Photo by Paul Rispens on Unsplash

Today is August 3, 2020, but I wanted to jump back a couple of weeks in my pandemic journal to touch on an issue we had on Thursday, July 16.

This entry was written four months into the pandemic. We were on a 22-hour lockdown, meaning we normally had only two hours out of our cells each day. However, during this particular period, we were on a three-week lockdown because several staff members had tested positive for the virus. 

This issue deals with women working in a male penitentiary.

I’ve battled a difficult headache, making it hard to sleep. God bless Mack, who slipped me some 800s. I feel much better, but it still lingers. 

Today was shower day, the first since Monday. Ms. F ran the showers, and she has no business running showers. She was so busy trying to go home that she rushed the guys. She told them to take their shower first and then get ice and hot water, but she rushed people in and out so fast that only about half of us could get ice or hot water. 

Guys would get out of the shower and when they were on the way back to their cells, she would lock them back in without giving them a chance to get the things they needed. It was sad that of all of the corrections officers (COs) in the men’s dorm, the ones rushing us the most were women COs. How is it that the women are rushing men taking showers that we haven’t been allowed in three days? 

She was so worried about getting out of there that she facilitated 125 men showering in record time, but her priority is supposed to be sanitation. We desperately needed showers, and each shower needed to be cleaned, which did not happen. 

This is not a sexist statement, because there are a few women working here that are good. But you cannot run a male penitentiary if you don’t know men. 

Here’s how it works: With 64 cells, there are 10 shower cells; five on top tier, five on bottom. With these two tiers, they let out five cells at a time, two inmates per cell to take their first showers in three days. 

The problem was that F showed no sympathy. No woman can tell a man how long to take a shower — especially after three days. Flores was trying to run guys in and out so she could leave, but her greatest priority — and her job — at the moment should have been to ensure that every man had a chance to get good and clean. In actuality, she shouldn’t even have been there. This borders on sexual harassment when a female employee is watching men take showers.

Don’t lose me here. I’m not saying the showers were so open that she could see us naked. The shower gates have bars with blinds at mid-section. But you could still look in to see men showering. At a women’s prison, it would be sexual harassment if a male guard did the same thing. 

I also didn’t like how F lied to us. The carrot: Get the ice and hot water after you take a shower. But once we got done with our showers, she locked us in our cells. Few people have respect for a person who tricks people like that. And, as I mentioned, the showers weren’t particularly clean to begin with.

They had Mack and JB spray the showers with potent, pink chemicals before running the next dude in. But the instruction on the chemicals clearly stated that to work, the formula needed to sit on the surface for at least ten minutes — not 60 seconds.

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.

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Frederick Mason

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