Prisoners Speak Out on Pandemic:

“It will spread faster than a California wild fire... we are not being kept safe as they are telling the public”



We greatly appreciate receiving these letters from prisoners and encourage prisoners to keep sending us correspondence. The views expressed by the writers of these letters are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere on our site.

VA, March 25th, 2020

The vulnerability of prisoners amidst a global health crisis.

With the rapid outbreak of coronavirus, (covid-19) pandemic, life as people know it has been altered. Nations placed on lockdowns, sports events canceled, school closures, ban on mass gatherings and nonessential travels etcetera. This outbreak is deemed to be greater than the 1918 so called “Spanish flu”, SARS epidemic, bird flu, and swine flu. In mere months covid-19 managed to reach every corner of the world. To illustrate how quickly it spread, March 8, 2020 there were 500 confirmed cases in U.S. That number skyrocketed to over 3,000 in just a week and currently stands at 32,600 with over 400 fatalities.

Hospitals in U.S. have been overwhelmed as the result of the shortage of preventative masks and ventilators and certainly exacerbates what's already a global health crisis. At the time of this writing there are 219 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 2 deaths in the state of Virginia. At the rate this virus is spreading it will inevitably affect a large percentage of the population in society...and prisons.

Virginia, like other states, declared a state of emergency after cases of covid-19 were first discovered. Virginia department of corrections (VDOC) suspended all visits from prisoner's families, friends and and/or attorneys until further notice in an attempt to prevent covid-19 from its prisons. Given that this virus spreads mainly from close contacts and respiratory droplets when someone coughs, suspending visitation came as no surprise.

A memorandum was subsequently distributed explaining what the virus is and issued precautionary methods on the beginning war to avoid contracting this virus such as: frequent hand wash, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. It was also suggested to practice “social distancing” staying 6 feet away from others. These were guidelines established by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) and adopted by VDOC.

This notion of “social distancing” in a prison setting is utterly impossible for a number of reasons. Many of those in general population have roommates, walk to chowhall with others, they are close to each other, attend gym, religious services, outside and in-pod recreations together etc. Whereas, those in solitary confinement, it requires they be escorted by 2 guides anytime they step out of the cell for any reason. Close contact is inevitable. Despite VDOC efforts to prevent this virus from entering its prisons, judging by the trend on how rapid it spreads, it seems bound to make its way into prisons.

Indeed, this is a peculiar situation and since there is no foolproof way to prevent it from coming in, it’s easy to predict how fast it will spread due to those aforementioned reasons, the close proximity prisoners live under, and taking into account other relevant factors such as: we use the same phones, Jpay kiosk, recreation equipment, guards using the same restraints on prisoners, etc. The conditions are ripe for a massive outbreak

In an unprecedented case of transparency VDOC issued a memorandum on updates of the covid-19 virus, which in summary stated that March 18,2020 a dozen inmates at Coffeewood corrections had fever and 2 tested positive for the flu, all of them were housed in the same unit. The Virginia dept of health was notified and they were quarantined awaiting the testing of covid-19.

The testing of this deadly virus has been a major issue for those in society, so much so, that [the] government keeps reiterating that the tests kits are in short supply and adopted a “priority list” of who should get tested. Suffice to say, it is not exactly inconceivable to assume prisoners aren't on this “priority list”.

One of the many things I've learned about how prisons function, is that oftentimes prison officials have the propensity to be reactive rather than proactive, meaning they wait for something to happen, then implement a policy around it. Despite how deadly this virus has proven to be, prisoners haven't been offered preventative masks and presumably will not, not until the numbers of confirmed covid-19 cases, even death, spikes. Only then will they take action.

The only thing we prisoners can do is adhere to the CDC guidelines by washing hands often, cover mouths when coughing, avoid touching eyes and nose. This is our way of doing our part in looking out, not only for ourselves but each other.The politicians don't give a damn about us. Prison officials will go on with business as usual so long as their paychecks aren't affected and we certainly are excluded from this so called “priority list.”

An example of my point can easily be verified by watching the news. This virus has undoubtedly dominated mainstream news media but not once have they reported on conditions inside prisons and any preventative measures that could be taken to save lives. New York has the most cases of confirmed covid-19, yet not a single news report about the overcrowded Rikers and its prisons. California, the same case applies. Mississippi, don't get me started.

This virus has overwhelmed hospitals, many of them lacking necessary medical equipment to combat this virus such as: not enough ventilators, masks, gowns, etc. Needless to say, prison medical units certainly aren't prepared, let alone equipped to an outbreak.

The irony of this unpreparedness is that this is a nation stockpiled with a cornucopia of weapons ready to initiate war for its own interest, yet was completely unprepared to respond to a health crisis which they saw coming. Lacking preventative masks or life-saving equipment such as ventilators is unfathomable.

Prisoners are in a uniquely vulnerable situation and it’s essential we wash hands often, cover your coughs, avoid touching eyes, nose and keep ourselves and our peers safe.

All Power to the People!

Panther Love!

NC, 3-29-20


In light of the corona virus, I hope this letter reaches all of my comrades in good health and virus free. It upsets me greatly to tell you that the prison I am at is taking almost zero precautionary measures. And the sad part is that N.C. DPS is lying to the public about the so-called preventive measures being taken. For example, not one staff member has been checked for temperature. The DPS press release says they have stopped all facility transfers (2 weeks ago) unless in an emergency. This is a blatant lie. The transfer buses been running on a regular schedule. It has also been said that they have stopped outside facility work. This is a lie. I work outside the facility. My boss hasn’t ever been screened, and when I refused to work last week, I was threatened with disciplinary action! About 5 days [ago], they quarantined a inmate here and they did take my entire block’s temperature. But the public is being told that no inmates are symptomatic or being quarantined. Both of these are lies. They are not taking enuff preventive measures. A sgt here, she left 4 days ago with cough and a fever, and she is back today! No 15 day Quarantine or nothing. I am in a constant fear for my health, but no one is willing to address mine or anyone elses concerns. It’s only a matter of time before Corona virus runs rampant in N.C. prison system. My Biggest concern is the fact that some of us are still being exploited for $1.00 a day of inmate labor, to be pushed outside the gate and forced to work around staff that is not being screened or anything!

There was a rumor that the governor was gonna sign a proposal to release 1000 inmates that were non-violent and close to release. Me, myself, I am a non-violent offender and my release date is just about 78 days away (June 20). But the case managers and corrections staff will never confirm or deny what the truth is about this proposition. N.C. is so last minute with EVERYTHING. I just hope that I make it out of prison before COVID19 runs its course, because once it begins, it will spread faster than a California wild fire. Please, let the public know, N.C. inmates, we are not being kept safe as they are telling the public. And yes, there has been inmates quarantined, and they are not telling the public about this. And if you can find any information about what the supposed governor is proposing as far as setting any inmates free, please, please let me know. I hope that all of you come thru this pandemic well and in good health. PLEASE, be my voice, and let the public know the truth about what going on in here.

Thank you

MO, 3/30/2020

“Thank you for sending the Revolution every month. It has been helping me out a lot with keeping up with all that is going on in the world. I been boxed in this hole now for 9 months with no A/C & no heat, and now with this pandemic going on, I feel that this is what they want…

…As far as I know, at this camp it’s 2 people in ICU with this virus. The COs & others don’t have masks on. And the way it looks, they not gonna have them on no time soon. They not letting anyone go to medical to get medical care due to the inmates that’s up there. More COs are coming coughing & sneezing, and these people feel that it’s not anything wrong with what they are doing. At this camp there’s no care for the inmates. I really don’t know what to do because as I read your newsletter I see that this is just the beginning of something big. And when it hits these camps its gonna be a lot of people dead. I just want to let you guys know what is going on.”

This photo is NOT of the authors. Prisoners packed in tight at Alabama's Easterling Correctional Facility, Feb. 25. (Photo: Alabama Department of Corrections)


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