Coronavirus pandemic: Testimonials from inside

Testimonials from Inside
Click on the links below to read testimonials from incarcerated people in Washington about the coronavirus pandemic.

+ Washington State Reformatory: More than 20 testimonials from March 2022
Read the letters here.

+ “Natural [Tree]Ment”
{a poem}
“I want to lay down my burden in a clearing surrounded by Trees
so that I may know War no more
and my soul may know Peace
I want to live in a world that no longer uses paper currency
I want to live in a world guns, germs and virus free
I want to live in a world that relies on natural remedies
For The 77 Prisoners Housed in the Gymnasium
We Demand Freedom
free from this Unnatural Greenhouse”
Read the full poem here.

+ Washington State Reformatory: The Prison Quarantine Experience (an essay, posted February 11, 2021). “Safety doesn’t feel like the priority when it comes to the incarcerated, and while this has not been easy, the mental health and physical health of the incarcerated should be a matter of importance to the public as well. The idea of prison should be a growing experience for the incarcerated, not a death sentence, and this is what we are seeing.” Read the full essay here.

+ Washington State Reformatory: “We Lost Our Liberty, Not Our Humanity!” (an essay and an interview, posted August 24, 2020): “Because of the contributing factor of ‘overcrowding’ within DOC, and the fact that the obsolete buildings are not designed for social distancing, human beings incarcerated (no matter what for) were forced to interact in close quarters with each other, which caused an ‘incubator’ in the City of Monroe’s Prison.” Read the full essay/ interview here.

+ Washington Corrections Center (an interview conducted on July 1, 2020, by a person incarcerated at Twin Rivers Unit with someone who was just transferred there after five months at the WCC in Shelton): “I just spent 5 months waiting for transfer. It was rough. It was ‘normal Shelton’ til the Monroe riot happened [April 8, 2020]. At that point I was transferred from R3 to R2 because they made R3 and R5 into quarantine units.” Read the full interview here.

+ Twin Rivers Unit (a diary of letters from May 7 to June 29, 2020–the third in a series of what the author calls a Prison Plague Log): “In short, I’m tired of the DOC doing whatever is easiest for them instead of doing what’s right for those of us under their boot heel and for the community at large.” Read the full letters here.

+ Washington State Reformatory (posted May 20, 2020): Here we post a poem written in March but received and posted in May. Read the full poem here.

+ Washington State Reformatory
(posted May 20, 2020): “One thing I would like the public to consider is that the focus of DOC has never been in the interest of incarcerated individuals. We have very few rights/liberties and I do not want those in positions of authority to use this as an opportunity to further strip us of our rights/privileges as well as the rehabilitation programs that were created by incarcerated individuals or programs that have the best interest of inmates in mind. As well as continue the separation between us our families and dedicated volunteers.” [end statement]

+ Twin Rivers Unit (a diary of letters from April 16-21, 2020): “I am seeing all these news stories about protestors who are demanding an end to isolation and social distancing orders. At the same time I am seeing these news stories, I am also watching DOC vans and cars driving people to E unit to be isolated and just this morning I watched an ambulance take someone out of E unit to the hospital because of covid-19.” Read the full letters here.

+ Pierce County Jail (posted April 22, 2020): “Yes, if they would move some people out of the prison, there would be more space and we’d have a better chance.  But other than that, we’re stuck.  And no court dates.  No right to a speedy trial these days.  None of us has a court date.” Read the full letter here.

+ Twin Rivers Unit (multiple letters received between April 9 and April 14, 2020): “When any virus hits the facility, it does not stop until enough incarcerated people get it to achieve herd immunity. That means 70% to 80% of us get sick. This is why we are so scared. There needs to be drastic changes to prevent this from happening and that will not happen without massive support from people outside the prison.” Read the full letter here.

+ Washington State Reformatory (posted March 31, 2020): “Look, all jokes aside. I’m scared shitless in here. I find myself trying to make jokes about the situation to help cope with my own fear and anxiety. How’s it working? It’s tough being so isolated in here worried sick about my loved ones. Thoughts of my aging parents, my kids missing school, and my boujee sister probably out there protesting on my behalf somewhere. I watch the news all day and selfishly wish I could be watching an NBA game to take my mind off all things Corona but even that has been canceled.” Read the full letter here.

+ Larch Corrections Center (three letters received March 26, 2020): “My personal experience has been a stressful one. I am confined to a day room, when I was in a room already away from most everyone. And I feel like people here are afraid of me when I do get a chance to go out and do the things I need to do, and having all these random people come to the window and looking in at us like were caged animals at the zoo.” Read the full letters here.

+ Stafford Creek Corrections Center (posted March 31, 2020): “Currently DOC has implemented protocals of social distancing and other measures that include no visitations until this pandemic is all over. These new protocols and restrictions have left things unclear and is creating an atmosphere of uncertainty, Which many of the folks incarcerated can only wait in isolation and worry helplessly while our loved ones are struggling and in fear of their own lives and future.” Read the full letter here.

+ Larch Corrections Center (posted March 30, 2020): “I write this as a plea. I too have loved ones who are being impacted by this virus. I too have concerns for the lives of my elderly family members, as well as, for the lives of these older men whom I have built friendships with that are being repeatedly put at risk through sheer negligence when they have the right to safety.” Read the full letter here.

+ Concerned Lifers Organization statement on COVID 19: “The Concerned Lifers Organization’s Legislative Committee urges advocates to push for a specific legislative fix to COVID-19’s threat to prisoners: Restore earned release time (ERT) to one-third on all convictions without exclusions for mandatory minimum terms, sentence enhancements, or other provisions that prevent good time on any portion of a sentence.” Read the full proposal here.

Updates from the University of Washington Bothell's Project on Mass Incarceration in Washington State