#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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They Have No Escape

Dec 9, 2020 | by Laura Bratton

A mother worries about her son, who’s been incarcerated in Iowa for 21 years, after the men in the cell next to him get COVID-19. She voices concerns about the lack of sanitation and nutritious food, but she’s afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation from the system.

Submission By, Anonymous Mother

Amended Transcription of Audio:

He is at Fort Madison, which is an Iowa state prison. He’ll be 50 on December 15. And he has been there for 21 years. It’s been horrible. The fellows in the cell next to him both came down with it and they took both of them. One went to the hospital. They got very sick.

See, they were in the cell next to him, which, you know, you have pretty close contact. The cells are very small. So I mean, that is so close. So every day that he calls, I just pray that his voice sounds okay.

They locked them all down. They were unable to move around, go outside, do anything so they could contain it, they thought. But it didn’t really do that. My feeling is, and everybody’s, that the only way it can be coming in is through the guards.

Now they have turned one portion of the prison into a, uh, like isolation room where, when somebody gets it, they send them there to stay for two weeks, but it’s still in the prison. With the guards bringing them their food, the got baloney every single day for supper for three weeks, so they didn’t have to prepare any food. They got a protein bar every morning, so they didn’t have to prepare food. They just really, they don’t know what to do to make it better.

They need to get out and get some air, run around. And if they would just bring the food and put it in an area so that the guys can come and pick theirs up, rather than having the guards actually bring that.

He wears a mask and shield and rubber gloves, and then he keeps everything sanitized in him and his roommates cell. I see that they have no escape. They can’t even get fresh air. And he has a horrible concern because he has a daughter, two grandchildren. You know, his dad and I are 75 and every day he calls us three times a day to be sure we’re okay because he is so fearful that one of us will die and he won’t even get to say goodbye.

I have spent more time crying than I have laughing. I’ll tell you that I am terrified to complain, of the retaliation for us saying anything or being upset about anything. So it doesn’t pay hon; it doesn’t.

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