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There is no real order to my story. I take one day out of my journal, and write an essay on it. Although I have more than five years of journals, I started this series to highlight the COVID-19 pandemic in prison. Today is August 8, 2020, but I’m turning back the clock to May 20.

We had rec at 1530. Twenty-two out of 30 went out from my section. At this time, USP Tucson had us on a 22-hour lockdown. We were in a cell 22 hours a day with a cellie. We got two hours out to do laundry, shower, call home and other stuff. But once a week, we got one hour outside to get fresh air. We had to complain to get it.

Last week, the prison instituted a way to report COVID-19 conditions, in addition to the complaints we can send to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for prison abuse. I fired one off almost every day. I lit it up.

Today, the prison removed the ability to send emails about COVID-19 conditions as well as send complaints to OIG, thus cutting off a way to communicate with the authorities. They provided us with a land address instead, but I have no way of knowing if it is getting out. 

Here’s the problem: The Department of Justice instituted a venue for inmates to report staff misconduct and didn’t realize the floodgate that would be opened with the complaints from inmates. Once they did, we all started voicing issues — too many to list in total. Here is one example:

During the pandemic, everyone in the prison should be wearing face masks. Inmates are mandated to wear one any time we are outside of our cells, but staff are not required to wear them. Half of the time, they don’t wear masks, as if they’re immune. But no inmate in the prison could catch the virus unless someone from the outside brings it in. The responsibility is on the staff to wear masks to protect inmates and other staff from possibly catching the virus. 

Who will know? There are no eyes to see over the walls. And those here are blind.

Until next time. 

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.

Frederick Mason is a writer incarcerated in Arizona. He has penned over 200 essays about prison-related topics including the COVID-19 pandemic situation.