There are just over 800 prisoners at the Twin Rivers Unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex, a medium custody institution located in a semi-rural area northeast of Seattle, Washington. The prison has four living units: A, B, C, and D, and each unit has three “wings” (A, B, and C) all with a lower and an upper tier.
On the morning of Friday January 21st, 2022, a man named Chandler M. was locked into his cell (on “quarantine status”) at TRU/B-Unit C-Wing (“C-Wing”) in order to undergo a symptoms test out of concern that he might have contracted c/vid.
Also on Friday January 21st, 2022, the Secretary of DOC Cheryl Strange put out a letter to families of the incarcerated that said, in part, “I know some of you have concerns about food and water getting to your loved ones at regularly scheduled times. In some cases, and some locations, meals are taking much longer to serve. Everyone in the facility is being given the opportunity to eat every meal.” Mr. M. had no knowledge of this promise from Secretary Strange — but it would be one that DOC fulfilled for him.
On Monday January 24th, 2022, while helping pass out commissary to the people in C-Wing, I took two very small bags to Mr. M’s cell. I would later discover that they contained Tylenol and other OTC products — no food items like chips, meat, rice, ramen noodles, or coffee. Just medications.
As I waited for the officer in the control booth to press the button that would unlock Mr. M’s door, I found out that his door lock was broken and could only be opened manually with a key. So I told him to slide his key under the door (yes, we have keys to our cells — like I said: this is medium custody) so I could unlock it for him. For some reason he balked and since I couldn’t understand him, I became impatient and moved on to give commissary to the next person on quarantine.
I was done in just a few minutes, and decided to go back and speak with Mr. M. Because he is very awkward socially I try and make extra efforts to connect with him — and it was a good thing that I did.
Mr. M. had not been allowed out of his cell with the other quarantined prisoners to shower and use the phone for the entire three days that he’d been locked down. He had also been fed one time in those three days — but as promised by Secretary Strange: he had the opportunity to eat his (one) meal.
Readers: please know that I promptly went out and read the acting unit supervisor, sergeant, and officers the riot act over Mr. M’s maltreatment.
Their response? “He should have said something.” Typical blame shifting by an abusive authority figure. What was he supposed to say — and to whom? All of our inquiries are met with either “I don’t know” or “that’s up to Incident Command.” More correctly called “Idiot Central,” I think.
They also told me repeatedly that he had never been on quarantine. Oops. His mistake — but with a broken door lock he couldn’t come out and he really has no friends that would say: “Hey! I haven’t seen Chandler today — let’s go find him!”
I was able to give him some food right away, and then was overjoyed to unlock his cell for him and let him out just before lunch on the 24th.
By noon Mr. M had been locked back into his cell. I stormed over and demanded to know why — “I’m not cleared to be out yet” is what he told me.
Huh. I guess he was on quarantine and not in his cell just because he didn’t have someone unlock his door. Looks like the blame-shifting didn’t hold up after all.
Mr. M is off quarantine now and moved into a cell that doesn’t have a broken lock — which I should add he was never supposed to be left in anyway.
But he did get the chance to eat his meal.
Photo by Michal Czyz on Unsplash
She-EO, Melissa Schmitt was interviewed by Fern Ridge Community Radio (KOCF) to talk abut Adopt an Inmate, our mission, and some of the issues that people in prison face every day.
“You’ve got three hots and a cot, the state provides everything you need!” I’ve heard people say that on TV, and I’ve received letters in which people have told me that. But that’s a delusional belief. Let me show you. Number one, the state of Florida doesn’t provide deodorant, which is an absolute necessity! They don’t provide shampoo, Q-tips to clean your ears, nor dental floss. I saw the dentist last week, and he said “Your teeth aren’t getting clean, what kind of toothpaste are you using?” I said” AMERFRESH, the state toothpaste.” He replied “That’s garbage, you need to buy some Colgate.” So if we’ve got a dentist telling us that the toothpaste isn’t working, you can’t argue that the state is providing us adequate hygiene items. The bar of soap that the state provides is about one third the size of a normal bar, and this soap doesn’t have a good scent. It’ll work, but it’s not something you would choose to use, and you only get one bar a week.
Three hots … well about 70% of the time, the food’s going to arrive cold, and is either under-cooked, or over-cooked. Very seldom is it prepared in the manner it should be. If you read the menu, you would be like, Sweet! But then the tray arrives and you’re looking at something that doesn’t resemble at all what you read on the menu. For instance, “Fresh Fruit.” You get an orange, but it’s nothing like a fresh orange that you would get on the street. Our orange is shriveled up, bruised with brown spots on it. It’s rare to have a nice piece of fresh fruit. The apples are horse apples, or cooking apples. We haven’t seen a banana in forever! That’s the only fruit that we get back here. Now vegetables are all canned, and most of the time overcooked. Meats — well a chicken leg quarter is the only real meat we get. We get that once a week, and I’m always highly disappointed when it comes back here raw. This week we were fortunate, it was cooked perfect! The prior two weeks it was raw. Even raw, it’s better than the soy patties, which are really bland. If you closed your eyes and ate it, it’s got no taste. And the the off-gray color is nauseating. They’ve got something called “Southern BBQ,” which sounds good, huh? Well you see, it’s ground up mystery meat that resembles hamburger, but doesn’t taste like it. And the BBQ sauce smells rancid! If you put that in front of most animals, they wouldn’t eat it. The sloppy Joe is the same. It doesn’t look like something you would see in your mom’s kitchen. Its an orange-ish color that looks like a baby messed its diaper. These meals are not healthy at all!
To really be able to eat well, you’ve got to be able to supplement the meals with canteen. And the items are overpriced. You get a $50 – $100 bag, and you’re standing there wondering where the money went! We pay 65¢ for a Ramen noodle soup that cost 19¢ or less on the street. Oh there’s some serious price-gouging going on. And if you don’t have family and friends to financially support you, then you go without. There’s no paying jobs for us. They ban us from selling our paintings, poetry etc., for financial gain. So they’re ripping off our family and friends who help us.
Your cot… I’ve slept outdoors on the ground, and been more comfortable. Seriously! The mattress is no more than an inch and a half thick, if that! Oh if you’ve got a new one, it’s nice for about six months. After laying on it every day, probably 20 hours a day, for 180 days, it gets flat and hard. The steel platform this thin mattress lays on is slanted in a manner which results in back, hip, and shoulder problems. There’s nothing comfortable about this mattress.
Yes.. three hots and a cot, you’re surviving. They’re giving you enough to keep you alive, but that’s about it. And most people will say that’s enough. Just wanted to give you a little bit of insight into our world, and the delusion that the state provides everything we need.
God bless you.