Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

July 1: One prisoner has tested positive for COVID-19. For over a month, inmates were issued face masks to wear. The policy was only implemented in certain areas of the prison and while working at certain jobs. Most inmates and officers did not choose to wear masks. The call-center, kitchen workers and some other areas had a mandatory requirement to have the mask on. Most officers and inmates in all other areas of the prison did not wear them. On July 1, the whole prison was locked down. A mandatory mask requirement was implemented by the Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown. All inmates are not allowed to leave their unit. No outside yard, or exercise other than in cells or day rooms. The 14-day lock down will restart if another case is found. No law library, education, or other programs. Masks are required out of cell, yet not all officers wear them. Visitation on the kiosk is only allowed during scheduled day room times. The visitation system is new and has not worked out to be a reliable source for visits. I will keep you updated as news occurs.

July 4: Another day on full lockdown. It started on 7-1-2020 and no access has been given or any compromises made as to allowing even a small amount of time outside of the unit. I have sent a request form to the assistant superintendent of SRCI asking for the administration to allow us outside in the courtyard. This is a large circle walkway that is normally used for walking to different areas of the prison. The prison has a large yard that is normally used for daily exercise. That area is available also. The prison could allow small numbers, as they currently allow half of the day unit to interact. They will rotate to the other side of the unit after a specific time out of cells. Even if the prison rotates units and allows access every other day, my request is more than reasonable. I will allow another day to pass before I file a grievance on the running policies that have been in place concerning no hot food and outside access for fresh air and exercise. Today my cell mate and I exercised in our cell and just had enough time to shower before being locked down again.

July 5: Denial of hot food since institution quarantine started. Combined with no outside access to fresh air, sunlight and exercise outside of the cell or unit, it lowers my body’s immune system making me susceptible to COVID-19. ODOC/ Collete S. Peters has established and implemented policies in accordance with CDC guidelines. But they have failed to evaluate reasonable or “bare minimum” options that could be offered with no additional resources enabling outside access and hot food. I sent a letter directly to Salem Oregon, Collete S. Peters asking for change and addressed my complaints listed within the submitted Grievance. You should also note that we are offered an institution paid meal for $8.00. It will be hot food as an incentive meal. Only inmates that have money on their trust fund account can purchase this hot meal. The institution will normally have feeds every month. I feel that if the institution can make arrangements for an incentive feed, they should have the same ability for regular hot food. 

July 8: 197 AIC/ Prisoners Have tested positive and 72 staff statewide. The number within this prison is undetermined.

July 10: A notice is hung in the day room that shows a planned schedule for outside yard. It looks to be a rotation list that will give our unit access to the yard every four days. The amount of time is not yet determined. The schedule is made for the months of July, August and September. “Until further notice.” Each day our bag meals are smaller in meat portions. It looks as though we are receiving less and less calories. A nurse told me this morning there are five cases of COVID in this prison and one case in minimum. I do not have specifics as to if the cases belong to prisoners or officers at this time. Some officers do not wear masks, yet most have started. Our incentive feed is still planned for the 13th of this month. They will deduct $8.00 from my account and it will be the first hot food I’ve had since 7-1-20. 

July 13: Lock down is extended to 7-19-20, stated an officer. He received an e-mail on July 8 informing him. They are also waiting on further test results to come back of others who are suspected of having COVID. Access to outside yard will be every four days for 60 minutes only. We still have not had hot food since 7-1-20. I was billed the $8 for tomorrow’s incentive chicken meal. I’m not certain if the food will be prepared at the prison, or if it’s coming from the public. Only people that have money on their trust fund account will receive hot food. I am still waiting on the Grievance response and will inform you of the outcome. I still wonder why officers look and treat inmates like we are the ones bringing the virus into the institution. Some are still refusing masks on occasion. When they bring the virus into the prison and infect us, we are the ones that continue to pay with lock down , lack of yard, exercise, and hot food. The officers probably make hazard pay and enjoy a lot less work and responsibility when we are locked away in our cells.

July 13: Outside access was given today for approximately 55 minutes. The water fountains and bathrooms were taped off and no access was given. Only half of our unit was able to go. Ten inmates attended. Today at 9am a grievance coordinator came into our unit to collect grievance forms, inmate request forms, and to answer any questions we may have. All grievance forms will be delayed for 72 hours as a precaution to passing COVID. I asked if the grievance employee could request permission for each inmate to bring their own water pitcher outside with them. I think that I could hold off on using the bathroom for 60 minutes, but when exercising it’s hard to fight off thirst. I also stated that I was aware of a recent study stating that the human body needs at least two hours outside to gain any benefit from the sun. I informed the employee of my concern with still not having hot food and only bag meals. Correction From my last e-mail, I stated we were getting hot food tomorrow. I will receive the $8 chicken meal today on 7-13-20. I hope that the ACLU or DOJ Civil Section will step in and help correct these wrongs by ODOC.

July 17: We are walking to the chow hall to pick up plastic trays and are returning to our housing units to eat. Yesterday’s dinner was our first hot meal since our $8 incentive chicken feed. If you weren’t able to afford the incentive meal, you wouldn’t have eaten hot food since 7-1-20. Access to the yard and sunlight is now every other day for a specific time exceeding 60 min. It looks as if the prison is attempting to correct what they have been doing wrong. I feel that the grievance system and everyone working together is paying off. I will keep you informed if any changes occur.

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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Edward Pergande

Edward Pergande is a writer who would like his work to bring to light the wrongs of the prison system. He incarcerated in Oregon.