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Color-coded signs with vague instructions about COVID that appeared at a Texas prison
Illustration by Brian Hindson

Not quite a year ago, signs were erected by the lieutenant’s office and in the recreation yard.

There was no fanfare, and no official guidance as to what they meant. But they’re fairly self-explanatory. As the levels — green, yellow, red — change, we have figured out that they are related to the prevalence of COVID-19 in the prison and community, and indicate various mask requirements. 

Green has meant masks are optional.

Yellow has meant “wear your masks, sort of.” In other words: Wear your mask outside the unit, on your way to recreation and to the chow hall, at least until you get your tray — then you can remove it to eat. Put it back on when you leave the chow hall and are back on your way to the unit. 

Red seems to have been very similar to yellow, but we’ve barely been in red lately. 

Some days the signs will initially indicate green then turn to yellow without any notice.

We spent weeks in green, then suddenly switched back to yellow.

Medical has an open call for COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots just about every week. When new guys come in, they test and quarantine for one week and are basically required to take the vaccine. Maybe “highly encouraged” is a better phrase. 

Our schedule is pretty normal. The masks are still around. The signs have been here for about 10 months. The restrictions are minimal now. Is this the new normal?

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.

Brian Hindson is an artist whose favorite styles of work are impressionism and pop art. His work is published on the Justice Arts Coalition. Hindson is incarcerated in Texas.