COVID Prison Testimonies: Laderic McDonald in Missouri, August 2020

August 31, 2020
Laderic McDonald
Potosi Correctional Center, Missouri

This is Laderic McDonald and I am writing you to ask you to advocate on the behalf of me and other offenders at PCC.

We currently do not have any Dial soap or any anti-bacterial soap at canteen when we placed our Ad-Seg canteen orders. We are only allowed 2 bars per month per policy, so if you attempted to order Dial soap, you may not have gotten any soap at all. How can we keep our hands clean? How can we sanitize our cells? They do not allow us to clean our cells, a Big Health Hazard! We have no soap and COVID-19 is still pummeling America. Please call Potosi Deputy Warden of Ops, Jody Glore and advocate on our behalf. Tell him we need to be afforded access to cleaning/hygiene supplies that will keep us CORONA FREE.

Guards are not wearing a mask in Ad-Seg. They have to feed us, escort us to medical, showers, rec cages, phones and etc, but they are not wearing a mask, and they cannot practice social distancing.

It would be nice if they released offenders with no conduct violations out of Ad-Seg so we can take care of ourselves. Ad-Seg is unsafe and has offenders at risk for COVID-19. Not a good situation!

Please do something. We need your help.

With all due respect,

Laderic

Editor’s note: Ad-Seg is a term for solitary confinement. Prison Health News did respond to this letter when we received it, and we sent some information about how to advocate for oneself using grievances, lawsuits and other means.

Saving Your Mind: Mental Health in the Age of COVID

November 1, 2020
By Leo Cardez
Illinois Department of Corrections

“This is some crazy ass shit; and I thought I’d seen it all after twenty years in the joint.”  Murder*, my COVID wing co-worker, lamented while shaking his head.  We were dragging yet another fellow inmate to the hospital wing of our prison.  Murder is a seasoned con from the streets of Chicago’s South side, but I swear I saw a tear in his eye.

            There were four of us glorified janitors working in the makeshift quarantine wing of our prison.  Besides cleaning, we were tasked with moving and caring for sick (even dead) inmates.  At the peak of our coronavirus outbreak, we worked seven days a week double shifts, sweating through our full PPE—too busy to even stop and eat.  It was only at the end of the day, during my shower, that I would finally have a moment to catch my breath.  Sometimes I would break down, hiding my tears as the warm water washed over me.  My co-workers and I suffered everything from nightmares to migraines.  We lost and gained weight at an alarming rate.  We slept sporadically and were often depressed or angry.  Double D, my morning co-worker, said it best, “We are never going to be the same after this… you cannot unsee or undo this type of damage.”

Continue reading “Saving Your Mind: Mental Health in the Age of COVID”

COVID Prison Testimonies: Rudy Vandenborre in Florida, September 2020

A Donkey’s Rock
By Rudy Vandenborre
Everglades Correctional Institution
September 12, 2020

When I went to Washington, D.C. from a small farmer’s town in Belgium, it felt like I entered a whole new unknown world. As a butterfly who morphed, fluttering its wings for the first time, I believed that I was invincible by living a very dangerous lifestyle. “Whatever happens to other people ain’t going to happen to me,” became my motto.

The first time I encountered an unseen enemy was when I took a guy home who insisted on us wearing condoms. AIDS was running rampant all around the world—every country, every city became a hot-zone. However, the mainstream media stayed mum on this HIV pandemic, as it was still branded a gay disease.

There is a saying that even a donkey will not stumble over the same rock twice! So, why did I?

Continue reading “COVID Prison Testimonies: Rudy Vandenborre in Florida, September 2020”

Letter from Josh O’Connor: solitary confinement, food access, and being Native in prison

The following is excerpted from a letter sent to us a Prison Health News reader, published with his permission.

My name is Josh O’Connor.  I’m 20 years old and serving a 22 yr sentence for a crime I committed at 17 years old.  I’m Native American and a vegan. 

I’m in solitary for a fight I got into and have been here for 4 months and was told I would be forced to stay in solitary confinement for the next 6-8 months.    I fear the mental/physical detrimental effects being in solitary confinement for so long and how I may suffer permanent health effects.   I have met many inmates who have spent years – 7, 10, and even up to 20 in solitary confinement and you can easily see the adverse/detrimental deterioration of their health.  Many have had insufficient brain activity to communicate with others not to mention get a job, and you can see many don’t get enough nutrients, because of the lack of sun/vitamins, which makes us very sick.  I hope something will be done soon regarding limiting or abolishing solitary confinement.  

Continue reading “Letter from Josh O’Connor: solitary confinement, food access, and being Native in prison”

Growing Through Depression: A Toolbox for Mental Wellness

By Faith, Latyra, Kima, Rusty, and Stephanie; Women in Re-Entry at the People’s Paper Co-op Arts & Advocacy Fellowship

From PHN Issue 39, Winter/Spring 2019

The following is our truth. Our voice. It’s written by powerful women, all formerly incarcerated. We want you to remember your worth, to know that we hear you, that you’re thought of, and that we’re sending our love!

WE KNOW THE PROBLEM:

I know what it’s like to be depressed and behind bars. Waking up, day after day, living in a box… not knowing when you’re going home… Locked down. Feeling like a number, not a person. I’d sit and wait. Continue reading “Growing Through Depression: A Toolbox for Mental Wellness”

New Mail Rules in Pennsylvania May Spread Nationwide

By Suzy Subways

From PHN Issue 38, Fall 2018

On September 5th, after a 12-day lockdown of all 25 prisons in the state, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) made drastic permanent changes to mail and visits. The DOC claimed that dozens of guards had been exposed to synthetic drugs, and that the lockdown and new restrictions were intended to protect them. But no tests showed that the drugs were in the sick officers’ bodies. Toxicology experts and the medical directors of the hospital emergency rooms where the guards were taken told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the guards’ symptoms were consistent with anxiety. They called it a “mass psychogenic illness” — anxiety symptoms that can happen when groups of people share a contagious fear of being exposed to something, even though they haven’t been. No mailroom staff reported getting sick. Continue reading “New Mail Rules in Pennsylvania May Spread Nationwide”

Beat the Winter Blues

By Leo Cardez

From PHN Issue 34, Fall 2017

As the winter approaches, I find myself getting tired and moody. It starts as early as September and gets really bad in January. Although I’ve never been officially diagnosed, I’m sure I suffer from some degree of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). As I look around my cell block, I don’t think I’m the only one. The good news is I’ve found that some small tweaks to my daily routine (tips and tricks) can help keep my spirits high. Continue reading “Beat the Winter Blues”

Yoga for Beginners

by Alexandra S. Wimberly

From PHN Issue 33, Summer 2017

Have you ever tried yoga? Ever been curious about what yoga is or if it might be something that you would like to try? The following is a short introduction to yoga, along with a few yoga practices to try. One of the great things about yoga is that it can be practiced anywhere and needs no special equipment—just your mind, your body, and your attention. Continue reading “Yoga for Beginners”

Surviving Your Stay in Solitary Confinement

By Russell Auguillard

From PHN Issue 29, Summer 2016

My days consist of reading, exercising, writing, studying criminal and civil law, working on my case, studying medical periodicals as well as other studies, and watching television programs. With these particular routines, I manage to basically keep myself occupied. Yes, of course, doing the same thing all the time has a tendency to get boring. But when it comes to that point, you can do the same thing but switch it up. Continue reading “Surviving Your Stay in Solitary Confinement”