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A sketch by the writer of her cell.

I am writing to make aware the current conditions of confinement to this Honorable Court. We are on a 24-hour lockdown, save the five-minute shower. We are being forced to hand wash our clothing in our 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 over-worked case manager. 

On June 2, 2020, each cell was given two copies of a memo that was titled, “MEMORANDUM FOR INMATE POPULATION” (see below). 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. It is absolutely impossible to social 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. 

Click on the image to read the full memo.
Memo from the warden of the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California.

According to 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 in my life, excluding the day my mother passed away. We were issued face masks to use when out of our cell. Staff were also required to wear a mask at all times. Many staff do not and a couple other staff have stated they want the virus. This behavior puts us at a higher risk to contract COVID-19. There are already staff and one inmate who are sick and have tested positive. This is a serious situation. 

This memo also stated that updates will be shared with us, but we are left in the dark. No town halls, no bulletins, no shared information. We are not allowed to contact our families for days, and we have no televisions, only contact by USPS mail for those who 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.

Postscript: That is the letter I sent to the court. It was filed on 06/08/20. 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. (Editor’s note: This submission was dated July 2020.)

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

Jessica Antunez is a writer incarcerated in California.