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Marion reads an excerpt from a letter she received last week from her husband Tommy Wickerd. He is regularly housed in North Block, but after testing positive, he was moved to the Badger unit in the opening weeks of the COVID-19 catastrophe. He wrote this letter after having been moved back to North Block. If you recall, in the first week of launching this campaign we reported that conditions while he was in Badger Unit were dire. No electrical power, toilets weren’t flushing, it was so bad that there was a hunger strike in that unit. Part of the reasons for the really bad conditions is because Badger Unit is one of the prison’s reception areas. 

When we say “reception,” it may sound like a hotel, but reception centers are the areas in our prison system where people are first sent after they have been convicted and sentenced to prison. People are supposed to be in reception for no longer than 90 days, as they are processed into the state’s prison system. Their background, type of crime, gang affiliations, all factor into what kind of prison a person will continue on to — Level 4 facilities for capital crimes, such as murder, to Level I dormitory living for more non-violent offenses. The state puts no resources into reception cells, so there’s no electricity and it’s why plumbing isn’t what it should be. San Quentin has one of two reception centers in the state.

As of late July we heard power is now on in Badger unit.

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.

@VoicesofSanQuentin is a social media entity that amplifies the voices inside and beyond the walls of San Quentin State Prison. Follow on Instagram: @VoicesofSanQuentin; Follow on Twitter: @Voicesof_SQ