Letters from Inside: Covid-19 and the Carceral State #4
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 5/3/2020 by Wand Newman, published with his permission and edited minimally for clarity.
First I want to thank you for taking the time out to writing me (us) and are trying to help. I don’t mind if you use my name or quotes to get us the proper help we need in here. I feel like the conditions that we are forced to live with have been problematic for a long time. Only now I think this Covid situation is bringing attention to some these issues. Just as [a friend] believes, I too believe that the Justice system as a whole is flawed because they target poor whites and minorities to profit off of slave labor.
However, strickly for what’s going on with covid-19, I feel like I am sitting in a test clinic waiting to get it. And I have to hope and pray that I make it out alive because I am high risk because of my underlying condition. An example of an analogy of what the ODRC [Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction] are doing, is like using a condom with holes poked throughout and thinking you are protecting yourself or someone else. We can not social distance one bit as you already know. The governor has talked about how ever many hundreds he has released, but many more need to be released from each and every prison and jail. Each inmate should have single cells right now. I can try to social distance by not going anywhere but to the shower and back to my cell and nowhere else. But if my celly goes out then its like I am doing nothing. Also we shouldn’t be forced to the “hole” if we get sick. They should have complete blocks emptied and strickly for quarantine. Quarantined without being punished by giving us our radios, tv, phone privileges, etc. We need at least the total number he released because of Covid, released just from here before we become like Marion prison. What the governor is doing with releases is as if when NY was the epicenter and Trump sends PPEs to OK and saying he is helping. This prison is still very crowded so its like no help. Each prison should release a certain amount of inmates to make each prison safer. Most of us have outdates, not life sentences. If I am thought to kill myself they protect me against myself. They are right now threatening me with death. So they should still protect me and The courts have rules in place for home confinement with ankle monitors. I don’t understand why they can’t or won’t expand these rules to help clear out these prisons and jails.
These C/Os find different reasons to pick at us all the while they NEVER follow their own rules. No C/Os are social distancing and most of them don’t wear their masks properly. Or continually pull the mask down off their mouths. This prison’s average age is 50. So it is also a nursing home. They fail to realize or just don’t care that if and when covid gets in here, it will come in through one of them and people will die. We are one of only a few prisons in Ohio without Covid right now, but I think we are only lucky right now. Sooner or later our luck will run short. Especially when Ohio is reopening and the spread will increase again.
Also they have also took all the disposable gloves for inmates to use. Take your lotion’s bottle cap. We can only get 3cap fulls of cleaning supplies a day to clean with. This prison even waters down the cleaning supplies before they give them to us for use. We already live in a bathroom and simply flushing the toilet spreads bacteria all over our cells. And the vents that blow out blacken dust all over our cell, we need to be able to clean properly. Covid is not the only diseases that we are battling with and now we should be cleaning more. They are restricting us to force individuals to clean our living areas less.
Also I was told that you are trying to get Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor [Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court] to keep her promises. I read an article about her starting and/or being part of a task force on conviction integrity and post conviction review. The article said that she was concerned about the injustice of innocent people in prison and how misidentification leads to many false arrests. I have always proclaimed my innocence and from the very beginning I was misidentified. In a very quick summary, The victim said that the robber was 5'9" with freckles. I am 6'4" and have no freckles. Also the police found physical evidence that was dropped by the robber, at the crime scene. They hid this information from me before trial. With help of the Innocence Project out of U.C. [University of Cincinnati] I found this evidence was destroyed or lost. The Innocence Project dropped my case saying, since they can no longer get the evidence and test it for my DNA, they can no longer help, but that I had a Brady claim. I sent my case in detail to this task force and they told me that they “will not be reviewing specific cases.” So the help I need is also for someone to help an innocent man prove himself innocent.
I hope that I clearly expressed myself, Sometimes I ramble on or say things that are not very clear, so if there is anything specifically, Anything at all, that you want to ask, please do. Again thank you for your letter and your help in this fight. I truly believe that until the public is outraged enough to fight for us, the people in power won’t care how we live inside these walls. They will never change until forced to. On top of them making money from for profit prisons, they believe that we are less than human because we are felons. At the very least they view us as slaves, as the constitution says we are, and will continue to treat us as such.
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