Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Seventy prisoners crowded into an ”open dorm” housing area have no way to practice social distancing. Two nurses still come through twice a day taking temperatures. Our dorm has remained stable, until this past Saturday.

Two dorms, including this one, remained asymptomatic. Then after lunch Saturday the guards came in and ordered everyone to pack, transferring, put your shampoo and soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, one underclothing change, one uniform, in a pillowcase. No canteen, no Bibles, no pens, paper or stamps, no books, no other personal property besides our tablets.. All other property stored until we return from a distant North Florida prison. Because those two dorms were free of the coronavirus, we were being shipped out. Turns out the other prison didn’t want us. Too bad.

Before we got on the transport bus, a prisoner ”fell out,” unconscious. The nurses took him to medical, then called to cancel the transfer, said we were now under medical quarantine. Turned out that an elderly prisoner in our dorm had tested positive, and the results fortuitously came back before we boarded the bus. We returned to our dorm, dodging the transfer bullet.

The second dorm tagged for transfer wasn’t so lucky. They packed into another bus, their pillowcases thin, and sent to another prison in the north. Although asymptomatic, the other prison immediately invoked a 14-day quarantine, confining them to another ”open dorm,” with none of their authorized personal property. They are isolated with virtually nothing. More family complaints are ensuing, for what good it will do.

I mentioned a few days ago that we were getting bag lunches of mostly peanut butter sandwiches three times a day. It seems that was a statewide practice, and prisoners’ families and friends protested to other officials, claiming that all that dry peanut butter created widespread constipation.

The complaints worked. For several days, peanut butter was off the menu, replaced by turkey bologna and cheese sandwiches, and hot evening meals of mystery meat patties, rice and carrots. Today, at lunch, the disparaged peanut butter sandwiches returned.

Monday, Tomoka’s first fatality was recorded. No info on who it was or cause of death. Latest TV news reported 18 prisoners and 4 staff here had tested positive. Other prisons have positive tests, too. So far, the prisoners here have been cooperative and calm, grateful for the professionalism of the security staff and medical personnel, risking their own health to help us.

We watch the TV news, make phone calls and send emails to our loved ones. Not much reading material available since they closed the library and education. I get a very thin ”USA Today” newspaper weekdays, which is eagerly awaited by some of my fellow prisoners. Libby has sent me books from a bookstore, which are much appreciated. This evening Libby and I are scheduled for a ”video visitation” on the Jpay kiosk. Wish us luck.

I am well, and my family is well, thank God. Hopefully this pandemic with run its course soon, and we will return to some semblance of normalcy.

All the best…


Tomoka C. I.

Daytona Beach, FL