COVID Prison Testimonies: Randy Wynn in federal prison, May 2020

May 7, 2020
Randy Wynn
United States Penitentiary Lompoc, California

As you can see, I am writing from USP Lompoc, CA. Because of the coronavirus, we have been in lockdown over six weeks. The first four weeks we were allowed a 10-minute shower, and the next day 20-minute phone calls. Then came the 24/7 lockdown with no showers or phone calls. We went 17 days without a shower. This week, one day 15-minute shower and the next day 15-minute phone calls. By 11 a.m. we have received all three meals. The cells are very very small, and I do have a celly [cellmate]. I can almost touch both walls at the same time. No room to walk or exercise. The food is not enough. Have not seen the sunshine in over six weeks. To top it off, I was very sick from March 24 to April 4, 2020. And when I said sick, I mean sick. Did not think I was going to make it. I am 60 years old. I see no end in sight. So my question to you is, how healthy is this for a 60 year old? I look forward to hearing from you ASAP please. Thank you for your time. Stay safe.

Continue reading “COVID Prison Testimonies: Randy Wynn in federal prison, May 2020”

COVID Prison Testimonies: “Coordinated Manslaughter” by C.S. Robledo, paralegal

May 6, 2021
by C.S. Robledo
Colorado Department of Corrections

The Colorado Department of Corrections presents a facade of honesty, integrity, and progressive agenda to the rest of the world, while simultaneously violating prisoner rights. During this pandemic, one prison in particular decided to handle COVID-19 in its own way. Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility (AVCF) is an old prison in Ordway, Colorado. It is essentially in the middle of nowhere.

Continue reading “COVID Prison Testimonies: “Coordinated Manslaughter” by C.S. Robledo, paralegal”

COVID Prison Testimonies: Scotty in California, June 2020

June 23, 2020

I am a “high risk” medical lifer (LWOP [life sentence without possibility of parole]) out here in the Central Valley of California at a joint called CSATF-SP at Corcoran. We have been on a modified lockdown since March 15, 2020, with “masks reusable” cloth types given on April 12, 2020. Most convicts comply with wearing them. However, when the staff (CO’s) refuse, it has caused issues, to say the least, with COVID-19 getting behind the prison walls. We all know the potential deadly link comes from the outside world. We (convicts) are threatened with RVR’s [rules violation reports] if we don’t comply with mandatory masks. The prison website is telling the world that hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies are available, and that is not factual at all. Continue reading “COVID Prison Testimonies: Scotty in California, June 2020”

COVID Prison Testimonies: Richard S. Gross

May 5, 2020
by Richard S. Gross
SCI Phoenix, Pennsylvania

We have been locked down here at SCI Phoenix since the end of March. Four cell cohorts come out for 40 minutes to shower, use the phone and kiosk, maybe go outside in the concrete courtyard. The time goes fast. For two weeks around Easter, my block was under 24-hour quarantine. We didn’t even get to shower during the first 8 days, then got out one cell at a time every other day for 10 to 15 minute showers. The showers were cleaned after each use.

Continue reading “COVID Prison Testimonies: Richard S. Gross”

COVID Prison Testimonies: Parish Brown

February 19, 2021
by Parish Brown
Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections

I wrote this poem in the beginning of this COVID pandemic. My first thought was, will I see my mother again? My second thought was, I should be safe because the only way I could get it is through the staff and the DOC is going to take extra care of their staff, right? But I was wrong. The COVID entered the prison as fast as the convicts that is housed in it. Before I even felt the symptoms of COVID it attacked my mental health. Everything I did became excessive. I washed my hands so much that my skin started to pull off around my fingernails. Cleaning my cell went from two times a day to five times a day. With only an hour for rec, I took a half hour shower. I did all of that and still caught COVID. I couldn’t eat for the first five days. I found out after I went to the hospital that I had pneumonia. I thought that I wasn’t going to make it because mentally I wasn’t prepared to fight it. I pulled through because I didn’t want my family to remember me for this. I have a higher purpose and through my poetry you’ll hear my voice. Continue reading “COVID Prison Testimonies: Parish Brown”

Louisiana Activists Launch National Coalition to Demand Controlled Evacuations of Prisons During the Pandemic

By Suzy Subways

A national coalition led by the Working Group Against COVID-19 Death Chambers is forming to fight for controlled evacuations of incarcerated people—and it needs you. 

For the past year, loved ones of incarcerated people and other activists have pressured states to release large numbers of people from prisons in order to prevent massive loss of life. But very few people have been released, and as a result of prison conditions, one in five incarcerated people have gotten COVID-19. According to the UCLA COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project, at least 2,368 incarcerated people have died in the U.S. from the virus so far. 

Continue reading “Louisiana Activists Launch National Coalition to Demand Controlled Evacuations of Prisons During the Pandemic”

The Latest Info on COVID-19

By Lucy Gleysteen

From PHN Issue 44, Fall 2020

As of October 2020, at least 1 million people worldwide and 200,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19. Experts say that the true number of deaths is higher than what has been reported. In the United States, the number of deaths would have been lower had there been wide-scale testing, contact tracing, mask wearing mandates, accessible personal protective equipment for essential workers, and large-scale quarantining. COVID-19 still persists, and the number of deaths continues to rise. Case counts on the outside are trending upwards, reaching peak levels in some places.

Over the course of the spring and summer, COVID-19 cases have soared in prisons across the United States. In prisons and jails, infectious diseases spread quickly because the conditions of incarceration force people into crowded living situations without access to proper safety and prevention measures.

How is COVID-19 spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads through person-to-person contact, most often through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets are small particles that come from a person’s mouth or nose. Droplet transmission occurs when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or talks near someone else and they inhale the particles. The Center for Disease Control provides guidance that people should stay at least six feet apart to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. However, it is still possible for COVID-19 to be transmitted from farther away if someone who has COVID-19 is in an enclosed space with few windows and poor ventilation. This is called airborne transmission. In enclosed spaces with other people, there is the possibility of contracting COVID-19 because those environments contribute to the buildup of virus-carrying particles in the air. This possibility is also higher if people are doing activities that can release more virus-carrying particles into the air, like shouting, singing, or exercising. It is still possible to contract COVID-19 from touching objects and then touching your eyes, nose, or eating. It is important to wipe down surfaces and frequently wash your hands to reduce risk. Strategies to avoid COVID-19 are often harder in prison than for people on the outside. These strategies include staying at least 6 feet away from other people, wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth, washing hands frequently, and to the extent that it’s possible, avoiding crowded spaces.

What’s it like to get COVID-19?

Most people who contract COVID-19 experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without medical intervention. However, serious illness can develop. People over the age of 65 or who have pre-existing conditions such as cancer, being immunocompromised, chronic kidney disease, heart conditions, sickle cell disease, and diabetes are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, dry cough, tiredness, and shortness of breath. Additional symptoms include congestion, sore throat, headache, diarrhea, muscle and body aches, and/or new loss of taste or smell.

When to seek immediate medical attention

If someone is having trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion, an inability to wake or stay awake, or looks blue in the face or lips, seek immediate medical attention.

Long-term impacts of COVID-19

Many of the long-term effects of COVID-19 remain unknown because it is a new illness. The long-term impact of COVID-19 varies depending on the person. While some people are able to clear the virus and recover after a few weeks, others experience COVID-19 symptoms for months. The virus can damage the lungs, heart, and brain, which can lead to serious long-term health issues.

For some people, COVID-19 has affected their hearts by causing inflammation and damage to the heart muscle. Heart damage is a part of what can cause COVID-19 to be severe and deadly, for people of any age. The impact of COVID-19 on the heart may be the cause of some of the long-term symptoms people have reported after COVID-19. This includes shortness of breath, chest pains, and heart palpitations. Another serious side effect of COVID-19 is the possibility of a stroke. COVID-19 can cause blood clots that travel throughout the body and lead to stroke. This can happen to people of all ages. Some people experience cognitive difficulties during and after having COVID-19. This includes memory loss, confusion, dizziness, difficulty focusing, and brain fog.

Is there a vaccine yet?

Researchers around the world are working to find a vaccine for COVID-19. Vaccines usually take years of research and testing before they become available to the public. This process is being accelerated for the COVID-19 vaccine due to the wide-scale health and economic devastation the pandemic has caused. At the moment, there are many different vaccines that are being tested for COVID-19. Some of these options have been promising, but more data is still needed. When a vaccine is approved, there is no way of knowing how long it will take to get everyone vaccinated. Having an effective vaccine would be a significant step in ending the pandemic. However, it will only work if researchers are certain that the vaccines are effective and safe.

Who is most impacted by COVID-19?

While COVID-19 impacts everyone, those who experience systemic oppression are most vulnerable to contracting the virus and experiencing symptoms. This includes people in prison, people living in poverty, the elderly, essential workers, people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, undocumented people, people of color, and many more not mentioned. People who cannot work from home are vulnerable because they face the possibility of a COVID-19 exposure in order to earn a living. Factors that contribute to increased risk, especially for Black and indigenous people, include discrimination in healthcare systems, housing, education, and criminal justice. Not only does this lead to toxic stress, which can harm the immune system, but it also impacts who receives healthcare and the quality of healthcare they receive. A person’s geographic location and their local government can have an impact on risk if they live in a part of the country where COVID-19 is not taken seriously.

How to Obtain/Secure a Medical Release of Information for an Incarcerated Individual in PA State Prison

By Elaine Selan, RN, MSN

Our current health crisis is one that impacts each of us in different ways; it brings to light so many questions and concerns.  Often as nurse who is also a human rights activist, I am contacted by family members asking how one can obtain medical information about a loved one who is incarcerated.  Typically, this need arrives when the loved one becomes ill.  However, getting a Release of Information [ROI] when your loved one is not ill will make it easier to get information if the need occurs.

The process has many steps; and, even if followed correctly, the DOC’s health services may present obstacles that need to be addressed.  Determination is crucial!!! 

Continue reading “How to Obtain/Secure a Medical Release of Information for an Incarcerated Individual in PA State Prison”

When There’s a Pandemic and Your Loved One Is in Prison

Ideas for support and advocacy during the COVID-19 crisis 

By Evelyne Kane and Suzy Subways

It’s challenging enough for loved ones of people in prison: paying for expensive phone calls, trying to advocate for your loved one’s health, keeping your head up through it all. And now we have to deal with this new virus. Here are what we hope will be some helpful ideas and suggestions, which we’ve gathered from people in prison, their loved ones on the outside, and other activists:

Coronavirus Info to Share with Your Loved One in Prison:

COVID-19 is the name for the new disease spread by the coronavirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), COVID-19 is very easy to spread from person to person, and transmission can happen in a number of ways, including:

  • From close contact with another person who has the virus (being within 6 feet of them)
  • Through contaminated surfaces or objects (the virus can live on many surfaces for hours or even days)
  • Through contaminated particles in the air (for instance, when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes)

Continue reading “When There’s a Pandemic and Your Loved One Is in Prison”

“My Heart Is Broken in Pieces”: Family Grieves Son Lost to Excessive Force from Corrections Officers

By Evelyne Kane

Online exclusive for Prison Health News

A few days before Christmas, Shaleda and Ervin Busbee sit together in their cozy and well-kept rowhouse in West Philadelphia. From the living room, a lighted Christmas tree ringed with gifts glows softly. Despite the festivity of the season, the Busbees’ spirits are heavy this year as they grieve the loss of their son, Tyrone Briggs, who was killed on November 11, 2019 while incarcerated at Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution-Mahanoy. His family and legal team allege that his death was caused by excessive use of pepper spray by Mahanoy staff.

Continue reading ““My Heart Is Broken in Pieces”: Family Grieves Son Lost to Excessive Force from Corrections Officers”