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To Be Incarcerated Right Now

By LaVon Johnson

PROMPT — During COVID-19 ...

When I initially started hearing the news about COVID 19 and its effects on or within America I thought, how does this truly affect me? Given that I am currently incarcerated I should not have anything to worry about.

Within this closed-off society or community, we don’t mingle with those individuals who may be affected. When the numbers began to rise I started to see its true nature and I couldn't help but empathize with the impact that was occurring in places like Washington State or New York. I began to ask how does this virus affect those that I care about? How can it now affect me and this community? Fear grabbed me by the collar for reality set in.

There is no real medical response here for everyday things we deal with. How are they going to respond to this? There are no emergency rooms, ventilators, or even doctors here to help us if one or more of us becomes infected. There is no real way to properly practice social distancing. The community phones are two feet apart with about a 2-inch divider between them. The community showers in a microwave. How do we properly sanitize these areas in between collective use? How do we get 1500 to properly social distance in such a confined space when sharing a cell that was never meant to house two people? How do we quarantine ourselves from the very people who can pass it to us?

By locking us in our cells we increase the amount of contact as well as moments of contact with possible hosts, whom they refuse to do a temperature check on when coming to the door to work. They will be forced to make our meals, deliver our mail, do additional rounds for medical services, pill runs, supply rounds. And once any of us gets it, what will be the proper response? After we've already affected so many others?

These thoughts are running through all of our minds. And then to be released to your family to in turn possibly infect them in one’s community. To be incarcerated right now is to live in fear. For we are the forgotten, by the government, society and often by our own families. We are a class of people that most don’t want to accept.

Well today, with these words I pray somebody remembers, not just that we exist but how our experience truly affects our society as a whole.


LaVon Johnson wrote this beautiful piece while incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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