The cell I was in had a television. I had a means to see the news and learn about local events. During the time I was there, the US had its presidential election and I was able to follow the coverage closely. I was grateful for that. There were a few books on faith to read, but not much else. If there were more options, they certainly weren’t communicated by the staff, much like shower days or times, test results, or what to expect. The food was intended to be a hot meal, but were usually room temperature at delivery. They were packed in disposable trays and trash was picked up on most days immediately following the meal. The menu was the same as the prison I came from. I lost a few pounds, but I was pretty ok with that. I had a few to lose. Most people in IMU do anyway. I did get a few items of mail immediately after getting sent to IMU, but then it stopped. I wasn’t expecting anything, so can’t say definitively how the process worked or if it wasn’t right.
The biggest concern I had was the way I was housed. If someone out of prison on community placement does something deemed wrong, he is subject to violation and being brought into DOC custody. They also need to be quarantined in that process and the place they do that is with guys like me, who did nothing wrong, in the same set of cells. I had neighbors that spent all night throwing up from heroin withdrawal or talking all night to the TV because of recent meth use on the streets. The staff generally saw them as noncompliant and, by default, I was included in that perception. There was no real distinction. And the violators exposure to high risk situations created an extension of that risk by them using things like the same phone and high touch surfaces in the shower. IMU is an echo chamber by design and people would be heard screaming in the middle of the night, in some other wing of the building.
By day seven, I was retested by nasal swabbing. Again, the guidance was inadequate and by then, it was frustrating. The instructions for how to be released to go back to my prison varied from, “after two negative tests,” to “after two weeks,” to “after two negatives and two weeks”, to “it’s up to custody,” to “we have a testing back log, so it may be another week”. The guidance was never straight forward and the results never forthcoming.
After 16 days and two apparently negative tests (I never did hear results), I was released to came back to my unit via transport. Once back, I had heard the most frustrating part… The staff member I was supposedly in contact with tested as a false positive and was already back at work a week before they were willing to release me from quarantine. When I asked how his vacation was, he said it was fine… at least they paid him.
by Rory Andes
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