Coronavirus quarantine means solitary confinement for prisoners

by Eric Allen Jr.

Eric Allen, a 26-year-old male currently incarcerated in Jamestown State Prison, is serving a 50-year-to-life plus life in prison sentence for participating in a senseless drive-by shooting in May 2009. After robbing an innocent person of their life, spending the last 11 years incarcerated has taught Eric a great lesson. This kind of behavior is unacceptable and not wanted in society. 

I am Eric Allen. My actions have harmed people, traumatized families and had a terrible ripple effect on generations. In May 2009, I was a reckless, immature 15-year-old kid with no responsibility or accountability. I just never thought about the consequences of my actions – I reacted off impulse and emotions instead of rational thinking. I fall asleep and wake up inside a prison cell each day, full of regret and constant reminders of all the poor choices and bad decisions in my life. 

I have encountered many challenges throughout my incarceration, where I’ve spent 12 out of 26 birthdays in jail. On my 18th birthday, June 8, 2011, I was transferred from juvenile hall to adult prison to serve 107 years to life, with $29,864 to pay in restitution fines. There has been no consideration of me being someone living in poverty in prison. I’ve battled hopelessness, depression, neglect and physical abuse by prison guards using excessive force to deter inmates from reporting incidents. 

I am coming to terms with the fact that I may have to spend the rest of my life in prison.

These last 28 days isolated in solitary confinement due to quarantining from coronavirus have been dreadful and incredibly damaging to my mental and physical health, which are already defeated from being imprisoned with all human rights stripped away. 

Sitting here, I’m angry, feeling powerless in despair, stressed and depressed. I’m terrified I will for sure die in this prison cell – alone.

My phone call privileges have been taken away. I am unable to call my family to make sure everyone’s all right, which scares me the most. All visitation has been cancelled for six months. There is no shopping at commissary to obtain the basic necessities needed to remain healthy. I can’t get hygiene supplies like toothpaste, lotion and deodorant; or food items like soups, rice, meats and beans. I’m just stuck inside a television constantly reminding me how deadly and contagious COVID-19 is. 

Sitting here, I’m angry, feeling powerless in despair, stressed and depressed. I’m terrified I will for sure die in this prison cell – alone. My family and friends will not know of my death in isolation in prison quarantine because prison officials release false information of injury and death reports out to the public and families months later, constructing a story in which they aren’t liable for any harm done. 

It’s so sad to say, but: what happens in prison remains in prison.

Prison officials have adopted an “Us vs. Them” mentality, which affects the culture inside, aggravating violence, causing separation, frustration, fear and anti-social behavior. Disrespect and mistreatment are common. It’s pathetic being treated like animals in 24-hour cages, who can’t fend for themselves, with no voice or caretaker, with little opportunity to be productive.

These torturous conditions have become so severe that I’m deprived of sleep and surrounded with constant worry. It’s terrifying – like the world has forgotten about Eric Allen Jr. Anxiety controls my day, and I’m still looking for something meaningful at the end of it. I’m feeling the pressure, just like everyone else who has to stay inside their house all day because of COVID-19.

While keeping a safe distance, each individual is coping with isolation differently. Some are being creative in their homes, inventing games and challenges for the world; some are over-eating, indulging in more food than usual for comfort. Many are using dating apps as distraction from everything, searching for any meaningful human contact. Then there are those who are being abused in their homes sexually, physically or verbally, unable to escape, feeling trapped like a prisoner. It’s hard to handle at times. But as a “lifer” I have been doing meditation five minutes on each hour to reduce stress, learn mindfulness skills and find peace.

Some file false reports and commit cover-ups, ruling murders as suicides.

COVID-19 has resulted in every inmate living in fear in prison. Prisoners are not provided protective masks to prevent infection of the contagious disease. Healthcare providers, legislators, executive wardens and prison officials knew since March 11, 2020, how deadly coronavirus would be, and the threat this infectious disease could make without proper treatment, screening or protective masks. 

The distrust between medical staff and inmates has grown on an even higher scale. Incarcerated men and women sense that if one was to contract COVID-19, they will for sure die, along with each individual they encounter. 

Prison suicide has been on the rise as of late. Many cases could have been prevented had an officer taken the warning signs seriously, or hadn’t done things like walk past inmates’ doors on purpose because the officer’s still mad at the inmate from something that happened two weeks prior! Some file false reports and commit cover-ups, ruling murders as suicides. In these reports, correctional officers and medical personnel alike will be lying in their reports about deaths to cover their “gluteus maximus.” 

Again: what happens in prison remains in prison.

Poor health care has been an epidemic throughout California prisons for many years. There’s no secret of these facts. There can be no trust between inmates and doctors who apathetically misdiagnose patients when treatments for serious injuries are ruled routine check-ups. 

It’s widely known in prison that some physicians operate with licenses that restrict their work to correctional facilities because they have been deemed unqualified to provide care to outside communities. Can you imagine how lousy the healthcare treatment is that incarcerated men and women receive? People are afraid to report illnesses to staff because of the isolation and punishment you receive if you even say you’re sick. 

COVID-19 is a deadly, contagious illness that can destroy the entire population with one swing. We are all experiencing challenging times with different struggles. But there is a reason you have received this letter from me today: I am attempting to shed light on my incarceration, the abuse inside and the medical neglect we all experience. More importantly, I want to introduce myself to you and hopefully hear back from you one day. 

Take care!

Send our brother some love and light: Eric Allen, AL0139 C3-222­­­, Sierra Conservation Center, 5150 O’Byrnes Ferry Road, Jamestown, CA 95327.