The Prison Quarantine Experience

By Leonard L. Hoston

At the beginning of December my unit and the unit adjacent were placed on “Covid Quarantine.” At this time we were denied showers, phone calls and even water… This denial of basic human essentials created tension and frustration throughout the prison population. Our pleas for water and showers went unheard until the voices became physical disturbances of yells, screams, loud music and banging sounds off walls, cell doors and toilets. The institution then agreed to allow us out of our cells for only thirty minutes a day (enough time to either shower or make a phone call, and obtain water, not both). On 12-06-20 we were tested, and on 12-16-20 we were tested again… On 12-20-20 we all received our results (which came back negative). On 12-22-20 that quarantine ended and by 12-26-20 were again on quarantine. By this time we were being denied clean sheets and blankets… The first week of January we were tested again, and this time staff started to removed incarcerated people from their cells around twelve-thirty a.m., and again around three O’Clock a.m.. The reasoning was that they tested positive for Covid, and because they tested positive for Covid our quarantine date had to restart. And so it went, every week came a new test, and with it more and more people started to disappear. The days became an anxious wait of seeing who would disappear next. Another test another group, the temperature in the unit became so cold that I had to sleep in a full sweat suit, with two blankets, and extra pairs of socks. We complained about the inhumane treatment, but those complaints went unheard. Between The beginning of December and the sixteenth of January I underwent six Covid testing, and six days after my last testing I was finally pulled out of the unit and placed in the “Covid Isolation Unit” (solitary confinement). Medical staff came around to check my temperature, the times they arrived were at weird ours… They would arrive between eleven p.m. and two O’clock in the morning… If I was asleep, then I missed that “temp check”… Although I felt fine I noticed that there was no real medical treatment… People were left to deal with there symptoms on their own… I was there a full day before seeing a doctor… I told her that I had no symptoms, and I showed her a wound on my left leg that I’d wrapped in a makeshift bandage to stopped the bleeding. I asked her for a bandage and my test results, the next day I was transferred to the gym (an isolation unit for A-sypmtomatc). In the gym, six feet didn’t apply. The area looked like a refugee base camp, cots were setup no more than three feet apart. Many of the people had already been there more than the required fifteen days and were becoming restless. No masks were issued, so people walked around with no masks. When the nurse finally addressed us, she told us that the reason a lot of us were still under quarantine was because we missed the temp checks. At which time all nurses were telling us that temp checks were optional… Between solitary confinement and the gym it took me eight days before I made it back to the unit… I still haven’t seen any of my test results after the sixteenth of December. My belief is that the overall handling of this quarantine was to purposely infect the incarcerated population with covid and let the chips fall where they may. We were not allowed off quarantine until every incarcerated person in both units went through the isolation process, and now the two remaining units are now quarantined and undergoing the same process. I know of two people whom have died, and three whom have came close to death. 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. The powers that be may proclaim these are lies, but remember, this is something we have to live everyday, not them.

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