Prisons Use Covid to Enhance Punishment

Written by Melissa Bee

March 10, 2021

We’ve heard a few stories about how prisons use Covid as an excuse to enhance punishment of their charges. We received this letter from the mother of a person incarcerated at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Washington Department of Corrections. We have reported this to the Office of the Corrections Ombuds, Washington State Representative Roger Goodman, and Washington State Senator Jeannie Darneille.

My son is an inmate at this facility. When they had their first deaths, my son’s pod was completely free of any known Covid patients. There are about 200 inmates in a pod. Gradually there were some positives and they were moved out to a different location .

They gave them a phone schedule for those times allowed out so I was still able to talk to him. As some of the inmates returned to the pod, there started to be some confusion. Soon they were taken back out of the pod and put to work cleaning the areas where those who tested positive were kept. They were still using the same pod as where they returned. Then the numbers started rising, the guards continued as though they, the guards, were not quarantined.

If you have IBS you are in pain the whole wait. If you can’t hold it then you have to go for a shower. My son had been given permission for at least a urinal bottle but was later told he did not qualify. They are now allowed only 25 minutes out of the cell a day and he can only call every other day.

It is completely inhuman to deny them access to water and toilets. These cells were not designed for a completely locked down situation. The facility does not return calls. I have no idea how to help him other than to try to at least maintain contact as much as possible. Thanks for listening.

<Name redacted>’s mom

The Pod he is in is a minimum security pod where bathrooms and showers are located in the day room. In a pod such as his, the doors to the cells are typically not locked, since access to a toilet is not possible otherwise. But Washington State prison officials apparently think that Covid is a good excuse to deny inmates access to showers and toilets, basic necessities that are their responsibility to provide, not when it is convenient for them, but all the time even if it is not convenient for them.

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