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Showers during day shift, phone calls/emails at night — this policy ensures that many prisoners cannot get in touch with their loved ones due to conflicting schedules. Coupled with a 10-minute call limit, it is also a way to help prevent any of the facts from being released to the media or the general public, completing the control of the information — at least in the minds of the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) and Pocahontas State Correctional Center (PSCC) staff. The warden and the other administrators have implemented yet another cruel punishment under the guise of COVID-19 protection. There is zero logical reason for such a measure.

COVID-19 was first reported at PSCC in late March or early April, and it was at that time that the warden put the “22 and 2,” or solitary style lockdown in place for “protection.”

In early December. The warden instituted a 24/7 lockdown. This was put in place weeks after the PSCC outbreak was already out of control. With hundreds infected and even more exposed, there was obviously no interest in protecting anyone. They allowed their staff to come in and out of the compound maskless. These staff, in turn, brought disease into this petri dish. Now, we’re punished for no reason other than the fact that they are unwilling and unable to own up to their deadly dangerous mistakes. 

PSCC and the VADOC are just small parts of the larger prison industrial complex. The administration cares nothing for the well-being and betterment of those they hold as prisoners. 

Those ten minutes we get for the call and the 23 hours and 50 minutes every day that we spend locked in a cell, represent everything wrong. That this is being justified by a health crisis of global proportions represents everything wrong. That so many people are dying each day from that crisis and we’re barely able to speak with our friends or family during the holidays represents everything wrong. That I and other prisoners are still writing letters to everyone everywhere, screaming about this God-awful wrong and it has only been made worse for us, not only represents everything wrong, but is also a sad testament to the throw-away criminal justice system.

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.

David Annarelli is a father, musician, activist and writer. He is incarcerated in Virginia.