Hey y’all, Noah here.
I just read Chris Warren’s post about COVID-19 and it made my day, because it was good to hear words from a friend, who I miss greatly. Since Chris got released, I can’t legally speak to him anymore. I also can’t get his posts sent to me, but for whatever reason, they let that one in.
He also referred to a prison term called, “prison lock-down,” and from there I thought it would be a good idea to update everyone on my current situation because as of 12:01am Wednesday morning that is the state we are in, “lock-down.” Things have changed inside prison since my last Covid-19 update.
This was announced the night before around 10 pm on Tuesday at a Town Hall meeting. People were already anticipating this, but now it was actually happening and inmates had plenty of questions. Mainly concerning the gym, TV’s, computer and phone access, and commissary. The staff announced affective immediately the TV’s, phones, and computers will be on 24-7, and a cheer rang out throughout the basement, as I stood there shaking my head and laughing, all while thinking just how simple we are to please.
What Lockdown Means in Prison
We are confined to the units and the only people that are able to leave are essential food service inmates. We have the structure of a weekend schedule, that means count times at 10am, 4pm, and 10pm. All work details are canceled except unit orderlies who are responsible for cleaning and sanitizing much more often now to protect us from the spreading of germs.
I am one of the inmates fortunate to work at food service, because this is the only way to get out of the unit and get fresh air. Our windows in our rooms are maybe 2 square feet, and have grates on the outside to restrict any viewing of the outside community and all the larger windows are made up of some type of material that offers 0% visibility. So most of the inmates are now hermits.
As for me I go to work at food service 7 days a week, from 12pm-6pm. I used to work the morning shift, but I decided to volunteer for the afternoon shift for a little change of pace. This will allow me to sleep in, do some calisthenics or yoga, and then go to work where I can eat well and get out of the unit.
Food service is in charge of preparing all the meals… breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all 500 inmates. Due to lockdown now these meals are put into styrofoam clamshells or brown paper bags depending on the meal. They are then placed in to mobile carts, which are either loaded onto the back of trucks or wheeled down to the nearby unit, by the officers. Then once in the unit, the officers form an assembly line and call each range starting with number 1 and ending with number 5.
So, as you can tell this brings us into much more contact with the outside world, through contact with the staff. Because besides serving us our meals, various departments are making their rounds to check on us, medical, unit team, and random officers who apparently are bored and looking for something to do, and these behaviors are putting us at a larger risk of being exposed. Most of us are waiting for the inevitable and wondering, how long until the virus comes inside.
Word has made its way in that certain prison yards in the BOP already have cases and confirmed deaths, but we don’t know how bad it actually is, or what environment these inmates are being subjected to.
As inmates, we are doing what people on the street are doing, getting creative. I was talking to my mom the other day and she was telling me about various arts and crafts projects she has my daughter working on, as she is trying not to resort to simply increasing her screen time. One of those projects was taping messages up to the front windows and doors letting the outside world know that they are thinking of them. I don’t think the staff would let us put those messages up on our windows and even if they did they wouldn’t be visible from the outside.
My mom also assumed that we can’t really get creative in here. I said, “Are you kidding, that is what inmates have been doing, since prison time started.” Finding different ways to entertain yourself with extremely limited resources. So, for most of us life is going on as normal, but for some their own personal hell has already begun.
Just moments ago at count time two of my roommates both demonstrated both sides of this spectrum. The one was asking me to try and get him added to the roster of essential food service, because we are only on our third day of lock-down, and he is losing his mind. Another roommate chimed in from across the lockers and said, “Are you kidding me, I’m enjoying the shit out of this, this is the best county jail time I have ever done.”
What I have been observing from most inmates is an increase in TV viewing, Dennis is actually being of service and using the relationships he has formed with staff at his job, as a liaison has helped to provide movies for our viewing pleasure in the trulincs room, where I am currently typing this email. He said, “It can be a pain in the ass, but I also like that I can get a handful of movies that I want to see, Grease, Pitch Perfect 1 and 2, and the Back To The Future Trilogy.” He cracks a smile as he watches my reaction, that tells him just how lame I think he is.
There are also tables setup throughout the basement with inmates playing games including, poker, cribbage, spades, pinochle, risk, monopoly, and chess. It is also impossible to make a lap around the unit without running into at least one group of inmates working out. As most inmates are forced to move from weights to strictly bodyweight, other inmates are finding different ways to increase resistance. Workout bands are being used in a combination of ways, overhanging structures are being used for pull-ups, tables are being used as platforms to incorporate leg raises, and inmates are grabbing anything with any weight to it and incorporating it into their workouts.
What some inmates are failing to understand is, it can get a lot worse then this, and for many institutions across the country, they are currently on 23 hour lock-down, confined to their tiny cell, much like the ones on Alcatraz that Chris mentioned. Then when they are let out, they have to decide, eat, recreation, weights, TV, or shower. Pick two and make it quick. We might be stuck in the unit but we also have free will to travel anywhere in the unit at any given time, along with TV, computer and phone access, 24-7, so I say we got it pretty good. I am not looking forward to the next precaution because that means being confined to the range, or worse getting sick and being quarantined.
I’ll keep you guys posted. From the inside,