Stories from the Inside: Dennis

I am an inmate within the Idaho Department of Corrections. I became aware of the Coronavirus via the news. I thought, “Oh, great, here’s another virus we need to be aware of.” At first, I wasn't really worried about it, but as time went on, seeing its rapid spread, I worried mainly about my family and friends and how it would affect them. At least they were in a position to deal with it as it presented itself. They have the choice and the option of self-isolation and using/wearing medical masks for their protection. Fortunately, the prison did supply us with masks. Plus, family/friends are able to apply, which I cannot do, social distancing at their discretion. 

I am included within the “more susceptible” category due to my age, being 66 years old. We have been quarantined on a tier of 116 inmates “for our safety.” Any inmates considered susceptible are; diabetics, the elderly, and those with medical conditions that might weaken the individual's immune system. If the virus were to infect this tier, everyone here could contract it and bring about a “death sentence.”

We have been denied the right of social distancing as well as the ability to get any fresh air or sunshine, even though (thus far) everyone on this unit has tested negative. Our medical staff has been reduced to the bare minimum making it difficult, if not almost impossible, to receive treatment for other issues we may experience. Even after several requests.

The Prison Director sent us an email stating there were only 9 confirmed cases in our facility, yet the local news says there are 119 confirmed cases and another 109 possibles, as well as 40 staff who have self-isolated, making the facility understaffed.

We are no longer allowed recreation of any kind and are confined on our tier. We cannot go to speak with our paralegal, cannot attend any required programming, nor any vocational classes that might help prepare us for release. Our counselors have basically abandoned us. And no religious services.

Every state around us has released those inmates deemed at risk, yet Idaho refuses to even consider this as an option, even with all our overcrowding. Overcrowding, of course, raises our risk of catching Covid-19 exponentially.

Due to reduced staffing, parole hearings keep getting pushed further and further back creating even more anxiety for inmates, family members, and friends. Those that could have been released are forced (due to no fault of inmates) to remain incarcerated beyond that which is justifiable. 

The public that have incarcerated family members should press the issue and express your concerns to the Governor, as well as the parole commission.

Things need to change, but can only do so through showing your support. Be insistent, consistent, and persistent. Demand change and don’t take no for an answer.


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.