Prisoners Petition for COVID Testing and Freedoms in Texas
We here in High Security (cool-bed housing) wrote about 40 or 50 letters to Warden Smith asking to be allowed 30 prisoners in the day room and also to be tested for COVID-19 antibodies. We made several copies and spread them around to have them signed, then we collected them and sent them to Warden J. Smith and he actually wrote back and said that he was assessing our request. So we then filled out close to 20 step 1’s [grievance forms] and passed them around. It is not known how many actually sent them in?
All we are requesting is to be tested for antibodies because we believe that the way COVID moved through this building, there is almost no way we did not all contract the virus and obtain “herd immunity”. That may have been their plan all along at this unit, but they should at least admit it to the families of those who died. Two prisoners died on this wing and 4 went to the hospital in 30 days. This pod only holds 62 prisoners so that’s a substantial amount! Most of us had symptoms but didn’t report them for fear of being locked in our windowless cells longer. My Celly had it and they took him out and never told me. I only recently saw him because he has been in the infirmary for almost 2 months. He said he almost died.
We want to be tested for antibodies so that we know who is still at risk and who has obtained resistance to the virus. I also heard that they do not know the long-term effects of this disease and that it has been noticed that it may negatively impact the vascular system. My leg has been swelling up since September, so I’m having vascular issues and it would be good to have good information so that doctors can better be able to treat us.
After submitting our Step 1’s on October 20th, they did random COVID testing unit-wide on November 10. But they did not do antibody testing which they have been advertising on the radio for “free”. I am going to step 2 [appeal] it until they test me for COVID antibodies. They do Hep C and HIV testing, they need to do COVID antibody testing but they don’t want to because it will show how unprotected we are here. And possibly make them liable in some way? Anyway, we are doing what we can. They have lifted some restrictions, we can go to religious services now and I’m in school.
UPDATE: I just got another step 2 back that ignores my complaints and steals my documents. My step 2 was missing it’s 2 pages of attachments. I know I shouldn’t be so long-winded but I was letting them have it! I’m going to do what you suggest in your Texas Pack and grieve the Investigator for not investigating & destroying documents. This is the second time this happened with a “medical emergency” grievance having to do with staff not following safety protocols with regard to COVID.
They never did conduct proper lockdown/quarantine as they took prisoners out of quarantine on a daily basis and took them to the medical dept on the 2nd floor so that medical staff did not have to wear full PPE and they contaminated the medical department by bringing in COVID-exposed patients. Being in High Security, our housing areas are equipped with medical triage rooms on every housing area but they never did use these rooms. They have sinks, paper towel & soap dispensers but medical would never use these things. They spread the virus by touching multiple prisoners with the same gloves or unwashed hands when they dispensed insulin shots twice a day. I’ve filled grievances for 2 years straight and have never gotten anything but outright lies and denials of fact. It frustrates me to no end. Could you please send me your Texas grievance petitions?
MIM(Prisons) adds: While data so far is promising, medical researchers are not yet confident in saying how resilient resistance to COVID-19 will be among those who have been exposed. So it is unlikely that antibody tests will be used to allow for more congregate activities in the near future. However, vaccines should allow for such group activities. It is important that prisoners receive vaccines immediately, not just to return to normal like everyone else, but because they are at a much higher risk for infection and death from COVID-19 than the general population.
This report reiterates the failures of the current system to be accountable for how it treats the vulnerable. As comrades organize for immediate demands during the pandemic, they must also build independent institutions of the oppressed so that we can ensure humyn needs are met in the future.