COVID-19 EXPERIENCE WHILE LOOKING THRU BARS (part 1 of series)
by Wesley Johnson
The experience of COVID-19 from inside prison and what I write is true. I will take no creative license to make things more than what they were. I know at times when telling a story others will sensationalize to keep the reader engaged. I hope that you will struggle through to the end because it may change how you view humanity. For the better, I hope.
The humans in here are under the care of the “Department of Correction” for the State of Washington. The DOC controls everything. Food, housing, clothes, betterment programs, education and most importantly HEALTH CARE. Not just the physical but also MENTAL. Many people who enter come with some sort of mental issues, otherwise they would not be here. Add COVID-19 and watch the pot boil over.
COVID -19 hit American very early in 2020. At first there was not much concern. That will change dramatically and to everyone’s worst fear, Deadly!
Here we watched the TV and what was going on with a growing concern as the numbers we saw in the box grow to be something unbelievable. Still, it was not here, but that changed very quickly.
In April we got what seemed to be the first case. There was a guy in the dayroom blocking the fan claiming he was hot. (They had not yet turned off the heat. The heat is either on or off here.) He is always demanding that everyone needed to understand that he has rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. So this guy is not well liked because when he says things like this, it’s condescending. He is also a repeat offender. He did over 30 years and came back after only being out a few years on a violation, so he was bitter. He is already in his 70’s so this most likely means he will never leave. Because he is ADA and has no one on the outside, he is indigent, and he doesn’t have the few luxury items like a fan or a TV. All the hygiene items he gets is supplied by the DOC (which is rather ironic that all of the hygiene items come from China).
Because of what we have seen on TV, one guy, Jimmy, went to staff and reported that the old guy was sick (COVID concerns were not his true motivation, but that wasn’t revealed until later). So medical came and things went into panic mode. The living area was immediately locked down. We spent the next 15 days getting treated like we had leprosy. We just sat while the other viewable living spaces and everyone else went about like normal. Getting any kind of accurate information from staff was next to impossible. We got more from family members via the prisoner email system which is how we connect to the free world. It was very nerve racking. Remember we must rely on DOC for so much.
At that time, the staff was just as concerned about COVID as we were. The question we all were wondering is just how did he get infected? He had not been anywhere other than the unit. He did not have any contact with any outside community members. It was all rather confusing.
Remember Jimmy, he was getting out in nine months and right before he left he told some of us what he really had done and what his motivations were, but that’s the subject for later…
Wesley R. Johnston
779084 / D-607-1
P.O. Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272
Wesley Johnston 779084