Letters from Inside: Covid-19 and the Carceral State #14

Voices From Inside OH
4 min readJun 6, 2020

This is part of our series Letters from Inside: COVID-19 and the Carceral State, centered on amplifying the voices of incarcerated people in Ohio. Below is a transcript of an electronic letter sent to us on 5/4/2020 by Clarence, published with his permission and edited minimally for clarity.

I am Clarence and I was asked by a friend if I wanted to add my input on this COVID-19 pandemic that we are currently dealing with. First of all, I really appreciate your incredible efforts to help, aid, and assist the Ohio prisoners during this unprecedented crisis we’ve been experiencing for the past 2 months.

In the beginning with this coronavirus it was hopeless as far as our (prisoners) position on the totem pole for receiving critical health care. The administration here was keeping us in the dark about what’s to come. As we(prisoners) watched the “Breaking News” in the media we got a real sense of the situation we are faced with in a congregate setting.

Fast forward to this very day we (prisoners) still have yet to be tested here @ A.O.C.I [Allen-Oakwood Correctional Institution]; Where I must also mention that the Warden Mr. Haviland says that there are no cases of the COVID-19 @ A.O.C.I. Which could change at any give moment because how the virus thrives in close proximity and our contact with the outside world; Corrections officers, education faculty, maintenance workers, nurses, Aramark(Food service) workers…etc.

Also, there are 3,964 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 in all but 4 prisons in the state and they have only tested the entire inmate population of (two) prisons; Marion Corr.Inst. & Pickaway Corr. Inst. out of (28) prisons around the state. I am not aware of the number of prisoners who were victims of COVID-19 but I’ll always remained concerned.

We(prisoners) know that we will not be afforded the ventilators that free society are in desperate need of; And if I should show symptoms of the coronavirus where would they send me? More than likely to a prison medical facility where the possibility of death could be imminent due to the state medical facility’s unpreparedness. For example; Franklin Medical Center for inmates.

Our social distancing here would be laughable if the current circumstances weren’t so serious in a prison housing unit of about 140 prisoners. How can you social distance in this setting? The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction has as of late put some type of safety measures in place to try and safeguard everyone.

Will it work out in the long run is the big question that concerns everybody; Including corrections officers. We (prisoners) are not all sentenced to death without the possibility of parole. So my question is why does the Ohio Governor Mike DeWine feel as though releasing less than 1000 inmates from prison will save lives and ease the overcrowding of 49,000 inmates in state prisons?

The conditions here are not designed to accommodate the capacity of prisoners in all of the correctional facilities in Ohio; Hence the gross overdrawing problem we’re enduring @ this moment and have been for quite some time. I’ve been incarcerated for the last 25 and a half yrs. serving a 20-life sentence with parole possibility. I have to say that everyone of the 7 prisons that I’ve been housed in over two decades have had overcrowding issues.

What Ohioans need is a greater push for prison reform. The COVID-19 crisis is only a consequence of what the “powers that be” expect to happen inside of overcrowded prisons….(mass casualties). The O.D.R.C. final plan for prisons are basic; Lockem’ down and put a bandage over the coronavirus bullet wound and hope for the best. Sad but true. You had asked me do I feel safe? No, I do not.

What can you do to help? Well the stark reality is that we(prisoners) need a voice to appeal to the Governor, Lt. Governor and the Director of Prisons Ms. Annette Smith-Chambers to use their best reasoning for a more humane solution to an ever escalating problem in regards to prison reform in Ohio. With that being said, I would like to say thank you for time and much needed efforts. I pray that you are successful in your future endeavors in saving lives during this COVID-19 pandemic.

This letter was published by members of the Community Freedom Coalition, a central Ohio based group working to end all forms of state-sanctioned violence and build a world without police or prisons. Follow our work on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. #FreeThemAll

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Voices From Inside OH

Voices From Inside OH supports and shares stories from incarcerated people across Ohio, in collaboration with Central Ohio Freedom Fund.