Prison Log, Twin rivers unit

This letter, received on April 26, is from the same writer who sent in other writings earlier this month (available here). In this series of letters, she describes the prison administration’s response to the ongoing pandemic–as well as their response to a large protest at the MSU unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex.

Prison Plague Log 2

Today the DOC began releasing people due to covid-19. Most of the people being let out are a week or two from getting out anyway which does not actually help all that much. However, a few have a couple months and anytime someone with a couple months gets out early that has an actual effect on making room in the prison so we can create greater social distance.

Today the tables in the dayroom have been ordered “two to a table”. Incarcerated people who would observe it are already self isolating. The people who are not self isolating don’t care. The signs and tape announcing the restriction have been torn down by the handful of incarcerated people who don’t care. Normally I am opposed to increasing regulation, however, in this case c/o’s need to start infracting people who don’t observe social distance. This is a danger to everyone.

Tonight just before lockdown the c/o’s passed out 2 bandanas, 4 coffee filters, 4 hair ties and a memo stating that wearing a mask constructed from these materials is mandatory. On the one hand this is exactly the thing we’ve been begging for and demanding happen. However, coffee filters? Really? I’ll need to see the science on this one before I’m going to believe that strapping a coffee filter to my face is going to provide a greater level of protection than a folded piece of cloth. Masks are necessary for our collective safety and well being because they primarily reduce the risk of someone that is asymptomatic from spreading the virus unknowingly. A mask will not prevent a healthy person from getting infected unless it is specially designed to do so (like those oh so famous N95 masks). Anything a couple of rednecks can jerry-rig with random crap found at the local greasy spoon is not going to cut it.
I am glad that bandanas have been issued and that wearing them is mandatory. This will help keep a lot of people from getting sick. I am upset that the DOC is trying to pretend that a bandana is somehow going to protect us from infection when it is not quite enough to keep one from infecting others.
Mostly I am worried that by misunderstanding the purpose of having everyone wear a mask the DOC will continue to work under false assumptions and put us at greater risk.

Out of the dozens of incarcerated people I saw at morning pill line there was only one person not wearing a mask. And he was getting a fairly large amount of harassment pressuring him into wearing a mask.
However, an hour later I saw a more representative chunk of the population outside my cell window during movement to the yard. Out of about 150 people roughly half were wearing masks.
At lunch everyone was wearing mask and we have not had any codes called for fighting this morning. This means the people who were reluctant to wear one were convinced to do so without violence (I was expecting a least a couple fights over it).

c/o’s have stopped enforcing the rule of only 2 to a table in the dayroom. There is a small core group of people who are disregarding covid-19. They are the ones who will eventually spread the virus to everyone else once c/o’s bring it to TRU.

I received a copy of a news article form the Huffington Post by Jessica Schulberg about the protests at MCC.

She did something special that, as far as I know, no other reporter has done. She used incarcerated people as sources for her article and thus successfully gave an accurate report. Most journalists simply repeat the lies the DOC tells and might, maybe, talk to the family of someone in prison.

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.
Remember that news story about the pastor who had church services despite the stay home orders in place? Over half his flock got sick and he died. 
Please, for the sake of our healthcare workers, for the sake of people with compromised immune systems, with respiratory issues, who are homeless or incarcerated and can’t protect ourselves from the virus, please stay home.

The DOC has finally issued us actual masks in addition to our coffee-filter-bandanas. These masks were not, however, made, purchased, or otherwise acquired by the DOC. They were sewn by incarcerated volunteers using donated fabric. The only thing the DOC did was print out a list and have an officer make sure each individual person received one and only one mask. Most of the masks have been sewn from materials which can be easily described “feminine”. Pinks, pastels, and flowers. Lots and lots of floral print. I am more than happy about this. Other incarcerated people, the “manly-men” types, are complaining. Many of them are continuing to wear their white bandanas.

c/o’s are sending people back to their cell for not wearing a mask when they are going to yard, pill line, or a callout. There is still no enforcement of social distancing in the dayroom.

The enforcement of wearing a mask now extends to the unit day room. This is causing the people who have thus far been ignoring social distancing to retreat to their cells because they don’t want to wear mask. This shift will slow the spread of disease and makes us safer.

At 5:30pm a sheriffs department helicopter flew over the prison at extremely low altitude in the airspace above the tarmac between the chow hall and the units. Between 20 and 30 meters up (75 to 100 feet). I have never before seen anything like this.

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