Its actually, really overcrowded. This is a public health emergency situation.
I believe a great deal of what I was doing, even beyond journalism work, was just working on structure community here. I suggest, this is a community. Theres a big innovative arts community here. Individuals are associated with theater and in writing and graphic arts; other individuals are associated with education and teaching; theres a college program here, a music program, and, above all of that, a lot of people here who have an interest in self-development and attempting to find out options to violence and examining their youth and things like that. Those things have been cut off right now. I worry about people whom society had actually labeled as incorrect or violent and who were actively working to take on new identities and brand-new ways of being. Whichs being disrupted now. I fret about that. And I worry about that for myself too. I believe that those community bonds that I show other individuals are actually crucial. Im unable to see those people. I dont know whats going on with those people.
This as-told-to diary is based on a conversation with Adamu Chan, an incarcerated journalist at San Quentin State Prison in California. San Quentin is experiencing a massive COVID-19 break out– more than 1,400 cases– after the state moved contaminated individuals from another jail into San Quentin. The discussion has actually been transcribed, condensed, and edited for clearness by Aviva Shen.
And after that on March 17, the jail went on a quarantine lockdown, and I was relocated to this part of the prison, H Unit, which is made up of dorms. I was up in the cells prior to, in North Block. This part of the prison still hasnt experienced a break out, which is pretty fantastic given that more than 1,000 individuals in the jail right now have been validated to have the infection. I feel blessed that Im able to talk on the phone and simply be healthy today.
Everyone is double-celled in a really small cell, which is like 5-by-10 feet. And so the stories that Ive heard, which I believe are to be expected, are that people cant breathe and that individuals are collapsing and falling left and. I know a lot of individuals in vulnerable populations– older people, people with preexisting health conditions– who are up there whom I care about.
I saw that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations statements to the media have put out there that theyve been providing hand sanitizer and masks, which is, to a particular degree, true. We did get masks I consider a month into the quarantine lockdown. Where I am, theres one hand sanitizer dispenser in a structure of 100 people, and it hasnt always been easily available. I think the entire idea of talking about hand sanitizer is not really the point. Like, the infection is currently here. There are break outs already. If hand sanitizer is going to stop an outbreak here, Im not sure. Its truly, actually overcrowded. This is a public health emergency.
In other parts of the jail, theyre not having access to the phone in such a way that we are here, due to the fact that were the dormitory– its open space and the phones are available. Up in the cell blocks, the phones are outside of the cells. So if youre locked in a cell, you cant use the phone. Its harder to get information from up there. There are some individuals I know who have the infection and are asymptomatic. I likewise heard somebody I understand, who was a subject of a movie that I made, is in the ICU right now. I do not understand much about his condition.
Back then, they were moving individuals around the jail and, I believe, trying to make sure that specific susceptible populations were in locations where they were able to social range. Theres no way to isolate individuals.
There are people in the community who have actually stepped up just recently and said that they will assist in the reentry of people coming out of jail. There are places for people to go, and people who are willing to accept them. I think the No. 2 need is that CDCR stop moving people around the state and spreading out the infection to other prisons.
Since March weve been locked out of the libraries, which is where all of us work– the podcast Ear Hustle is there, the newspaper exists– so thats kind of the center of info that comes out of the prison worldwide. Ive been separated from the other journalists I work with. Ive been attempting to get messages from them through people that we understand, individuals whom we have contact with in typical.
Coronavirus Diaries is a series of dispatches checking out how the coronavirus is impacting individualss lives. For the current public health details, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions website. For Slates coronavirus coverage, click on this link.
I keep in mind back at that time things were fairly normal within the jail. Im part of a group of video reporters that produce a show thats televised in all 36 jails in California. And so at that time, we were developing some content that talked about the coronavirus, and also, at the very same time, we were speaking with individuals in the prison and kind of getting their perspectives on what individuals were feeling and what they felt was coming.
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Im trying to remain as healthy as possible and trying to remain as clean as possible. Im attempting to use my mask. Other than that, Im not really sure what I can do to prevent the coronavirus from getting in here. There is a fair bit of range between H Unit and the cell blocks in the other parts of the jail, so I believe thats one of the factors it hasnt hit here yet. However there are correctional officers who are working shifts up in the impacted areas and then boiling down here. There is more ventilation here, and as you understand, that is among the finest methods to fight the virus. We have windows here, and theres a door that stays open. This dormitory is overcrowded too. If it was to get in here, there isnt a great deal of social distancing here. All of us utilize the same bathrooms; we utilize the exact same showers. Our sleeping areas are actually close together– like, inches away from each other. This location is bothersome too. And in some methods, it seems like were just waiting until the virus strikes here. Thats what it seems like. It simply feels like were simply sitting here waiting.
And so at that time, we were establishing some material that talked about the coronavirus, and likewise, at the very same time, we were speaking with individuals in the jail and kind of getting their viewpoints on what individuals were feeling and what they felt was coming.
And so the stories that Ive heard, which I believe are to be expected, are that individuals cant breathe and that individuals are collapsing and falling left and. I know a lot of individuals in vulnerable populations– older people, individuals with preexisting health conditions– who are up there whom I care about. There are individuals in the community who have actually stepped up recently and said that they will assist in the reentry of individuals coming out of prison. Individuals are included in theater and in writing and graphic arts; other people are included in education and mentor; theres a college program here, a music program, and, above all of that, a lot of individuals here who are interested in self-development and attempting to discover out services to violence and investigating their childhood and things like that.