Most of you don’t know me.  I am not a writer, nor do I claim to be.  I’ll attempt to warn you about my personality, so you’ll better understand my writing style.  I try to keep everything informative, while splashing it with humor. A lot of what I write is opinion or observation and should not be taken too seriously.  I’m only trying to get information to the masses, the way I see it.  Take this report with a grain of salt, and if you don’t like it, print it off and use it as toilet paper.  I hear there’s a shortage outside;-)

I’m sure everyone has heard enough news from the mainstream media, about the coronavirus, to consider themselves a microbiologist. I’m also certain that because of “social-distancing” and “quarantining” yourselves with your families for days at a time, some have entertained the idea of fratricide. Before you strangle your kids with the gaming system cords, they have strung across the floor, or smother your mother-in-law with a pillow because of her snoring, remember this; someone always has it worse and is dealing with it the best they can WITHOUT resorting to violence. 

If you’re reading this there is a good chance you have a loved one in the prison system.  Anyone behind bars during this troubling pandemic, can testify to the increased restrictions affecting our limited movement around the compound. I can only discuss what’s happening in my own, low security, federal prison, but I’m sure situations are similar throughout the US.  

When the BOP started issuing statements with concerns about Covid-19, most inmates, like most Americans, didn’t take it seriously. Most assumed it was another attempt of the media to raise ratings. After numerous years of over-inflating every semi-newsworthy story trying to shift attention from one political fiasco to another, who could blame us? When you “cry wolf” as often as networks do, it’s hard to believe them… even if your leg is already in the wolf’s jaws. When the dangers of the virus became more apparent, we all started to act in a rushed panic, including the BOP. 

The first step taken was to cancel all visits.  A lot of inmates look forward to, and depend on, the visits of family members and loved ones. Visits help us to cope with the troubles of being in prison. Taking them away is a huge blow to some inmate’s mental stability, not to mention the loss of one of the few joys that come while being locked up. 

Next, all compound movements became “restricted.”  Meaning that only one housing unit was allowed on the compound at a time. It could take as long as 3.5 hours to serve a meal because of these movement restrictions. Each housing unit also received only one hour of outdoor recreation a day.  All jobs were limited and very few inmates were allowed to work.   

A few days after all these new rules were put into place, the big wigs of the BOP decided each compound needed a “quarantine unit.” I, and the rest of my housing unit, was told during the 4 P.M. count, that our building was chosen. We would be moving the next morning. We were divided up and forced into two separate housing units. Most of us ended up in rooms with people we didn’t know. We lost our stability and were kicked our of our comfort zones. Not to mention the fact that the two remaining units are now filled to capacity. Social distancing is impossible under these conditions. If one person in our unit is infected with any contagious disease, its only a matter of time before we all have it, no matter what precautions are taken.  

As if all that forced consolidation wasn’t bad enough, all educational classes were canceled. Religious gatherings followed, along with the library being closed. There are very few distractions in prison to help us pass the time and most were being taken from us because of the fear of Covid-19. 

After the US government tightened the noose on everyone’s liberties, even more, the Bureau of Prisons followed suit. All inmate movement was forbidden, and the compound was put on full lockdown. Everyone is now forced to stay in the housing units 24-7, unless it is deemed an emergency. There isn’t any recreation at all.  The only time we leave the housing unit is to retrieve our food from the chow hall. Every meal is now served in either a Styrofoam tray or a brown bag and is brought back to the unit. Dinner is always a bologna and cheese, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which has gotten old extremely fast. Most jobs have been terminated, except for a few skeleton crews for food service, laundry, and emergency facilities workers. 

I understand that the BOP, and most of the other prisons in the States, are trying to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus to their inmates, but some of their methods seem to make little sense. Forcing us into larger groups and not allowing us time outside seems like a recipe for disaster. Especially since the correctional officers come and go from the compound, to the outside world, beyond the fences, and then back to our housing units, on a daily basis. 

I guess the bottom line is this. Inmates are people and we are suffering too because of this pandemic. Even more than usual for someone in our situation. There are 350 souls residing the housing unit I am currently living in. Men from all walks of life with different backgrounds, race, religion, politics, sexual orientation, and social status. We were all corralled into a housing unit, that was filled to capacity, and forced to live together. The little bit of freedom we did enjoy was taken from us and the ways to pass the time and entertain ourselves has been severely limited. Not to mention, we were all convicted of federal crimes, so it’s not exactly a den of Boy Scouts in here. Yet, we still manage to get along.  There have been no physical altercations, we continue to be courteous to each other and TRY to make social distancing work. Even if the BOP’s new rules and regulations make it extremely difficult. I’m not sure how long this will last, until the dam bursts, but for now its holding. 

So, if 350 “hardened criminals” can be crammed into a box and NOT murder each other, you should be able to handle some misbehaving children or an obnoxious in-law, without being resentful or misplacing your aggression. Let’s take care of each other and get through this together. Let’s also remember the loved one’s behind bars. Our time is comparatively more difficult, and we’re dealing with it the best we can.

Heath H.


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