Letters from Inside: Covid-19 and the Carceral State #16

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 6/30/20 by Wand Newman, published with his permission and edited minimally for clarity.

Please post this, because this may very well be my last shot to cry out and plead for help.

I woke up this morning to a email from the Ohio prison director Chambers about how well they are doing… Just like trump, patting themselves on their back and acting like everything is fine. When is fact it is the opposite. Chambers talking about how safe they are keeping us. She acts like every prison under her watch does not have this virus in the prison right now and is risking the lives of ALL 48 thousand Ohio inmates each and every day. Because more get infected and die every day and every week behind these fences. We have one of the highest death count from prisons in this country. I know I am not safe here.

Chambers talks about cleaning. We have NO disposable gloves for us inmates. And thus, people are not cleaning more. We are not even ALLOWED the proper amount of chemicals we need to continuously clean. The reduction in these areas is a reduction in overall cleanliness, period. They are plenty of people in here with no money to afford basic hygiene and they only give us a fun size snickers bar of soap, once a week. To wash our hands all day, everyday and to take showers for the entire week. The snickers fun size bar is actually bigger. Then she does not even mention the most important thing that helps prevent people from catching this virus. Social distancing. Staying away from others. Especially staying away from people possibly infected with covid. And everybody knows that we can’t social distance. We are packed in here with NO PLACE TO BE SAFE from covid. NONE!!!! I can not live in my cell without going out. We have to go to chow, to the phone, to this kiosk, to medical (because I have a chronic condition), to the shower, etc. And if I was to stay in my cell all day everyday, I have a celly. And if he leaves out then its like I am going out too because if he was to get covid, I get covid, period. Please, anybody, give me a way I can social distance in here if not the mass release of inmates. A real solution, I swear I will listen. I guarantee that Chambers and DeWine is social distancing. They say one thing about “trying to keep us safe” but in reality by their actions they are doing that herd immunity thing. Putting each and every one of Ohio’s inmates life a risk. And those of us with chronic conditions are extremely vulnerable. I have a chronic condition that places me in the high risk area for dying from covid if I get this virus. Or having my life shortened by how this virus makes more long term health problems.

Ohio prisons started off this pandemic having the largest cluster of covid cases. Ohio now has one of the highest inmate death counts in this country. And the director is telling all us in here how well she doing for us. Mocking us all. Making a mockery of what I am going through. I am not safe!!! My life is in real danger right now because of covid-19. When were we ever safe from this virus in these prisons? I am a lab rat waiting for my turn to get covid. It is not a thing of if I get this virus. Its a matter of when and if I survive. Chambers has to be fine with many people dead on her watch. Our judges and our governor has to be fine with it too because nobody is doing what it takes to save lives. SOCIAL DISTANCING. The masks and washing hands come after that first step. We need to take all the steps. We can’t skip the most important step.

They need to release a massive number of prisoners to keep everyone safe. There is a very deadly cycle going on. Staff comes into these prisons with the virus. It spreads like wild fires in high wind and infects many many more. Those of whom are other staff members. Who in turn take this virus back out in to the their homes to their families and to their communities. They should release 30%- 50% of each prison’s inmate population. This will allow more space for social distancing for inmates still in prison. Making it safer for all of us in here and all of you in these communities with covid cases inside the prison, or jail. More importantly this will save lifes. Life’s both inside and outside of these fences.

I have a chronic condition that if I come in contact with this virus could result in my last days. PLEASE HELP SAVE MY LIFE AND COUNTLESS OTHER’S BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. DEMAND MASS RELEASE!!!!!!!!!!! Please help us all.

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

Words “Decarceration Saves Lives” highlighted atop an orange background of wildflowers & leaves. Hashtag #FreeThemAll above.



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

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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.