Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Amber S. Jackson
Lucky Lifer 

Waiting in Hell: Covid Kept Prisoners in Inferior Local Jails When they Belonged in State Prison

Those unable to be released have been in limbo and forgotten in jailhouse purgatory

 

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The smartest and most violent criminals have been stuck in county jail

I'm sitting in my cell, in a black chair. Curtains closed, fan on low, no lights. It's a hot day. Other than the fan, no noises. We're on 'quarantine'. Which means just another lockdown! We're on day 11. Each day one shower, one phone call, one chance to use the computer. That's your entire day. A total of an hour outside the cell. I think this is the 3rd time since the first last March, that we again have a Covid-19 outbreak. The prison is no better at this now than they were then.

One SMART THING that happened at the beginning of the pandemic Governor Newsom essentially closed the state prisons doors!! Most jails have been totally locked down. And those unable to be released have been in limbo and forgotten in jailhouse PERGATORY! All people in county jails sentenced, waiting their turn to catch the chain to prison were locked out!! Stuck. Now it's been over a year. Prisoners hate everything about county jails! So, we are happy to get on the bus and get to prison! State prison food is better, and the state prison actually takes better care of us. Plus prisons are built for long term care and living. As opposed to county jails, which are just a receiving place.

Governor Newsom's decision to close the prisons was a smart move when it comes to the virus, for sure! However, those prisoners with life sentences and long terms had no chance to get an early release so they were stuck with no end in sight. The only good news when you get sentenced to life or a long term is that at least state prison is made for long term living and comfort. In county jails you can not buy personal clothing, shoes! Your own TV. The pandemic locked the jails down with no way to watch TV for most. State prisoners buy our own TV's and radios. County inmates are dependent on the jail for these things.

If I were a county jail prisoner when the pandemic began, my mental health would have been in the dumpster!! I can only imagine sitting in county jail for an indeterminate period with something so unpredictable happening in the world! Additionally county jails treat their inmates really bad already! The staff have no one to answer to. So, I can imagine the lockdowns and denial of phones, visits, commissary, showers, isolation, violation of rights etc. going on unchecked among the pandemic chaos. At the beginning of the pandemic, jails knew they could get away with anything due to lack of any plan in place for such a thing. So, their prisoners were at the mercy of the powers in charge of their care. I shudder to imagine the extent of what went on in county jails during this year of prisoners stranded.

This also means there was a backup of the most violent and smartest criminals in the county jails because they can't get to prison. That means the regular shop lifters, prostitutes, etc. were more likely to double-cell with a much more dangerous and higher security level of prisoners. Especially on the men's side! I know there is some good stories to be told among those who endured this sentence within a sentence.

When Covid struck was a bad time to be caught in jail

Most people in the public have no idea what these prisoners, what these People went through... When I saw the announcement about the prisons closed to jail transfers, my mind immediately went to the conditions in county jails and knowing how afraid the prisoners must feel. I know it was a free for all for staff to get away with abnormal policies, among other things. And for prisoners themselves, it was everybody for themselves.

 

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