(Editor’s note: The writer lives at the Massachusetts Treatment Center, which houses sex offenders (referred to in this article as “state inmates”) and those who have been civilly committed because they were considered to be dangerous. Prison Journalism Project is mentioning this, only so readers can understand the references in this article)
We were all locked in on March 20 without the administration giving us any reason or telling us how long it would last. I found out through other inmates it was because of the COVID-19 virus. All meals and medication were brought to us through the food slot on our doors. The only thing they would let us out for is a phone call a day and a shower every three days. They gave us two free phone calls a week and one free email a day. Also, they are paying us for our institution job.
On March 24, they closed down an entire housing unit, C-1, and moved the inmates to any of the five remaining units by double-bunking people and bunking people who had single cells to accommodate people who refused a roommate. I was bunked with someone who was a neat-freak. I had to move my stuff around a lot to give him room for his stuff.
They quarantined the people who showed symptoms of the virus. My roommate was able to go back to work, so I got some time alone in the cell during the week. They were all ready to move my roommate but three weeks later, in the middle of April, they came around and had us all sign a consent form to be tested for the virus. They tested everyone who signed the form. They discovered people who were asymptomatic with the virus, including two people on this unit. They were moved to the quarantine unit.
Then they began testing all the state inmates in the modular building on the same grounds. They are in four of the six mens’ dorms. They found a lot more people there who were asymptomatic, which led to the closing of C-2 and more of us being displaced. We were still all locked down, only getting a phone call a day and a shower every three days. They issued us a face-mask to wear when we came out for the phone.
At the beginning of May they gave us one hour in the yard, two days a week, separating each unit. The state building got the other five days because there were about 80 inmates in each unit. They divided those units in half for the hour of yard time. So the four units out there became eight units, plus D-1 and D-2. Some people out on the state side were going out twice. I saw this myself when I looked out my window. I found out they can take daily showers and were out on the unit all day, 25 at a time. I wrote the commissioner of the Department of Corrections and she never answered my letter. I also called and wrote legal organizations and they refused to help us. The commissioner was the one who ordered this lockdown.
All during this time, the cases of the virus lessened to the point that there was no one left on C-1. At the beginning of June, they began letting each state unit go out as a whole unit and this increased our yard time to three times a week for one hour, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The state inmates got three days with no one going out on Monday. On June 4 they began to move the people who were displaced back to C-1 and I got my single back. A week later C-2 was able to move back to their unit. This meant that there were and are no cases of the virus here.
I wrote to the commissioner a second time about lessening the lockdown and getting a shower everyday. She just sent the letter back here for the superintendent to answer. He responded that we get adequate showers and they are going by public health and CDC guidelines for reopening. I wrote to the public health department and sent a copy of the Superintendent’s response, and they never wrote back. I had people check on the CDC and public health websites, and they couldn’t find anything. I wrote to the governor, and he never wrote back.
The second week of June, they began giving us two hours of unit time (half the unit at a time) on the no-yard days. Then they said they would open the barber shop with only one person allowed in at a time. Then they let people come out on the unit for medication. After a week, they let people go to the regular medication window off of the unit for medications and let people go inside the Health Service Unit (HSU) for insulin. They let us come out on the unit to pick up our meals, but we had to hurry back to our cells. They gave us two hours of yard time, three days a week by combining all of our civil units A, B and C. The showers still boil down to every two days, except for Sunday night and Monday morning for out half of the unit.
There has been a lot of distress for me during all of this because no one seems to care. The state half is treated better than those of us, who are not serving a state prison sentence, only a civil sentence for a possible future crime. We should be treated better. They promised that more people would go back to work but again this applied more to the state inmates. They were out most of the time while we remained on 22-hour-a-day lockdown. The mental health counselor and the therapist came around to check on us and now they can meet with us up to a half hour in the group room, but only one-on-one. The takeaway from all this is we will be locked in for 22 hours a day until they can get a vaccine. No one cares about us.
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.