August 3, 2020
My name is Austin. I first learned about the COVID-19 pandemic watching the news, local and national. Seeing the progression of COVID-19, my first thoughts were for my grandparents, mother, and myself whom we all have medical complications or are also elderly.
I myself have multiple sclerosis and live with those challenges every day. My immune system is weak and if I contract Covid-19 I fear I won’t survive it. I’ve already lost one family member, my cousin on my mother’s side of the family to Covid-19. I found out recently more members of my family have Covid-19 and I fear I will never see them or talk to them again due to the chances of this virus taking them from my family and me.
Being locked up in Idaho prison isn’t pleasant on the best of days. With this pandemic everyone’s stress levels, including mine, are high. No one, including myself, can practice social distancing effectively. I live in a room with another person, which said room also has a toilet and is my bathroom. Sanitation isn’t satisfactory, no matter how much we clean. Our cleaning supplies are insufficient; we are not allowed to sterilize with bleach or any cleaner beyond Windex. Being in prison is being stuck in a petri dish environment, when one person gets sick the whole institution gets sick like wildfire.
Idaho Corrections has Covid-19 cases it’s not if I will get Covid-19, but a matter of when. The prison vents are not hospital grade; they blow everything in the air though them. So when someone with Covid-19 has a cough or sneeze it will get sucked into the ventilation and spread around, since Covid-19 can survive in the air for over 10 minutes. So it’s not an if, it’s a when will I get diagnosed with Covid-19. It’s a fear now that I will die of Covid complications and not see my loved ones again.
I may have done some stupid things when I was young, but I wasn’t sentenced to life fixed or a death sentence. By IDOC not releasing me from this death trap, I feel I’ve been potentially re-sentenced to death. Furthermore, there are numerous inmates on or past their fixed time and IDOC refuses to release them, still flopping parole for the most ridiculous reasons. Where is the mercy?
We are still human beings, not meat, not numbers, not a source of revenue for governments ends. Where is the moral integrity?
I hope mercy will be shown if not to me, since I know the severity of my crime will most likely not qualify for any early or release in general, but to have mercy on everyone else, especially those who are on, or past their fixed time, the elderly and sick, and those who have done a substantial amount of their time. But, ultimately I believe everyone not convicted and sentenced to death should be released, since death is a real possibility to all inmates with the Covid-19 in the institutions. I wish everyone luck in these days of uncertainty and crisis.
About the Stories from the Inside story project:
ACLU of Idaho, Black and Pink Boise, and HumanKind have collaboratively reached out to people who are currently incarcerated to share their view of the COVID-19 from inside Idaho jails and prisons. The experiences detailed in the submitted letters and responses are reflective of a prison system that lacks any standard of medical care for inmates and IDOC staff in the face of a global pandemic—even as the number of infected continues to rise. With the authors’ permission, we are publishing these letters here so their stories from the inside can be known.
Prisoners are people — and these are the real experiences they are having on a daily basis. All stories have been shared with written consent.
Black and Pink: Boise is an open family of queer & trans prisoners and "free world" allies who support each other.
Humankind: A Voice from the Inside is an organization committed to providing a voice for those navigating through the criminal justice system. We believe that everyone deserves fair and compassionate support in and outside of incarceration. Humankind envisions a world where individuals involved in the system are treated justly and receive adequate rehabilitation to become productive members of society. We need change, not chains.
The Northwest Abortion Access Fund is an abortion fund serving Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. Trained, compassionate volunteer advocates run our toll-free hotline. We help people pay for their abortion care by sending funding directly to the clinic. We also help people get to and from the clinic and make sure people traveling for care have a safe place to stay.
We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit and a member of the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), a membership organization of over 70 funds across the United States.