Photo by Anton on Unsplash

As a janitor, my job once consisted of sweeping, mopping, taking out trash, and sanitizing tables. Now, since the omicron variant entered our prison, it consists of sanitizing walls, doors, phones and more, in addition to my regular janitorial duties.

I do all this work to protect my fellow inmates from contracting the virus. 

Would you go to work in an enclosed area with a mask you cannot seal? Our prison removes the nose piece so we cannot seal our mask. I wrote to the Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, and the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, Rob Jeffreys, multiple times about this issue and received no response. 

Every day I sanitize our wing to protect my fellow prisoners. It would help if our officers and nurses took COVID-19 seriously and wore their masks correctly to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Every two days we get a COVID-19 test. This stresses everyone out because we wonder who will be moved to a quarantine house. Then I stress even more, wondering how many times I came into contact with those who just tested positive. When I hear a person cough or sneeze, I wipe down everything in sight again. 

At the end of the day, I take my shower and go to my cell. I always wonder if what I did that day was enough. Then I start thinking about my family and wonder if the janitor at my son’s school is as stressed as I am. 

I wonder who else in their right mind would work for 17 cents a day, or $62.05 a year. 

If you think about it, prisons are a lot like nursing homes and veterans homes. Prisons are homes to veterans, senior citizens and men and women with disabilities. The only difference is when people die from COVID-19 in prisons, you don’t hear about it. 

As a father, son, uncle, brother and grandson, I ask everyone to wear a mask and get vaccinated. This way I may have a fighting chance to see my family on the other side of these walls.

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.

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Aaron

Aaron is a writer incarcerated in Illinois. He is publishing under his first name only for fear of reprisal.