Photo by ABDULLA M on Unsplash

Most of the 14 prisons I’ve been to allow team sports and activities and offer tournaments for basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, handball, horseshoes and chess. At California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility, where I used to be, they had a tennis court. That was the first time I ever got to play tennis in prison, and I was loving that experience very much. Me and my cellmate used to race out to the yard to get a better tennis racket. And while I was at Mule Creek State Prison from 2014 to 2016, Eric Menendez, from the infamous Menendez Brothers, requested paddle ball equipment, and it was donated by some paddleball association. 

But during the COVID-19 pandemic — even now when the majority of inmates have had their vaccination shots — we’re not allowed to play any team sports because of the six-feet-apart guideline. It hasn’t affected me because I’ve retired from all contact sports due to fear of injury, and my days are tied down with my novel writing, so I play chess and pinochle during break time at work. 

I exercise during the non-busy period at work. I can only do calisthenics and bar workouts, since they took away the weights in 1998, so I do push-ups, crunches and squats in a back-to-back, non-stop routine. The next day, I do crunches and pull-ups on a hard aluminum bar over two stacks of tall bread baskets, and bar dips between two long metal tables. I do curls with water bags, and back arms on wooden pallets and other stable equipment. I work out five days per week with a different combination of routines.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Tue Kha

Tue Kha is a writer incarcerated at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, Calif. He is working on a novel titled ‘Kormic.’