Original submission by the author

Just like everything else that happens outside of prison, we assumed that we would not be affected by this coronavirus at first. Even as it began to spread across the world, there was a sense of denial about what was going on in the free world, as those of us locked up describe the world outside of prison.

There are different groups in prison. We older people watch the news everyday. The youngsters live in an entirely different reality and wonder why they can’t watch their cartoons shows. 

In one sense, prison is a very safe place from the dangers of the world. I have electricity, running water and toilet paper — all provided by the State. These conveniences are a luxury compared to prisons in other countries and the homeless right here in the U.S. of A.

With the crazy shootings, scams and crimes going on in the world, prison is a safer place.

Still, when the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) began to limit 30 people to the dayroom to implement social distancing guidelines from the governor in a place where there is no social distancing, they began to infringe on my dayroom privileges. 

We in prison are for the most part anti-social. C’mon that’s why we are here. The limit on the inmates in the dayroom means that everyone else is forced to stay in the cell. They already took visitation and church, now I get every other hour out in the dayroom forcing me to be in the cell with my cellmate all the time. 

They send us in groups of 10 to go eat our meals and only two to a table. (Normal: 25 to a group and 4 to a table.) First the officers started wearing a mask, then they made all of us wear prison-made masks made out of a polyester material — the same material our boxers are made of. Think: “I can’t breathe,” and you will know what’s covering our face.

We hear reports of other units that have the virus. There are more offenders than officer who have been affected by the virus. 

Why? It’s because we cannot get away. We are forced to sit here and wait for them to light us on fire and let us burn. Why? It’s because: There Is no social distancing in prison! 

We are in a closed environment. When the virus gets here, it’s the officers that will be bringing it in. We will all be exposed to it, it does not matter how many people are in the dayroom. 

The humane thing is to release prisoners to end this cruel and unusual treatment. I came up for parole on March 16. Usually it takes three to four months for an answer, but this time I received a denial on March 27. That is a record for Texas. Eleven days to not consider me for parole? 

TDCJ never makes sense in their operations of the prison, but their response to this virus is beyond not making sense. 

The CDC says that stress jeopardizes our body’s immune response. We here in TDJ are beyond stressed out. We are just waiting. It may already be here. I heard that in North Carolina, they tested an entire prison, and they had 2,000 positive results with no symptoms. 

In 2015, the Texas governor decriminalized my crime but didn’t make it retroactive. So far I’ve served 14 years of a 20-year sentence for a crime that is no longer a felony. I am now waiting for an invisible enemy even though I shouldn’t be here. All lives are essential. 

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.

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David Jones

David Jones is a writer incarcerated in Texas.