‘The World Has Turned a Blind Eye on What’s Happening to Prisoners’

Editor’s Note: The following email, which was shared with Daryl Khan, is from an individual currently incarcerated in Angola. It has been lightly edited for clarity and the author's identity has been withheld for fear of retribution. This story originally appeared on Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.

I’ve seen far too many times how crisis and death unite people, but that unity and common thread that binds all people together is often very short lived, even in a place like Angola. Ranking officials, like Major Bellamy, says “Its us against them,” during roll call. Of course other security, who perhaps take offense to that statement, always share their anger, frustration, and anxiety. But when the Coronavirus hit Angola, especially here in Ash dormitory, things began to change very quickly. The usual communication between security and the offender population changed instantly. 

Many of us knew exactly what was going on, but we had no way to confirm it, that is, until we started getting sick. I thought for sure once they stopped our family from visiting, they were going to shut the prison completely down to avoid the spread of the virus. That didn’t happen and even after it was clearly determined that security had indeed brought the virus in here and infected this entire environment, they are still going home and returning to work. We were told that their temperate is being checked every time they come and go. If they aren’t running fever, they are allowed to work!  

Well, it didn’t take long before we all found out, the hard way, the asymptomatic people are the most contagious before showing any signs of having the virus. 

One of the things I vowed I would never do is tell you of the day to day activities that occur here. I just never saw a need or a reason to burden you with things I could never change about that place. 

However this is different! 

[Related: Desperate Louisiana Prisoners Say Wardens, Staff Not Following Coronavirus Rules]

My life is now in grave danger because of how unprepared the Department of Corrections was and remains to this day in their handling this virus. We are packed in these forms like sardines, so how do we social distance ourselves now that security has infested us? It’s so scary because more than 6 weeks after the outbreak, we are just getting masks, as for the hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies you asked me about, we have never received any of those things. I don’t care what DOC and security is telling the public. We are not, I repeat, not getting any of those things. 

Man, where’s the media when we need them? Where are all those civil rights organizations when we need them? Does anyone care that we are basically fending for ourselves with little to no equipment or experience in infectious disease control, or that our caretakers might as well be M.I.A.?

The other day we had to remove everything out of our dorm. They did this to spray spray bleach on the beds and walls. I thought this was indeed very stupid, given none of us are being tested [for] COVID 19 until it’s far too late. Rather the bleach kills the virus in the surface, nothing is being done to kill the virus we have been infected with. We are literally being allowed to infect one another over and over again. It’s very heartbreaking to see just how worthless prisoners are viewed in the eyes of security and society.

It’s just a lot to deal with and it feels like the world has turned a blind eye on what’s happening to prisoners all over this country.

[Related: Shuttered Angola Facility Could House Teens, Adults in System With COVID-19]