general public. Now the coronavirus pandemic is again spotlighting the evils of the prison industrial complex. – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson

Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the U.S., officials have demonstrated incompetence and indifference in response to the growing pandemic.

The situation inside American prisons is even worse, where officials are deliberately facilitating the spread of the virus. Conditions here at Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility bear witness to this reality.

Business as usual

Although a federal declaration of a national emergency was declared on March 13 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, no measures were taken at all here at Pendleton to test, treat or prevent the spread of the virus among prisoners or staff. The prison operated as usual with cramped group movement and gatherings of prisoners the everyday norm.

The only press coverage of the “riot” is from the Herald Bulletin of Anderson, Indiana, which reported on April 29 that Indiana Department of Correction spokesperson David Bursten “said the April 17 disturbance was resolved within a matter of minutes, that there was no threat to the public and no escapes from the facility. Bursten said four staff members suffered non-life-threatening injuries and all were discharged from the hospital on the same day.” There’s no mention of what sparked the “riot” or of the coronavirus pandemic that threatens to kill thousands of prisoners if preventive measure are not taken immediately. – Photo: Michelle Pembetton, IndyStar

No masks, hand sanitizer nor protective instructions were circulated among the prisoners.

Secret quarantines

As many prisoners complained of the official indifference demonstrated at Pendleton regarding the spread of the virus, and increasing numbers of prisoners complained of possible symptoms of infection, officials began clearing out housing units and the gym as quarantine areas.

However, no information was given to prisoners concerning the existence or level of possible contamination at the prison. No measures were taken to provide testing or even inform prisoners of the availability of tests. In fact, all information came to us via rumor and speculation. 

Many prisoners obtained masks through contraband sources because officials refused to distribute any.

This deliberate move that endangered the lives of the quarantined prisoners led to a physical altercation with guards, which has been kept quiet.

Finally, as outside protests were made about their refusal to provide us with masks, on April 15 masks were distributed to the entire Pendleton prisoner population.

No hot or nutritious meals

At a time when meeting prisoners’ nutritional needs is paramount in strengthening our immune systems to protect against COVID-19, officials began distributing meals grossly deficient in nutritional content.

On April 15, they began serving three daily cold sack meals consisting of nothing but peanut butter and jelly and processed meat sandwiches, one fruit and one vegetable, and a tiny serving of cereal per day. 

Basic nutritional standards (see the FDA food pyramid) require two to four daily servings of fruit and three to five daily servings of vegetables for adequate basic health. One vegetable and one fruit serving per day as provided in these sacks are facially inadequate to meet our nutritional needs.

The quiet ‘riot’

On April 17 Pendleton officials attempted to forcibly move a prisoner who had tested positive for COVID-19 into the gym, where some 20 prisoners were quarantined who had NOT tested positive.

This deliberate move that endangered the lives of the quarantined prisoners led to a physical altercation with guards, which has been kept quiet.

A riot team of over 30 guards with dogs and guns was subsequently brought in to move everyone out of the gym. Many were put in solitary confinement.

For two days, officials disabled the prison phone system at Pendleton, so no one could get the word out about what they’d done in attempting to deliberately expose prisoners to the virus, and the understandable reaction of prisoners in response.

The prison was put and remains on lockdown as a result of that incident.

Conclusion

As is evident from this summation of events related to COVID-19 here at Pendleton, the official response has been blatant indifference and, in several regards, they’ve acted knowingly to infect and spread the virus among prisoners and weaken our resistance to it.

This not only endangers our lives and safety but that of the public as well.

Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!

All Power to the People!

Send our brother some love and light: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 264847, Pendleton Correctional Facility, G-20-2C, 4490 W. Reformatory Road, Pendleton, IN 46064.

Fightback update

A supporter writes: “Rashid has informed me of a demonstration that will take place today, April 30, at Pendleton Correctional Facility in Pendleton, Indiana, and wishes for me to share this information as widely as possible. 

“A substantial number of prisoners will refuse meals today. This is in response to neglect, poor treatment, and prison officials’ complete lack of care or concern in regard to crisis management or emergency response during this global pandemic. Prisoners have been receiving, since April 15, a sparse and poorly put together sack lunch and one small bag of cereal all day. They are demanding proper nutrition during this time that will serve to sustain and to fortify themselves against sickness and proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and cleaning supplies in order to clean and sanitize cells. 

“This is what I was able to get from our conversation. The connection was choppy and disconnected several times as we were communicating via the tablets that they use at Pendleton and they have likely manipulated them in some way in order to slow or stop communication with the outside. 

“The tablets were disconnected completely for several days about a week ago leaving prisoners with absolutely no way to contact anyone on the outside after the quiet “riot” Rashid describes above.”