Pennsylvania. USA. March 13, 2020. For the past two days, the PA DOC has finally thinking about the coronavirus and how to protect prisoners from it. Only over the past two days! Announcements have been played over the prison television station reminding prisoners to wash our hands frequently and cover our coughs. The usual mandatory co-payment for medical services has been suspended for those with flu-like symptoms. A post up relating what COVID19 is and how it is contracted is circulating too. Lastly, the monthly van and bus visits have been cancelled. We are anticipating a possible lockdown too.
Originally published by Dreaming Freedom | Practicing Abolition. Written by Stephen Wilso.
But here’s the thing. We, prisoners, are already quarantined. The only way we will contract the virus is if one of the employees of the PA DOC brings it inside. We have repeatedly stated this to staff. All these precautions they put in place are to keep prisoners from spreading the virus to one another. What are they doing about the only avenue for the virus to get inside? What are they doing to insure their staff don’t infect us? Because if the virus gets inside, we are done. When anyone on the block gets a cold, almost half the block ends up with it. We are crammed together in cells, on blocks and in rooms. Our ventilation system is the worst.
What is more ironic is how here, at SCI-Fayette, prisoners are not given adequate time to clean their living space. Once a week, 32 cells are given 15 minutes to clean their entire cell. The prisoners must share 1 mop, 2 brooms, 2 spray bottles and one toilet brush. 15 minutes! How are we expected to keep clean living spaces with with less that 30 seconds a piece to clean up? It makes me wonder how concerned is the DOC about our health. Moreover, we are prohibited from possessing any cleaning materials or supplies. And now there’s COVID19.
The PA DOC has to put on a show of concern for prisoners’ health. If there were truly concerned, they would allow us to clean ourselves and our living spaces thoroughly. If they were truly concern, they wouldn’t make prisoners choose between hygiene products and a co payment for medical services. A prisoner must work 40 hours to cover the cost of a sick call visit and a prescription for ibuprofen. If they were truly concerned about our health, we wouldn’t be housed next to over 400 acres of coal ash dust. But as usual, when disaster strikes, prisoners are an afterthought.
I hope that people understand how vulnerable prisoners are in situations like this one. We need people to advocate for responsible health services for all prisoners, even when there is no pandemic.
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