By Gretchen Schuldt
As the Department of Corrections continues to delay meaningful action to reduce prison populations in the state, incarcerated people are speaking out about conditions inside.
The charts below show how little changed between the end of February, when the threat posed by the coronavirus became clear, and Friday, April 17. Below each chart is one or more testimonials from people living behind bars. The testimonials have been edited for length, clarity and to protect the writers' identities.
There has been time to act. Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency on March 12; he announced on March 22 that the State Department of Corrections would not accept inmate transfers from counties.
Last week, the DOC announced it would distribute "four (4) disposable ear loop masks through canteen for all persons in our care in the near future."
As far as what's being preached by the D.O.C. spokesperson Mr. (Kevin) Carr about what's being done in these places...to prevent the spreading of COVID 19, at best they are polished statements for the media.
There isn't a day that goes by where guards aren't standing around in bunches as if there isn't a governor's mandate to practice social distancing. Showers are the equivalent of petri dishes because there are always more than 30 people, not counting the four to six guards that are in close proximity to one another. I personally feel like it's shower at your own risk.
The so-called intense cleaning that is alleged to have taken place is non-existent. At best there were a few days of cursory wiping down the handrails on the stairs, and the handles of cell doors. Even that hasn't been done for at least a week. No real cleaning, especially the kind that should be required for this particular level of potential crisis, is taking place. Nor have we been given anything more than normal to sterilize these cells.
The North cell hall is being used as a quarantine station because there are doors in that building rather than bars. However, there are many small holes in the door, and in the barrier next to the door....The entire building has to walk pass those cells to get to the showers rather than having everyone use the other side of the building to get there.
The only building in this institution with truly solid doors is the segregation unit. It would make more sense to clear out one of the wings of that building for quarantine use. That way no one apart from staff would have contact with them....
Now we are being told that rather than continuing to have the medical staff bring medication and/or seeing guys on the unit that they live on, passes will be issued for them to go to that building, and risk coming into unnecessary contact with several people. This is a major concern for me because I have medication orally daily. I will not refuse my medication, but I will refuse to risk infection by going on an issued pass. Those are just a few of the many concerns I, and many others in this place have. SOMEONE NEEDS TO STEP UP AND LOOK INTO THIS INSTITUTION AND IT'S HEALTH CARE FOR US ASAP.
There have been inmates in quarantine in HSU (health services unit) & also seg. w/no property they are not allow to use the phone or even send out their mail. So their family do not know what is going on here. Their rights are being violated. They are being punished for this COVID-19 they might not even have it. They should be allowed their property. I ask the Sgt why these inmates can't be on the north side of seg. so they can have their property. He told me he does not know. The people on the street have rights in their house to watch TV & have their property when they are quarantined, but we are in prison we are not allowed. If they quarantine me they will not be happy with me I will be complaining everyday if I'm in seg or HSU with out my property.
I attempted to protect myself by wearing a mask provided by HSU staff. I was disrespected and aggressively confronted by (a sergeant) and staff ...requesting I throw away the mask or give it to him personally. I then asked him why I have to give up my (P.P.E) without reason and asked why when it's stated on news and recommendations from (Govt.) to wear these masks and practice preventive measures. I am aware that medical staff and guards here a primary source of transmission of (Covid-19) since they are in contact with the general public and have no physical proof or quarantined measures before entering the prison population daily .
We have no way of effectively distancing ourselves from them or anyone else who may be harmful to our health and safety, and we need to know what's being done on this matter. I wish not to be penalized and punished for exercising my right to survive. I was told I could create panic, as if the...individuals who already have it from staff and the threats of further lockdown doesn't create enough panic.
They had a big meeting with all the inmates with cpap (continuous positive airway pressure) machines. They gave us the option of giving up our cpap machines or be moved to the treatment center....They told us that we are considered "high risk" to contract the virus due to our cpap machines so if we wanted to keep our machines we would have to relocate to the treatment center. A lot of inmates gave up their machines to avoid being on the same unit as the coronavirus-quarantined inmates. What I don't understand is if we are "high risk" why would the administration put us on the same floor as the people with coronavirus? This policy just doesn't make any sense. We are being forced to either suffer sleep apnea and possibly die in our sleep just to avoid being near coronavirus-infected inmates or keep our machines and live within feet of infected inmates. What kind of a choice is that? I would think you would house the "high risk" inmates as far away from quarantined inmates as possible...Governor Evers really needs to act before it's too late....I chose to keep my cpap machine so I feel like I'm sitting on death row just waiting for this coronavirus to hit (here). Thank you for your time.
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