On the Failure of Prisons to Combat COVID-19

Dear Brandon, I noticed the newsletter article about the Seagoville COVID-19 outbreak, and would like to weigh in on a few facts:

1) When COVID-19 first started breaking out in the U.S., I informed our Warden Zook that if her staff continued to remove their masks around inmates this would break quarantine. There was no response and no action.

2) I have served over 13 years and will leave in between 9-15 months on good time, I asked Warden Zook for a compassionate release due to chronic asthma, I have caught the Norovirus, pneumonia twice and didn’t want to catch COVID-19. The warden delayed response so I filed with Michigan courts, Judge Janet Neff denied my request due to criminal factors as a threat to community. I have no prior criminal history, this is my first offense. I asked myself how am I any more threat now than I will be in a year? Since then, I have now tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

3) Seagoville staff recklessly moved people around without testing. Our building has 180 inmates it’s small, but we had very few active cases until they brought in 10 people without testing them. We protested and they finally tested them. Six were positive, and after that, the people in our building started getting sick rapidly.

4) Obviously this illness causes severe fluid loss. When inmates asked for Gatorade to replace electrolytes, they were told that the assistant warden said they couldn’t have it,  even though there were seventeen pallets of it in the kitchen purchased for that reason.

5) Most of these buildings have no air conditioning so we suffer through days of 100-105 temperatures every summer. Even so, no staff office or work area lacks air conditioning. Now since protesters have shown up, advocating that prison lives matter, we suddenly get portable air conditioning.

6) Even at this late date when most of the compound has gotten the virus, staff are still taking off their masks and exposing us.

The bottom line is this, no inmate has had any contact with the outside world, unless there is a medical emergency. Yet the B.O.P. controls that movement, so the only way the virus could get on the compound is through staff. Further, there was a study years ago using college students, with half posing as guards and half posing as inmates. They had to stop the study due to the level of cruelty that was displayed. And that was a study. Can you imagine the level of indifference and hostility that happens in real life situations? I have been told that I am an inmate and that I have too many rights. That I should not be eating in the kitchen but out of my locker. I have seen staff beat and gas inmates who were not resisting.

The measure of a country is taken by how it treats it’s POOR, INFIRMED AND INCARCERATED. America is severely missing the mark by turning a blind eye to it’s less fortunate. Lady Justice is no longer blind when sentences are lengthened or restrictions are added for the unpopularity of a crime. There are those who NEED to be closely monitored because their actions have harmed others severely. But, ALL U.S. citizens deserve the right to work their way to a level of restoration that they enjoyed prior to incarceration, or else they have NO HOPE, and then they have no reason to strive to become productive citizens. The people are creating or reducing TOMORROWS crimes, by their actions TODAY.

This article was submitted by an anonymous inmate.

About Brandon Sample

Brandon Sample is an attorney, author, and criminal justice reform activist. Brandon’s law practice is focused on federal criminal defense, federal appeals, federal post-conviction relief, federal civil rights litigation, federal administrative law, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

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