#CagingCOVID: Stopping the Spread Behind Bars

While the world is trying to flatten the curve of a pandemic without end in sight, U.S. prisons and detention centers continue to be COVID-19 hotspots, warehousing millions and failing to make the substantial populations reductions needed to create conditions of social distance.

#CagingCOVID is a campaign to shine a light on mass incarceration in a time of a public health crisis, and apply pressure to use parole, clemency and decarceration at local and federal levels to stop the spread of the virus behind bars.

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Kevin Rashid Johnson On Covid In Indiana Prisons

Sep 24, 2020 | by Karen Smith

Kevin Rashid Johnson speaks about his experience at Pendleton Correctional Facility in Indiana before being transferred to Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, also in Indiana. He discusses inadequate access to soap and hand sanitizer, nutritious food, and PPE. His new facility in Wabash, he says, is better about precautions but guards still come in and out without being subjected to the same quarantine and testing measures as inmates.

Audio Submission by, Kevin Rashid Johnson
Amended Transcription of Audio:

There is really no protection at all against people catching Covid-19. They’re just leaving prisoners pretty much to contract the virus, […] the virus, or die from the virus. I’ve been here in Indiana since when the pandemic first struck. Basically, they did nothing. Operations continued as usual at the institution. There were never any masks, there was no hand sanitizer, sanitation supplies even for prisoners to clean their cells, guards didn’t wear masks. Any movement up and down the corridor to and from the cells, you have to pass directly [in front of] other prisoners, you have to pass closely in front of their cells. The recreation, chow hall, etc., was generally in a crowded formation.

They would give us like a bar of soap every few weeks. One bar of soap wouldn’t last no time if you wash your hands continuously, would probably last a few days. Due to the high incidence of people coming down with Covid-19 in the Indiana Department of Corrections, over half of the prisoners in our cell block went on a hunger strike (it’s a 300 man cell block) and demanded that they issue us PPE, that they give us clean supplies for the cells, that they do testing for everyone, that they provide us meals that afforded us basic nutrition. The meals that we were provided, six sandwiches per day, processed lunch meat, foods that would increase the chances of us contracting the virus as opposed to helping strengthen our immune system.

They began probably several weeks later to put out masks. They put our building on quarantine after we started the protests because a day later one of the prisoners in our cell block died of covid-19. He had to be rushed to the hospital and he died the next day from Covid-19. They acted as if they were taking quarantine measures. They moved several prisoners into the gym, and then they turned around and they had a prisoner who they said tested positive for Covid-19 and they tried to put him in the gym with everyone who was just, they said was symptomatic but hadn’t tested positive. After a while even the pretenses that [they were] taking precautionary measures and providing protection, that even died down, so that now when I left, and I left Pendleton September 3rd, and everything was just back to normal. Things were just being operated as they had before the whole Covid-19 thing came about.

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