01 April, 2020

New Prison Rules as Precautions Against the COVID-19 Pandemic

It took this coronavirus to break my three-and-a-half-year news blackout. I felt its terrible relevance quite powerfully after a friend, a few weeks ago, sent me hard numbers for its predicted impact. With one look, I saw: everyone I know would be affected by this pandemic, one way or another. Now here we are, with most Americans anxiously sheltering in place, and I'm back to following the media coverage of current events. Like a fractal design, the crisis unfolds and unfolds and unfolds — every day, a little more reveals itself, seemingly without end.

The latest news at ERDCC came today. At this month's "Offender Council" meeting, one representative posed the question of whether a quarantine lockdown might take place. It might, came the answer. I can just imagine the squirming that resulted.

Meanwhile, however, we prisoners are not to play card games or have more than two people sitting together at any table in the housing unit. Cell visiting — hanging out in someone else's place — isn't allowed anymore, either. Despite the library's "one table, one man" rule, people still line up to enter like they line up for meals: close enough to smell if the guys behind and in front of them recently brushed their teeth.

I wonder what they're expected to really accomplish. The prison's administration seems to be saying, This, but not that. That, but not this. It's so much like the states of the Union all putting different policies in place, at different times, without any coordination. These efforts seem so foolhardy and illogical, like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

If quarantine procedures do come to ERDCC, the kitchen will serve brown-bag meals of bologna sandwiches for the duration. For me, this was all it took. I finally caved, breaking into my emergency fund for last-minute canteen-list additions. By the time you read this, I'll probably be picking up my order for instant ramen, refried beans, canned chicken and fish, beef jerky, crackers.... If only this splurge felt like an indulgence! Instead, it feels like an obligation.

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Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.