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The following is a letter I wrote to my judge to send along with a motion I wrote asking for a compassionate release:

I am writing to make you aware of the current conditions of confinement to this Honorable Court. We are on 24-hour lockdown, save the five minute shower. We are being forced to hand wash our clothing in the sink. We’ve not been allowed to purchase commissary in two weeks, and I have no detergent or hand-washing soap. This unit has no counselor to request anything from and no other staff makes rounds. I have no access to the “electronic messaging” to staff and very limited access to one overworked case manager. 

On June 2, 2020, each cell was given two copies of the enclosed “Memorandum for Inmate Population,” concerning the “mitigation efforts with regard to COVID-19.” I am currently living in a 7-foot by 12-foot cell, which includes two sets of bunks, two sets of double-stacked lockers, one standard-size toilet, and one small porcelain sink opposite the toilet. I have three roommates, two of whom are obese. It is absolutely impossible to “socially distance” in this place due to overcrowding. I literally sleep, eat, and use the restroom one-and-a-half feet from these three roommates. We are stuck in our beds doing our time on top of each other. 

Per the memo, we are “expected to adhere to cell sanitation and housekeeping standards,” however, we are not issued adequate cleaning supplies. When this “National Lockdown” was initiated on April 2, 2020, I was not allowed to shower for five days. Those were absolutely the worst five days of my incarceration — and of my life — excluding the day my mother passed away. 

We were issued face masks to use when out of our cells. Staff are also required to wear a mask at all times. Many staff do not, including one of our Associate Wardens. A couple of other staff members have even stated they want the virus. This behavior puts us at a higher risk to contract COVID-19. There are already staff who are sick (and one inmate) and have tested positive. This is a serious situation. 

The memo also states that updates will be shared with us. We are left in the dark. No town halls, no bulletins, no shared information. We are not allowed to contact our families for days. There are no televisions. We only have contact by USPS — if we have postage. If staff happen to do a round in our unit they sneak in and sneak out. We are not allowed to have our doors open, so we don’t see them. 

Many correctional officers and staff members are overworked, and emotions are running high. We are being barked at like animals. This situation is not healthy for anyone involved. 

That is the letter I sent to the Court. It was filed on 06/08/2020. I also enclosed a small-scale drawing of my cell to show how cramped these cells are. This situation is ridiculous. I was told by my case manager two weeks ago that I was on a “list” of inmates to be sent to home confinement. 

He still hasn’t done my paperwork.

I’m still waiting. 

Respectfully submitted,

Jessica Antunez

Federal Correctional Institution

Dublin, CA 

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.

Jessica Antunez is a writer incarcerated in California.