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Lives in prison: “Since Covid arrived it has only gotten worse”

I would like you to witness a day in the life of a person in prison during COVID-19. 

People who have experienced incarceration know that living environments within prisons are inhumane. Most people in prison have limited or no access to a phone computer, or other things that most of us take for granted.

Since Covid arrived, it has only gotten worse. I worry about the long term effects this will have on our mental health and how it will affect our chances for rehabilitation.

It’s just another Groundhog Day as I jolt awake with the sounds of guard running up the stairs. You can tell it’s them because of the sounds of their boots as they stomp on every single step. It’s as if the entire world needs to hear them.

To me, that sound of stomping boots and jangling keys are the worst sounds in the world, a constant reminder of what a home shouldn’t feel like. 

Most of us watched the news along with the rest of the world, keeping up with the pandemic.

In the beginning nobody took it seriously. It wasn’t a big deal until numbers began to rise quickly. We panicked.

Every one of us has families, friends, people we care about. The thought of possibly spending our last days on earth here were intolerable. 

I thought of my mother outside those fences. With her lung problems I was afraid that I would lose her. She hadn’t been part of my life much, and I didn’t feel particularly close to her. But I wasn’t ready to lose her. I don’t think anyone can ever be ready to lose someone.

We were going to break out, we’d plan it all out, work as a team, and I’m talking about the majority of us. We weren’t going to just sit here and die. 

The institution began slowing down. It seemed like everyday more restrictive measures were put in place. We were stuck in our housing units with 7 or 8 other individuals per house. 

We quickly realised that most of us didn’t like each other very much. The thing about jail is that you can’t pick who you’re living with, and personalities clash. Many of us complained non-stop, which didn’t do anyone any good. Others acted out in violent ways.

Our escape plans went to hell because none of us could stand each other.

Then summer time arrived, and the housing units became unbearably hot. It felt like we were dying of heat.

After some weeks they started letting us walk for 60 minutes a day, one house at the time to prevent the virus from spreading.

Many workers were no longer showing up for work, and we became more stuck than ever before.

I have experienced solitary confinement. Being incarcerated during this time was like that.

I know Covid has been hard on everybody, and I recognise that many people do not sympathize with criminals. But people are people and every human matters as much as the next one. 

What prisoners are going through since Covid-19 arrived is unacceptable. 

See also: Urgent open letter re health, safety and human rights of people in prison during COVID-19 crisis

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