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  • Dr. Britany Gatewood

From the Inside: MDOC COVID-19 Response

Although we see the statistics and hear reports about what is occurring in the DOC during this global pandemic, we need to hear the voices of those inside. Below is the unaltered letters which have been sent to me from inside the MDOC.

Image: Michigan Radio

October 20th

Oh, we have an outbreak here. The staff got sick, gave it to us now we are being quarantined and shipped out to different facilities, for holding. They just tested us Saturday after the staff was sick the Tuesday before and a few more were sick weeks before that. Now we have almost 2 dozen cases. We get yelled at for social distancing, but they sill gather together and take their masks off while sitting around.

Just to let you know it certain staff here are purposely giving us this stuff to get themselves hazard pay, and for vengeance. They some how feel it is their job to excessively punish us for being in prison. I think it comes form a lot of exposure to 'Criminalism.' It's like a disease that effects everyone inside. The sick get worse and the help get infected. It's only a strong few that can avoid the exposure and survive.

October 23rd

Dealing with this covid stuff. The new administration has verified that this facility has multiple cases and instead of keeping the outdoors open, they locked us down, have us congregate in the dayroom (rec rooms) without limiting the amount of people, and did not use any air sanitizer to keep the virus from spreading. As of now the staff are wearing COVID gear to keep from getting contaminated but the staff was the one that brought it here. Again, they were not getting hazard pay because there was no infections, now there are. Conspiracy for more pay at the expense of the inmates.

November 1st

I think they might have taken me down with the sickness. I'l find out Wednesday. Don't say nothing until I let you know for sure. Don't want any panic jumping off. So far I'm good, I think it's just me allergies going bananas. For some odd reason, after this outbreak here, they have run out of bleach, and when I got tested the tester lady didn't change her gloves. I wrote her up and the health care responded as if I didn't see her not change her gloves, then gave an excuse that changing gloves is problematic, because of sweaty hands. The Healthcare manager who was not present while we were getting swabbed also said, "she didn't see anything" Yeah, more BS politics to protect each other, but if I get sick I will be pursuing to sue or get her medical license revoked. I have been doing everything to stay virus free, so after the first two rounds of testing, and i came back clear, there is no other way I could have caught it.

November 2nd

They took me down with the COVID! No smell and no taste with major headaches. I should be moving to the triage unit Tuesday or Wednesday. A lot of people are down with the runs and fever. I should be able to shake it off, no problem, but worst case scenario, I'll have someone e-mail you in case things get worse. I don't need anything but some long-distance love. Remember, don't worry mom or anyone else, I'll be okay, they have enough stress right now.

November 7th

These people are doing the most stupid things. They keep the sick people from going outside and let the well people out for air and sunshine. They won't separate us, but herd everyone together, then move the sick to different units, eventually infecting everyone. I'm good just minor stuff, I'll give you all the details later, there is a long line. Medical sucks here.

November 10th

At first the administration were doing an excellent job protecting the population and staff. masks were given, social distancing was enforced (softly) and temperatures were taken daily. With the new administration, (D.W Yokom/LT Nichols/ Capt. Sutton) have established a system to move COVID positive patients to different units around the facility. It was a terrible plan! Move people were sick than not, and by moving people around allowed the spread of covid more intensely. The infected would sit in the hallways while others who were not constantly had contact with them. After the infected were moved, they were placed together in the school building where an open cube setting was arranged until they were moved again to a secure unit. The un-infeted were then tested a week later to see if they were negative. When most of them were positive, they went threw the same process. Therefore, the majority of the population is now infected, and the ones who are not are stuck in units where infected people are being moved to because they are running out of room. These who are infected are not getting any sunlight for yard; infected, they receive only 30 mins every other day at night for yard. This violates all of the standards for rec time allotted for prisoners. Without a release there has been fights, depression, arguments with staff, and the staff seem cooped up because they cannot get away from the inmates. A resolve for this seems to be that the staff in charge wants to move the infected to another facility, without their property (which is contaminated-by their estimate) and leave an infected person without their belongings for a month or more. This is cruel and unusual punishment. The entire plan implemented made no-sense, and endangers more people than helps. This new administration had no plan for the covid infection once it reached this facility. a total failure! Now inmates like me are having our mail censored, and not allowed out because we are exposing the failed attempt to protect us.

November 13th

Today the administration is moving people that are symptom free back to another unit. Although everyone in the unit is covid free, the people moving there have had covid and still have small symptoms, and have not been retested. We still are not allowed outside during the day time in order to receive sunlight or fresh air which the CDC recommends. We are not receiving another round of vitamins after one week of Vitamin b1, C, B2 and zinc. The unit Co are getting aggravated because inmates are not getting a fair shake with exercise and are becoming aggressive, depressed, and are scared because we are getting no answers or help from the medical staff for dehydration or body aches. The most they do is give us aspirin. This is a failing all around the horn, and inmates are hoping a vaccine will be given to us because we are considered improvised and helpless, because we cannot separate from each other, and we are getting sick at an alarming rate. MDOC is handling this with the concept of group (herd) immunity and don't care who really dies or lives.

November 16th

According to the MDOC more than 1006 outbreaks have happen in the last week. They have suspended each facility's movement from the chow hall, and school buildings; which we have done for months. Yet, by moving us around we have become a super-spreader of covid. The medical staff has suggested that these moves from unit to unit should stop, but the MDOC hierarchy doesn't care about the medical staff's opinion, now CDC's. Over 75 people have died, including one person here that I knew named Mr. Workman. He was elderly, about 65 or so and was serving life, but should have been released because of aging out of criminal act, and had served over 25 years. If this Governor wants to help the people of Michigan and the tax payers, she should cap natural life to 30 years or 30-50 years in case the offense was particularly heinous. Since the state is on lockdown, crime has reduced and released prisoners with trades, education and those who are over 65 should receive special consideration. This is not about political sides (Demo/Reps), it is about humanity and what is best for people. Science says that the Department of corrections is in desperate need of an overhaul for reeducating people to live a correct life. I believe that the people getting released could be of help in forming policies and using their prison experience to help counsel. That is if the government wants to do right by the people.

COVID is killing many people, causing depression, anxiety, and spreading fear that resonates from inmate to staff and vice-versa. Do the right thing and let people go that have done long terms. releasing those inmates that have only served a few months or few years, have not, in my opinion, learned the value of life. I would love to help reform the department as well as a few of my Calvin University brothers, I hope she does the right thing and lets us contribute. we have a lot to offer.

November 21st

So far as this facility four people have died. Three of the men who have passed I knew well. All of the men were over 60 yrs old, black, and were serving life sentences. Mr . Workman, Smitty D, and Leroy, were good guys who were seeking commutations of their sentences. They had served over 30 years and would not have been a societal problem if released. It's a shame that the governor would not take it upon herself to cap life sentences to 30 years or 30-50 depending on the severity of the crime and a psych evaluation. The humanity of the world is lessening when it comes to black men and crime. It seem that if you are black, with a murder you get less chances than a white person who has murdered or raped children and had received a life sentence. What more must a person do to receive a chance? We educate ourselves, do good by the facility by stopping fights and keeping the younger generation from acting out by being father figures to them. And the facility staff respect us and vote for us to get a chance to come home to our families. The P.R. aspect the governor is looking for comes by saying what everyone else is scared to say. people make bad choices, but people are redeemable. when we look past the ability to redeem, then we are no better than those nations that are run by dictators, and those who are run by terrorists. Covid has our nation calling for help, pleading for sacrifice from health care staff, but no one hears the pleas of the incarcerated. Rehabilitation and reform should be part of the human heart. To see those who have had a terrible life and made terrible decisions are in need of help, mentally emotionally and financially. No one wants to care about the incarcerated until their loved ones go through this rigged system, then they cry foul! Let us go! Give us a chance, even if the underlying guideline set for our release contain life w/o parole for committing another felony. Just give us a chance. I know I would never come back to prison, I have too much to give to the world and too much education to help me stay free.

December 3rd

Today the Governor made an announcement that the was doing 40,000 tests for covid per-week..That's a lie! When we find but that we are positive then we are moved to a unit where everyone is infected then we are not tested after. Only those who are not positive are tested and as you know the numbers for catching covid increase every week. Therefore, only half of the population gets tested, then half of that and so on. Why not just say the truth about things instead of trying to hold face on being politically correct?

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