Having spent 23 years (of my 39 total in prison) in the small community of San Quentin, the people with whom I did this time—and many were there the entire period—are of course a source of concern for me here and now.
I was at San Quentin during outbreaks of norovirus and chicken pox. Seeing what it was like to go through them, it was not difficult to predict the inevitable when something came along which was spread so much easier. I heard Juan Haines talking on Democracy Now about this as not a question of “if” this would happen, but “when.”
The idea of treatment and containment of this virus is not a simple matter. There are those who have no trust at all in what medical will do. I have known many individuals who served decades without seeing a doctor. After a botched colonoscopy on myself—the effects of which cause me pain to this day—many refused to undergo the same procedure, and I cannot blame them. Even after the ruling back in 2008 that the California prison medical was grossly inadequate, nothing really changed. Maybe improvements have come about in the three years since I paroled, but there is a culture of CYA (Cover Your Ass) which consumes all sorts of time and effort… That isn’t to say there are no caring and concerned staff; they are there. But they must maneuver the landmines of manipulations of the incarcerated, and staff who declare them “Inmate Lovers.”
And so the broken prison medical system ran head-on into the cataclysmic events which are defining so much of everyone’s lives. I’d like to think that out of this crisis there will be more that is good rather than bad for our society. I am not deluded that utopia is on the horizon, or for that matter Armageddon. I only hope that many who are suffering will recover, including two San Quentin sergeants who I knew as caring and compassionate.
Stay as safe as you possibly can, wherever you are.