Experiencing COVID-19 on death row

“Taps” – Art: Kevin Cooper

by Kevin Cooper

In my humble opinion being on death row with this COVID-19 pandemic raging is like having another death sentence. I can and do only speak for myself in this essay, and I must admit that I am scared of this virus!

I pride myself on not being scared of anything or anyone on death row, not even death itself, because after all this is death row. But this virus is more than just dying, or death. It’s a torturous death, like lethal injection is.

I do all I can to take care of me in here under these traumatic times and stressful circumstances. I social distance, I wash my hands regularly, clean this cage that I am forced to live in on a regular basis, and I often ask myself, is this enough?

Every inmate who lives next to me or around me to my knowledge is taking care of themselves too. Quite a few still go outside to the yard every other day as we are allowed to do. I went out for the first time two days ago after a month living non-stop inside this cage. I went out to get fresh air.

This unit, East Block, has staff who have been giving us cleaning supplies such as “cell block” which is a strong liquid cleaning agent, and we use that to spray on a towel and wipe the telephone down before each inmate uses the phone. 

. . . do the powers that be truly give a damn whether we human beings who have been sentenced to death by society get the coronavirus and die from it in a torturous way? 

We have been given hand sanitizer for the first time since this pandemic started. It’s a 6-ounce bottle and the writing on it says World Health Organization Formula. The same World Health Organization that Trump just stopped funding … no joke!

We still have not received a mask,* though a memo was sent around last week stating that cloth masks were being made to be passed out to inmates but that they have not yet been finished being made. Who is making them? I don’t know.

We people, we human beings on death row aren’t for the most part cared about by society as a whole. That truth makes some of us wonder, including me, do the powers that be truly give a damn whether we human beings who have been sentenced to death by society get the coronavirus and die from it in a torturous way? 

In 2004 I came within three hours and 42 minutes of being tortured and murdered – executed by the state of California. I survived that and have worked very hard with lots of great people to prove that I am innocent, that I was framed by the police and that I am wrongfully convicted. 

To do all of this and especially to survive that inhumane and manmade ritual of death in 2004, only to be taken out by COVID-19 is something that honestly goes through my mind on a regular basis. Right now, I am free of this virus and I am doing everything to stay this way. But that thought, that real life and death thought of the coronavirus taking my life is always present, especially under these inhumane manmade prison conditions on death row. 

*On Monday, April 20, Kevin called to say: “I received a cloth face mask today as did everyone here on death row. We are now instructed to use it every time we leave the cell.”

Send our brother some love and light: Kevin Cooper, C-65304, 4-EB-82, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA 94974.