How Covid Makes Prisons Follow The Science…

Follow the science. Sure. The Covid pandemic has consumed the American populous for roughly 21 months and our DOC still hasn’t come up with consistently sensible approaches geared at protecting those incarcerated. Much like their application to other policies, it’s been arbitrary and far from science based. More importantly, it’s often punitive and damaging.

Sometime time last year, months from the origin of the pandemic, we enacted social distancing and cloth mask coverage. Months after. And the staff ensured it with an iron fist. Never mind that they huddled in groups in common areas to girlishly whisper any number of derogatory slights on some unsuspecting inmate. But I assure you, six feet is a rule for us, not them. “Get closer so the inmates can’t hear you degrade them.” Exceptional professionalism.

Each inmate in our particular prison is housed very directly with 75 other inmates. Tragically, because of runaway “Tough on Crime” legislation and massive prison overcrowding, at the start of Covid, our state was at 103% prison capacity. The space that houses our 75 people was built for 45. Where can we social distance in this? The exact answer is, “we can’t.” While there has been a release of some based on Supreme Court reviews, all it’s done is shut down some areas and cram inmates into the other available spaces. It didn’t thin the congregation. Yet, punishments got doled out for non compliance with social distancing and masking, enforced by the same people who relish in breaking those same rules. To top it off, any infractions written for violating the Covid protocols count towards a cumulative behavior assessment and may very well keep an inmate from releasing. To solve the prison Covid problem, we need to thin the population through release, yet the liberty that comes with an end of sentence may be infringed on by those infractions. Explain how incidents like this support following science? Schools have routinely shut down over crowded classes, but how about crowded prisons? Violence, exploitation and substance abuse are all reasons to detain someone further in prison, not Covid infractions.

Then the confusing mask mandate, one now for medical grade masks. Perhaps you may recall this piece of societal guidance: “Get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.” – Pres. Joe Biden May 12, 2021

Well, that never happened for the incarcerated (while it’s quickly becoming a moot point for the rest of you, also). The majority of our prison is vaccinated and every scare of introduced infection came at the hands of a staff member who, up until recently, had the option to vaccinate. The arbitrariness of these written and enforced policies are junk on their face. There hasn’t been steady rapid testing of staff entering our prison on a daily basis and because of this, it even negates the purpose of the mask AND vaccine. When they do get tested, the results come days after… after they’ve been in and out a few times spreading the virus inside. The hardships of being contact traced to an infected staff member are devastating to a population that has already been stripped of freedom and family. Why do we go the distance to be protected when the staff hold absolutely no responsibility in the matter? And when an outbreak occurs, the cure is far worse than the disease.

It’s striking that demography holds some important science elements. According to the major national news outlets (Fox, CNN, MSNBC), all studies conducted suggest that people of color are far more likely to become infected. Funny thing, they are also incarcerated at a higher rate too. If the arbitry application of policy that flies in the face science is to be tolerated, then one might be able to connect the dots that their implementation is vastly racist.

Perhaps keeping inmates in overcrowded spaces, punishing them for a disease they can’t bring in, and foregoing science and sensible practices makes sense if the over 65 million convicted nation wide deserve a death sentence by an unforgiving society. But, if science and rules apply, how about we all follow them and let those inmates who stay morally focused, and who can be accessed for safety through a parole process, allow the others to social distance by being released…

by Rory Andes

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Email via using Rory Andes 367649

Rory Andes 367649
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272