April 26, 2020
An Editorial By Kevin “Rashid” Johnson
Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the U.S., officials have demonstrated incompetence and indifference in response to the growing pandemic.
The situation inside American prisons is even worse where officials are deliberately facilitating the spread of the virus. Conditions here at Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility bear witness to this reality.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
Although a federal declaration of a national emergency was declared on March 13 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, no measures were taken at all here at Pendleton to test, treat or prevent the spread of the virus among prisoners or staff. The prison operated as usual with cramped group movement and gatherings of prisoners the everyday norm.
No masks, hand sanitizer, nor protective instructions were circulated among the prisoners.
As many prisoners complained of the official indifference demonstrated at Pendleton regarding the spread of the virus, and increasing numbers of prisoners complained of possible symptoms of infection, officials began clearing out housing units and the gym as quarantine areas.
However, no information was given to prisoners concerning the existence or level of possible contamination at the prison. No measures were taken to provide testing or even inform prisoners of the availability of tests. In fact, all information came to us via rumor and speculation.
Many prisoners obtained masks through contraband sources because officials refused to distribute any.
Finally, as outside protests were made about their refusal to provide us with masks, on Apr 15 masks were distributed to the entire Pendleton prisoner population.
NO HOT OR NUTRITIOUS MEALS
At a time when meeting prisoners’ nutritional needs is paramount in strengthening our immune systems to protect against COVID-19, officials began distributing meals grossly deficient in nutritional content.
On Apr 15 they began serving 3 daily cold sack meals consisting of nothing but pbj and processed meat sandwiches, one fruit and one vegetable, and a tiny serving of cereal per day.
Basic nutritional standards (see the FDA food pyramid) require 2-4 daily servings of fruit and 3-5 daily servings of vegetables for adequate basic health. One vegetable and one fruit serving per day as provided in these sacks are facially inadequate to meet our nutritional needs.
THE QUIET “RIOT”
On April 17 Pendleton officials attempted to forcibly move a prisoner who had tested positive for COVID-19 into the gym, where some 20 prisoners were quarantined who had NOT tested positive.
This deliberate move that endangered the lives of the quarantined prisoners led to a physical altercation with guards, that has been kept quiet.
A riot team of over 30 guards with dogs and guns was subsequently brought in to move everyone out of the gym, many were put in solitary confinement.
For two days officials disabled the prison phone system at Pendleton, so no one could get the word out about what they’d done in attempting to deliberately expose prisoners to the virus, and the understandable reaction of prisoners in response.
The prison was put and remains on lockdown as a result of that incident.
As is evident from this summation of events related to COVID-19 here at Pendleton, the official response has been blatant indifference, and in several regards they’ve acted knowingly to infect and spread the virus among prisoners, and weaken our resistance to it.
This not only endangers our lives and safety but that of the public as well.
Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!