It’s inevitable to catch this virus; I’m just counting down the clock

Cook County Jail prisoners line up to vote in the Illinois primary election on March 17. – Photo: Scott Olson

Prisoners from New York to California wish for freedom, wonder if they’ll survive

The prisoner

by Jamel Stevens

I’m a prisoner that’s a prisoner scared to leave my cell

coronavirus bouncing around in this populated jail

mass epidemic, domino effect; as I watch the people fall

coughing, sneezing and wheezing, at night I hear them all

no help from medical, my immune system with no resistance

not safe, for overcrowding destroys the social distance

everybody’s infected, the disease is in the air

we reach out to be heard, but it seems that no one cares

dried foods, crackers and water … like a hurricane shelter

tea, garlic and soups … As I tried to hold it together

my neighbor got the virus and was sent to isolation

quarantined taking Tylenol and back coughing in population

on top and beside each other, our cells is one building block

It’s inevitable to catch this virus; I’m just counting down the clock.

I am a Harlem Native who is incarcerated, and nearing the end of my prison sentence – three more years. However, within this pandemic, I sit in a pressure cooker, Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Westchester County, where the coronavirus infection rates are among the highest. Staff and inmates are infected. By comparing and contrasting prison life to the outside world, you can see how Sing Sing and the individuals within are likely to suffer the worst from this cataclysmic event.

On the outside, people are dying at an alarming rate. Those people have masks, are able to social distance, eat alone, prepare their own meals, live alone and have access to expedient medical. Even with all these precautions, death is inevitable. 

Here in Sing Sing, there have been over 50 employees infected with the coronavirus, over 20 inmates, and three deaths thus far.

Now we must look at the situation of those who live within the prison system. We are not afforded masks and have to suffice with cloth and clothing – that is, if we have extra to use. We are unable to social distance; when we line up for messhall, we are cramped up and the people serving our food do not wear a mask as they ration food into our trays. We sleep less than six feet apart from each other, side by side, and the cells are stacked on top of each other, symmetrical.

Here in Sing Sing, there have been over 50 employees infected with the coronavirus, over 20 inmates, and three deaths thus far. In A Facility, in which we are subjected to the above parameters, living conditions are inhumane. All day and all night, you can hear people coughing, sneezing and gasping.

Everyone has the disease. The most plausible solution would be:

  • Release everyone 65 and older;
  • Release everyone who has most of his time in;
  • Send the remaining inmates to a virus-free facility.

Once a virus enters a facility, it has no choice but to spread like a wildfire and for this reason the incarcerated cries should be heard. Sometimes that one voice is a beacon of light to reveal what is in the dark – so society knows what’s in the dark. This needs to be published so the right individuals can come to that place where the light is being emitted.

Respectfully,

Jamel Stevens

Send our brother some love and light: Jamel Stevens, 12A1128, Sing Sing Correctional Facility, 354 Hunter St., Ossining NY 10562.

#PrisonersArePeople

by Terry Mackey

I am currently incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison’s reception center. We have been on “modified program” since March 17. Since the beginning of the modified program, we have been “cell fed.” We have not had a hot meal since. 

Both breakfast and dinner have been served cold. They leave our food sitting for prolonged periods of time, handing out bagged lunches and doing morning medication before they serve our breakfast. They also do evening medication before they serve dinner. 

. . . we are only allowed one 15-minute phone call per month to speak with our family.

Not only do they serve our food cold, they are serving it with gloves they touch things around the prison with. I observed an officer move a garbage can and then proceed to serve food – and they are not wearing hair nets. 

I believe we are being held under cruel and unusual circumstances. We have not been to the yard and are only allowed out of our cells three days a week for a five-minute shower. 

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, they gave us disinfectant for our cells once. They do laundry exchange once a month and even then you are lucky to get your size. Some of us are left with the same clothes we received upon arrival and have no way to wash them. 

We request things from the correctional officers but far too often our requests go unanswered – or ignored. And we are only allowed one 15-minute phone call per month to speak with our family. Since April 1, they have been letting us out once a week but it’s not enough. #PrisonersArePeople 

Terry Mackey

Send out brother some love and light: Terry Mackey, BL3853, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA 94974.