(This report was received from the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in summer 2020)
Here in Massachusetts in June 2020, the prison system is still in Phase 1 of reopening, yet the other government offices and public are in Phase 2. This includes being given food and medication in our cells and the suspension of programming and schooling. We haven’t been allowed to have visitors since March, contact or otherwise.
On June 5, 2020, it was announced by MDOC’s Commissioner, via memo, that equipment will be installed to conduct video visits, similar to what is done in a SuperMax prison. The COVID-19 virus is being blamed.
In the memo, we were reminded of the Governor’s executive orders regarding the wearing of masks when unable to social distance. But even with many cells open, the facility insists on doubling people up on the first tier. If we complain, we’re told that it is an administrative decision.
The last week of April, the population was issued disposable personal protective equipment, which resembled the types of masks that are worn in dentist’s offices. These are typically good for between 8-12 hours of use. Yet we have only been issued three such masks in the last 60 days. Numerous inmates asked for new ones and the acting superintendent told us that there is currently a nationwide shortage.
We’ve taken to using t-shirts, cut up sheets, or just given up altogether when it comes to masking.
On May 20 we were given COVID-19 tests. Many of us, however, don’t even know how to get the results, which include a release form to be received. It took me personally almost 10 days to get my copy even after the release.
We were kept inside our units from March until the second week of May, during which time an hour to an hour and a half of yard time was available to us at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays. Usually by now, we would get six to seven hours per week. It seems to me that the “open-air” yard would be the safest place to be in a pandemic. Yet we were denied. Even our windows in this facility do not open.
If any of us seek outside medical services, we must quarantine for 14 days upon return, prompting many to deny seeking services they’d need otherwise. Considering the corrections officers (CO) that accompany us to the doctors’ visits or hospital don’t quarantine, it almost seems like this is done on purpose to punish inmates and deter us from treatments that cost money.
Staff is operating at 100% and is only given a temperature check and asked a few questions after they’ve been on an 8-16 hour home retreat, with no followup on what they were doing or where they went.
Inmates are now rebelling, as just Sunday night one inmate fought eleven COs over the lack of recreation time, our overall treatment, and his treatment as a severely mentally ill prisoner.
They have high-risk inmates, who are diabetic, immunocompromised or have lung problems, housed in the same units as the rest of us.
I hope this gives you an idea of our treatment here by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.
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.