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COVID-19 lockdowns in California prisons are affecting charity sales that allow incarcerated people to purchase food from the outside, while also donating to a good cause. 

Prisons often serve peanut butter or bologna sandwiches for meals, so prisoners typically look forward to these periodic fundraisers as an opportunity to purchase a tasty meal using funds in their prison accounts from outside vendors, including fast food restaurants.

Especially during the pandemic, fundraisers have added a little bit of joy to our incarcerated lives, and many CDCR prison fundraisers have supported food bank relief efforts in nearby communities. Just two examples from 2021: incarcerated people in Centinela State Prison raised $8,590 for the Imperial Valley Food Bank, and men in the self-help group Beyond Ordinary Life Doings (BOLD) at California State Prison Solano organized a fundraiser to benefit the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. 

In December 2021, 720 prisoners at Corcoran State Prison voted to order food from Krispy Kreme and Wingstop. We voted in our normal fashion by verbal expressions of joy or fist bumps for the vendor we wanted and by sounds of disgust for those we were against. For this occasion, we chose two vendors instead of one for the first time. 

The Men’s Advisory Council at the prison then worked together with prison administrators  to organize the fundraiser, which would benefit the students in the Corcoran High School MECha Club, a Chicano advocacy group. 

But six days before the food’s scheduled delivery on Dec. 3, we got word that 14 people inside the prison had tested positive for COVID-19. Another 14 people tested positive on Dec. 8. Prisoners were quarantined on Dec. 9, which was the day the food was supposed to have arrived. 

Incarcerated folks are worried because we can’t control our environment. We wonder: How do I avoid the virus if it exists in the air? If I shower after someone who is positive for COVID-19, will I catch it? Will my vaccine and booster help fight off the infection? 

I wash my hands repeatedly even though I haven’t left my 6-by-9 cell. I even place a wet towel over the bottom of my door to prevent contaminated air from coming in. 

With the fear of COVID-19 weighing on us all, I await a tiny miracle, which is the overdue and hopefully eventual delivery of my Krispy Kreme donuts. 

After all, it’s for a good cause. It’s for charity.

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.

Jessie Milo is a writer, artist and poet incarcerated in California. He is a volunteer for and an advocate for mental health.