Original submission by the author

December 21st fell on a Saturday. I remember this day vividly because I wanted to make a phone call.

This was the one day that I would have been able to talk to my whole family. I had not spoken to my family in 13 years. The officers pretended that the phones were down, and of course I was upset. From the 20th to the 22nd of December I was to attend A.V.P (Alternative to Violence Program) for the weekend. On the 21st, during the program, which was held in the chapel, the heat was high, but outside it was freezing. We had to go out to the yard in order to use the restroom. From the constant change of temperature, I knew I was going to get sick.

The next day I was sick. I thought it was a common cold although I felt weird. During the next week, my nose had stopped up. At breakfast, my milk tasted spoiled. I work in the canteen and love to eat chocolate chip ice cream cones. They tasted spoiled. Then I ate a pickle. It tasted rotten. I ate another one, and that one tasted rotten also. I started feeling congested in my chest. I thought my cold had passed, but I felt fluid on my chest. One night I went into a coughing fit. I spit yellow mucus and then it felt like my respiratory system shut down. I couldn’t breathe.

I called for help and the tower cop closed the window. I was in deep pain. I started kicking the door. The same floor cop that was working the night I wanted to make a phone call was working this night. I told them I had gotten over a cold and was now having chest pains. They called it a heart attack. I was humiliated. They treated me like I was lying. They searched my cell looking for drugs. I promised myself that next time I would be better off dying in the cell. I’ve got a life sentence with an early release date.

When I came to the prison hospital, the nurse noticed I wasn’t taking deep breaths. I told her it hurt whenever I took a breath. She prescribed me Tylenol. The next day, the same officer was working while I stood for count. My body ached. It hurt when I was breathing. She threatened to write me up for not standing. I was in serious pain for three days before I received the Tylenol.

Today there have been no cases of COVID-19 reported in this prison. COVID has passed through here, but the officers act like they are now trying to prevent it. Imagine being punished for not wearing a mask, but treated as a liar when you know something is not right with your body.

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Carnell Wingfield Jr.

Carnell Wingfield Jr. is a writer and contributing poet at High Desert State Prison in California. He is a sociology major at Feather River College and also graduated with distinction from Blackstone Career Institute's paralegal course.