(Editor’s note: This report was received in Aug. 2020)
There has been a COVID-19 outbreak at California Men’s Colony (CMC) West and its sister facility CMC-East. There are over 2,000 active cases, including prisoners and staff. Our associate warden admitted to the Men’s Advisory Committee Representatives that the virus was entering the facility via staff, a predictable outcome of CMC’s flawed mitigation strategy.
An officer working at receiving and release had tested positive for the virus. All prisoners working there were quarantined, but none of the other officers were.
Then the chow hall lead officer also tested positive, and all prisoners working there were also sent to quarantine. Still, no officers were required to.
In the midst of all this, I began to experience severe pain in my neck and shoulder. I turned in a request for medical services and saw the triage nurses, who gave me an ointment that proved to be ineffective. The following week, I made three different medical appointments to try to see a doctor, but all were cancelled because the COVID-19 outbreak was absorbing all of the facility’s medical personnel. Nobody was receiving medical care, short of a life threatening emergency.
I was forced to trigger what we call here a “man down emergency,” in hopes of getting some medical attention to control the severe pain I was experiencing. The nurse heard my story and brushed me off, with no attempt at a solution.
Finally, on my third “man down” they took me by ambulance to the CMC East Clinic. My neck was x-rayed and I was diagnosed with a degenerated vertebrae in my neck, probably due to age. (I am 64 years old.) I was given a prescription for a muscle relaxant, which has done little good. I was told that no one could prescribe pain relief for me other than my primary care physician. Then I was told that I would see my doctor in five days. Two and a half weeks later, I’m still suffering.
The indifference of medical personnel to my pain would be shocking if I had not seen it as a constant pattern in other prisoners’ cases. Before the COVID-19 outbreak reached CMC, I would have seen my doctor within a day or two. The pandemic has shut down all chronic or even acute care here, except for life threatening emergencies. But the flawed mitigation methods employed by the prison to keep out the virus keep failing, resulting in more cases and more quarantines.
I just pray that I will get a doctors appointment and some relief on Wednesday. I am almost at the limits of my endurance.
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.