COVID Prison Testimonies: Mark Kersey in Virginia, September 2020

September 17, 2020
Mark Kersey
Sussex I State Prison, Virginia

Dear Friends, 

I hope & pray this correspondence reaches and finds each of you experiencing well being, especially in light of these critical times that are hard to deal with. 

I am a fairly new subscriber to the “Prison Health News” which I am grateful to be a recipient of. The information contained in each issue is very informative. 

I would like to contribute to the cause of keeping the prisons of Virginia population informed on various health news. 

As of now Sussex I State Prison has had a major COVID-19 “outbreak.” I believe it started being contracted through the facility’s kitchen supervisors who passed it on to the offenders who work in the kitchen. 

Continue reading “COVID Prison Testimonies: Mark Kersey in Virginia, September 2020”

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”

Re-Entry Bill of Rights: A Blueprint for Keeping Us Free

By The Philadelphia Re-Entry Think Tank

From PHN Issue 40, Summer/Fall 2019

We the people.
The other side of America.

The 70 million plus with criminal records.

We exist in multitudes. We lead many lives.

We are all ages
We are 16,
35 years old.

We are not criminals.

We are survivors.
The leaders you need.

Your Fathers, Mothers, Daughters, Sons, friends and family.

We are human beings. We deserve a chance to prove our worth.

We work, volunteer, mentor and use our knowledge, experience and skills to give back to the community.

Where am I?

You see me in the mall,
We sat next to each other at the movies,
We shared a smile once in a line at the grocery store,
the bank,
the church pew.
But you put an X on my face.
You turned me into a number.

See ME

I want a beautiful future.

I am not a slave to my past
I refuse to be intimidated by your misperceptions.
Understand the value I have to contribute.
Do not be paralyzed by data,
I am real, not numbers.

I will not subject myself to fear or anxiety, but walk boldly. I will prosper.

Let me be free.

Believe in me, and I will be the best parent I never had.
I will mobilize communities. Will be a catalyst for change. Will make history.
Will achieve all of my goals. Will be a role model for the youth!

We’ve done our time.
Let us become who we want to be.

My mom always told me hurt people will hurt others.

But healing for me is harder than you think.

Sometimes I feel like I’m reading a story that isn’t mine.

I need those around me to listen, to lend an ear, to try to understand the root causes of violence and crime.

To help me get support and resources.

Today, I can be a wounded healer.

I want to apologize.

To listen to the people I’ve harmed, to volunteer, to speak out, to teach, to learn, and understand that not everyone is ready to heal.

We are hurt, we have harmed, and we have the power to help others heal.

But it’s not black and white.

Some of us came home to housing. Some of us were homeless. Some spent 7 months trying to get an approved home plan while wasting away in halfway houses.

Some of us struggle finding positive support from family and friends, while others came home to mentors, wives, husbands, and so many open arms.

Even after being out for years we struggle.

I struggle to keep me and my children together.
I struggle to afford more than a room.
I struggle to find a job I’m NOT overqualified for
I struggle to feel human, not looked down upon


we the people.
I want you to remember that we need to change people’s environment if we
want to change their future.

That we are so much more than our past.

That people need community, not condemnation.

That we need more support to become what we dream of.

That the world is wrong about us. That we’ve already come so far.

That we are learning to forgive ourselves.

And so should you.

That we can make differences in the lives of others. But we need a chance to prove our worth.

That we are powerful!

The Re-Entry Think Tank connects formerly incarcerated people with artists and advocates. Think Tank Fellows spent two years interviewing over 1,200 Philadelphians with criminal records about their lives, dreams, and demands for a more just world. As a group poem and declaration, this has been read in Philadelphia’s city hall, detention centers, museums, legal clinics, and community spaces across the city.