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Our inmate population is currently experiencing our second wave of COVID-19 infections, with about 41 positive and/or inconclusive cases. Except for two who had already been isolated, no other inmates have shown symptoms. Those of us who received negative test results were tested three times before we were let out of quarantine, only to be told we could not return to normal life by working outside the gate, mingling with other parts of the unit, and so on.

When one corrections officer tried to get overtime in a different part of the prison and was denied, the officers complained that if they couldn’t work in different parts of the prison, then inmates should not be allowed to either. Because of these complaints, inmates are currently not allowed to work outside the gate.

Inmates who tested positive or inconclusive for COVID-19 were told they would be tested again, but never were despite their repeated requests. Those with false positive or inconclusive tests should have been tested again but were not.

For some unknown reason, staff self-test and use a different test than the one administered to inmates. Staff claim that they have had zero positive cases. To make matters worse, while they await their results, they continue to work despite not knowing if they are positive. They initially took their tests after we took two of ours, but they still came to work, not knowing if they were positive. In addition, numerous staff from other prisons have worked here while they were on quarantine.

Prison should be a place where inmate safety, health, and well-being take precedence. Unfortunately, it is the opinions, concerns, salary, and safety of staff that our facility’s operators fear for and fight for most.

This is a crazy time of uncertainty for everyone. We, the inmates, who reside here against our will, cooperate under threat of infraction and fear of reprisal. I and a number of my fellow inmates have written letters describing these conditions only to have them rejected only because the letters describe these conditions or mention certain officers.

When any officers or staff are named, the letters are forwarded to that staff member, and the inmate is usually retaliated against even if nothing derogatory or of a safety or security standpoint is mentioned. We never receive the answers we seek. During COVID-19 we are all supposed to come together and find a way to become stronger together. But this mismanagement has made us lose trust and hope in the ones who we are supposed to be able to confide in.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Dylan Downey is a writer incarcerated in Washington.