Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

“Let us know if any of you feel like you’re going to fall out,” one officer said to a group of us inmates as he laughed and joked with the other officers. 

Just moments before, on Aug. 14, we were told we had tested positive for COVID-19. We were herded and escorted to an isolated area of the prison for quarantine. 

I was scared for my life. I didn’t get to let my aged father know that I had the coronavirus. I didn’t get to tell him good-bye in case I didn’t survive the virus. This wasn’t a time for jokes. I was a human being who felt pain, loneliness, fear, and anxiety. My life was not a joke. 

During our 16-day quarantine, we were not allowed to use the phone. We received no envelopes to write letters to our loved ones. Some days we ran out of toilet paper. I was told to wait until the next day. When I wrote the services department to request toilet paper, the guards wouldn’t touch it for six days because they were afraid to touch it. They didn’t want to catch the virus from the note. We were also only allowed one shower per week. 

I know I’m an inmate, a felon, and a ward of the State of Washington, but I get stressed and frustrated like anyone else. There was no reason for this kind of inhumane treatment. I am a human being. This was no time for jokes. I am not, nor is my life, a joke. 

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Reno Day

Reno Day is a writer incarcerated at Washington State Penitentiary in Washington.