Creative Commons License

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

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

(Editor’s note: This report was written in summer, 2020)

My name is Rufus Poindexter. I am an inmate of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, better known as the ADC. I have been incarcerated since December 26, 2006, when I was 16, for a bank robbery and a shooting against the Little Rock Police Department with three other men. I was shot once in my lower thigh. I was convicted of all charges and given 28 years in the ADC under the 70% law. My parole date is 2026 and my flat date is 2034. 

I was sent to Cummins Unit from another prison to complete a substance abuse treatment program that lasts for six months. Some inmates take the course to enter work release or for re-entry inquiries. And others — most who have drug charges — are stipulated to take it before going home. 

They declared Phase 1 lockdown on Cummins Unit Prison on April 8, 2020, due to a coronavirus outbreak. It was rumored that one inmate came into the unit on a transfer and was positive for COVID-19. The administration accidentally let that inmate out from a cell, and that is how the whole population ended up contracting the virus. Or at least that’s what it seemed like. (My entire pod was tested a couple of weeks later, and my test was negative.)

The pandemic at the Cummins Unit was terrible for inmates and officers because the inmates were not allowed out into the halls, nor could they report to their work duties. (Except for one unit, and they were banned from having any contact with the main prison.) Our food trays were being brought to us 15 hours apart. Some dinners were served at 6 a.m. Our commissary was out of stock for nearly two months, when we used to be able to make $100 orders. During Phase 1, between 15 and 20 inmates with COVID-19 died. Now we are going back into lockdown because of a rise in cases in the Arkansas Prison. 

Phase 2 will begin at the end of June 2020. Things have returned to normal because of warden changes, social distancing and training for the inmate population on how to survive the outbreak in the prison.

Hopefully, Phase 2 will be managed differently, given the lack of concern from officers and other staff in charge.

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.

Rufus Poindexter Jr. is a writer incarcerated in Arkansas. He was born and raised in Little Rock.