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Those of us housed at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy, Virginia, who wear our masks, wash our hands and do what we can do about COVID-19, are fed up with those in charge that don’t care about our health and safety. 

When we voice our concerns on the COVID-19 hotline, nothing is addressed. When offenders reach out to family, attorneys, and news media, they face consequences for taking action.

We have had no physical contact with our loved ones for a year. Video visits have been almost non-existent because it’s located in a permanent hot zone. The Department of Corrections (DOC) just implemented a new policy that each offender can only make five calls per day. 

The memo we received provided the following reason: “Due to Covid so every offender has access to make calls.” We heard that it was implemented due to “gangs” controlling the phones. 

This has only made it harder for those of us who need to keep in touch with our families. Even if we have an emergency, death, or many children, we can’t make calls. The gangs still control the phones by offering pin numbers of those who don’t make calls to the highest bidder. This creates more stress, anxiety, frustration and anger. 

In 2017, the DOC implemented a policy that all mail would be photocopied because of drugs coming in, but despite the policy and the lack of visits, the drugs have not stopped coming in.

Email and mail are under the same supervision, and we are told at every opportunity why we can’t have something. When we file grievances about the issue, they are returned to us with the reason, “Does not affect you personally.”

Communication is the most important privilege every offender should have. The administration doesn’t seem to care about the issues that affect our health, safety and well-being.

Prison lives matter, too!

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.

Donna Hockman is a mother of two grown children as well as a grandmother. She is incarcerated in Virginia.