Peace to the Outside World.
I’ve noticed several things here in prison about the COVID-19 practices. Some of the requirements and policies are mostly not applied by officers that are in the pods who spend more time around inmates. I see more of the administration staff applying more safety rules than the floor officers who are left in charge to watch over the inmates in all pod units.
We have a memo to wash inmates’ face guards on Saturdays and Sundays, but it’s been at least three weeks and no face guards have been washed. I’ve personally requested to have my face guard washed, and I was told that I had to wait until Monday, which is not even a wash day. And the floor officer told me that the people who wash the face guards in the laundry are not here. But even weeks after that, staff still haven’t come around to wash our face guards.
I do understand that there are not any COVID-19 cases in the prison where I am. But we must still practice safety here at Red Onion and not get comfortable with things just because, as it stands now, there are no COVID-19 cases.
Prisoners who rely on state pay and don’t receive any funds from home face the stressful thought that, if there are any COVID-19 cases at this prison, that this facility will go on lockdown and we won’t get paid for work. We don’t receive any stimulus checks, so without our state pay for work, we won’t have any funds to take care of our necessities.
And the social distancing rules create more room for antisocial traits to develop, especially when so many inmates already have little to no support on the outside. Most inmates’ connections to other human beings come from other inmates. This COVID-19 brings stress to inmates’ minds by [making them feel] that the little communication that they do have with the outside will slow down or, worst case, stop altogether. And minds tend to shut down after not being in touch with those you want to connect with.
There is fear inside inmates’ minds that if we do catch the COVID-19 virus, we won’t get the full treatment like the outside world. The thought of being trapped in prison cells all down with hardly any room to move. Knowing that there are K-9 dogs on Red Onion that have more room to move than us human beings. These are the tensions that rise in prison right now and cause even more tension between inmates and staff.
I do believe that Red Onion has slacked a little on safety rules for the COVID-19. Even some inmates feel if the staff is not wearing their masks at all times, why should inmates do it? Especially when the staff would be the ones carrying in and spreading it to the inmates. I can say that the main administration is making announcements to us prisoners to follow the COVID-19 rules, and they seem to be taking it seriously.
But some of the floor officers are not wearing their face guards, and now that Virginia is planning to reopen in June, no face guards are being washed and cleaning supplies in the cells are not being passed around. They were at first, but we never get proper cleaning supplies such as gloves and toilet brushes to clean out the toilets. We are subjected to using our bare hands to be placed in the toilets.
This COVID-19 has stopped religious programs and social gatherings. We have less room to exercise, no contact visits or transfers to correct security levels. But this experience can also give the inmates and staff a chance to build a much healthier bond to help lessen the negative energy between us. And it gives inmates a time to really think about what’s most important to them, such as their health, their relationships, their chances to work on themselves to better themselves, to better prepare for a second chance — for those who are eligible for parole or have a reasonable release date.
So there are positive and negative sides to this COVID-19 virus. Although every person might not see it my way — but hey, this is my view of how I see it dealing with this COVID-19 experience. But who’s to say who else may see it the way I see it. God has his own ways of opening up mankind’s eyes to His will.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.