Covid 19 WA - From Behind Bars . . .
by Joel Alexander
Beings I have ties to, obviously the inside, and also the outside, I am getting somewhat of an all-around experience of this Corona Virus. However, it still has seemed mostly surreal from inside here, because we have been sheltered from the actual virus much of its' existence.
From the beginning, everything continued here as normal. School, chapel services, visiting, medical appointments, yard time, gym time, and everything else in between did not change. Nobody was sick, and there was no panic or anxiety. And then March 12th came, and it was announced there would be no more visiting until further notice. Then came the wind-down of all educational, volunteer, and chapel programs. Shortly after that came the closure of the weight deck and basketball court, followed by forced social distancing, reducing the number of people who could go to the gym, yard, and chow hall at a time. After that came a reduction of people allowed in the active day room, restricting us to only our day room and cells for the most part. If we were caged 'animals' before, we have now been forced into a shoebox.
All of this has been enough to elevate tension and drive people to the edge, submerged in anxiety and depression. But then that would begin to be cranked up to a whole new level when we began to be yelled at, and treated like shit by some staff, stressing this "social distancing" stuff. How though do we take the need to socially distance serious, when the only source of attracting this illness is through outside staff, but they don't come to work protecting us from their possible illness. Sure, they do a quick questionnaire on their way in and have their temperature taken, but as everyone knows, they can be a carrier and not show symptoms. Should they not be wearing masks and gloves always to shield us from the introduction of this apparently extremely serious illness?
As other inmates began to have cold or flu symptoms, people began to be quarantined, and others isolated, with constant vehicles coming in and out, hauling people to and from, looking like death wagons passing by.
I think the Department of Corrections has done the best they know-how, being handed something nobody could have ever have been trained for. They are also learning quickly as they go, and constantly adapting and changing to meet the needed changes. Could they do better? I'm sure they could, and they will continue to, and if future similar situations were they to happen, they'd be better prepared. This illness has been in our state, all around us, Kirkland and Everett ground zero, yet we just now had our first case in an inmate. That is pretty good I think.
I say all that, to digress to letting you know how horrible it is in here, I personally feel as though I'm merely existing, I feel like my brain is dying from a lack of use, and I feel as though the life is literally being sucked out of me.
Now my view from the inside out, being a part of the work my family does, I see the strain this illness has placed upon the ministry work we do, the ability to raise funding is complicated, not having jobs for the guys we help transition from prison brings new challenges, and just making sure their needs are met, is a strategic chess game like no other.
Also, to see the struggles it has brought upon family and friends on a personal level, it just is sickening and frightening. And to be in a position of helplessness makes it all the more difficult. Garth Brooks had it right when he sang that life was a dance, but this here is more of a dance battle.
I have a couple of friends in the medical field, and to me, they are heroes on a normal day of work, but through this tragedy, where they see people, multiple people, die every day as they work extra-long shifts, clothed in protective gear that is hot and uncomfortable, my hat goes off to them. Our life isn't so bad when we consider what these heroes face every day. My life isn't so bad. Your life isn't so bad. Pray for me as I pray for you, and let's all pray for the people who are caring for the sick and dying. May God protect us all.