It’s April 8th, just past 7 pm, and the United States is now entering into a time that our leaders are likening to Pearl Harbor. Headlines tell us we’ve nearly quintupled the death toll of 911, and it’s only going to get worse as COVID-19 reaches its peak in our nation. Here in the Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington State (“MCC”), the cages are literally rattling as residents grip their cell bars and shake as hard as they can, screaming, “Wi-Fi or die!”
I wasn’t sentenced to die in prison. I’m doing 150 months for the first-degree robbery, and I’m set to be released in early 2023. Nobody in MCC is condemned by any court in this state to death. However, the Department of Corrections staff doesn’t seem to understand or care, because as far as anybody can tell, they’re trying to murder us. That’s why this facility has been on the news every day for the past week, and why nonlethal weapons were just deployed in our yard.
Everybody housed in my living unit has been locked down since an alarm went off hours ago, and we were rushed into our cells before we could learn what was happening outside. But many, are attempting to participate in what they now see unfolding, live, on their TV screens. An aerial view shows hundreds of individuals on their knees around the baseball diamond, with their wrists zip-tied behind their backs. The headline reads: “Riot in the Monroe Correctional Complex over COVID-19.”
MCC is thus far, the only State facility in Washington with confirmed cases amongst the incarcerated, but the media has compared the close living quarters of prison across the country to those of cruise ships with hundreds of infected and multiple dead on board. Visitation and all programing–religious, educational, or otherwise–have been suspended, making staff the only vessel through which the virus could find its way into MCC. For this reason, facemasks were issued to all department staff, with wearing them made optional. Now people are sick, and others are afraid, yet only a handful of staff have taken to wearing masks.
Though we’re not allowed access to the internet, we have tablets, with Wi-Fi capability, which enable us to send emails from our cells. As soon as word spread about the riot in the yard, the Wi-Fi went down. A sergeant informed us that it was cut intentionally, and that’s when the commotion started in my unit. Items are flying out of cells and fluttering off the tiers as I type these words. It’s doubtful the free world will receive an accurate account of what’s happening until our mode of communication is recommenced. Until then, all that will be known is that the Department of Corrections’ website claims that DOC has taken measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 in this facility by implementing social distancing policies.
Not that unmasked guards stand elbow-to-elbow, laughing and joking throughout eight-hour shifts, while residents continue to get sick. Not that a few months ago, MCC’s medical director was fired for malpractice after several patients died under her care. Or that she was hired despite not being board certified. Not that anybody showing symptoms associated with COVID-19 has been moved to segregation, and denied showers and communication with loved ones. Nor that DOC is refusing to conduct daily temperature checks of the entire population, despite this lack of incentive to report symptoms. And I’m guessing that unless you’ve been incarcerated amidst a global pandemic, you probably don’t know what it’s like when the fear of death overrides that of the consequences of protest.
Editor’s Note: Also see: Huffington Post – “Help We Don’t Wanna Die”