This article was published in partnership with American Prison Writing Archive, a place where incarcerated people and prison staff can write about and document their experience.
The pandemic has affected everyone, but life for those of us on the inside has drastically become worse. We deal with living conditions that lack even the basic essentials such as soap, and we are controlled by prison staff who do not care about our humanity.
For those of us diagnosed with mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, the daily conditions only exacerbate the trauma.
Having reached out several times to the psychology staff, I have come to realize that I am alone in this struggle. Each time, I have been shamed for submitting a request to speak to them. In less than 10 minutes of discussion, the meeting is over. I am told that the psych staff is simply too busy to speak to everyone. With no programs being conducted, and no movement outside the individual units taking place, I am left to wonder, what could possibly occupy so much of the staff’s time?
I weigh my requests for help against the ultimate fear of speaking out and pushing too hard. If I do, I risk finding myself in solitary confinement — a far worse reality than the current situation. I have no choice but to remain silent and put my issues on hold.
As the press continues to document the public’s mental health fallout due to the pandemic, that spotlight should also shine upon the U.S. prison population so we are not forgotten and left to fend for ourselves.
Mental health issues do not stop for COVID-19, despite what the Bureau of Prisons staff says. It’s not OK to not be OK, particularly during these times.
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.