Amanda* arrived at Walden House on April 7th and will be there for 90 days. She arrived at SRJ March 25th or 26th and was released on April 3rd. After she was picked up, she was put in the holding cell, where luckily there were only 3 or 4 other women at the time (although the holding cell was filthy). She was then sent to HU24, where she would spend the remainder of her time at SRJ.
At the time she was booked, staff was taking the temperatures of everyone who was admitted to ensure no one with unusually high temperatures were going into housing units, but Amanda expressed concern that SRJ was not quarantining folks who had just been picked up. She believes there was plenty of room at the time to quarantine folks after their initial booking and then have them enter the housing units later on to limit contamination from the outside. Now that she is at Walden, for example, they are requiring her to quarantine for two weeks before she associates with others in the house.
The entire time Amanda was in HU24, she was in a cell that was almost completely full (nearly 16 women at all times), sharing the same toilet, shower, and sleeping in bunk beds. She says it was impossible to stay 6 feet away from people. However, she states that the middle 2 cells (there are 3 cells on the top and 3 cells on the bottom) were completely empty during this entire time. She believes these cells could have easily been used to space inmates out more. pod time did not change either while she was there – everyone still went out for pod time together and still ate meals together.
Amanda is HIV positive, and thus was on edge the entire time at SRJ – fearing she would contract COVID-19 due to SRJ’s protocol. When she arrived at HU24, it was already under yellow tagged quarantine. At one point, in her cell, she notes that a woman close to her was coughing hysterically, fueling Amanda’s concerns. When she went to court, staff combined hers and other units. Another inmate, Candace*, who had previously been taken out of HU24 to be isolated (due to her medical symptoms and high fever), was put back in with the rest of Amanda’s group that was going to court. When SRJ staff realized this mistake of mixing Candace with the rest of the inmates going to court, staff shouted for everyone to put their masks on, since Candace was not technically supposed to be in the group with them. Luckily, the Dublin court holding cell was clean, Amanda says, but there were 14-15 other people in that cell – it was impossible to social distance.
Amanda is HIV positive, and thus was on edge the entire time at SRJ – fearing she would contract COVID-19 due to SRJ’s protocol. When she arrived at HU24, it was already under yellow tagged quarantine. At one point, in her cell, she notes that a woman close to her was coughing hysterically, fueling Amanda’s concerns. When she went to court, staff combined hers and other units. Another inmate, Candace*, who had previously been taken out of HU24 to be isolated (due to her medical symptoms and high fever), was put back in with the rest of Amanda’s group that was going to court.
During Amanda’s nearly two weeks at SRJ, she only saw staff give out cleaning supplies once. They gave inmates a mop, a broom, and some disinfectant solution. All of the cleaning solutions seemed watered down. After being at SRJ about a week, staff came around once to squirt bleach in the bathroom area and sanitize the phone. This was the first time the phone had been sanitized at all despite its frequent use. Inmates in Amanda’s cell even tried to use their own shampoo to clean the cell.
On March 28th, HU24 received masks for the first time (other inmates told Amanda they hadn’t received any before then). They gave more masks out a couple times after that. She did not receive gloves once. A few days before she left SRJ, staff started giving out a bar of disinfectant soap to every inmate along with 2 or 3 hand wipes. They were going to start doing this every other day, it seemed. There was at one point a nurse who came into the unit who was distributing items, but she was not wearing a mask or gloves. This was right after inmates heard that a nurse in SRJ had tested positive for COVID-19, so folks were concerned. When inmates asked her to use protective equipment, she told them to “mind their own fucking business”.
For the most part, deputies were wearing masks and gloves, but she saw them take them off a few times. Amanda remembers a strange situation during her time at SRJ where Candace, the same woman with the high fever who had been mistakenly put into the large court group, told Amanda about a group of people who looked like inspectors, who were given a tour of SRJ. Candace only caught a glimpse of this because she was isolated at the time. Amanda never saw these inspectors, because her and Candace both believe SRJ staff only showed the inspectors the isolation areas and parts of the jail that were no longer highly populated – they failed to take the inspectors through 24 East for example, where Amanda’s cell had nearly 16 women crammed together. Amanda still speaks with some of the women incarcerated at SRJ over the phone. One of the federal prisoners told Amanda recently over the phone that there’s plenty of staff not wearing masks still, and they still don’t quarantine new inmates after picking them up.
*Name has been changed.