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The staff tells us that there are no reported cases of COVID-19 here. That may very well be true, but they also do not test anyone. Since March, medical staff have only checked our temperatures five times. 

They do not change out our cloth masks and have not passed out indigent packs since the beginning of May. Most of us cannot work, so we have no money to buy soap or other necessities. We are not provided gloves, phones, or computers. The showers, ice machines, and hot water machines — which are used the most frequently — are not regularly cleaned. Bleach is not provided. 

By my estimate, the prison just hired at least 10 new staff members. While they all get to go home, we stay here, along with COVID-19. We’re not allowed visits, and they do not seem to want to release anyone. 

Commissary is often out of stamps, which makes writing letters to friends and loved ones nearly impossible. No matter how much we cry for help, we get no media coverage. When I watch the news, I see little about the horrible conditions within U.S. prisons. Do our lives no longer matter?

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.

Michael Freeman is a writer incarcerated in Virginia. He is expected to be released in April 2024 and is currently taking business management courses through the Stratford Career Institute.