Stories from the Inside: Dustin

June 2, 2020

To whom it may concern,

I am a state inmate currently being housed in the Bonneville County Jail where I am awaiting transport to the IDOC. I, like a lot of people, first heard of the Coronavirus pandemic on the news and, at first, just really did not pay attention. I mean, these things come and go right? Wrong.

As this thing started to spread, my first fear was for my family on the outside of this facility, but then we got cases locally and I began to think what’s going to happen to me? This outbreak is really scary to those of us that are not able to help ourselves due to our legal status. What is going to happen when the virus finds its way in to here? I have underlying health issues and there has not been much information provided to us about the do’s and don’ts concerning how to survive. We do not have the luxury of social distancing. I can literally reach out and touch the man sleeping in the next bunk.

Everything we get — from food to medical care — comes from the outside. It’s only a matter of time but how can we know what to do? I’ve never felt so helpless. For the first month or so, this facility was holding weekly info sessions and on 4/6/2020, the staff began wearing face masks. They also said the staff were self-screening, but what percentage of people don’t even show symptoms? For about a month now, the facility has been quarantining new arrivals for two weeks, but a couple guys were placed in this pod two days [after they got] off the street. Was that the one that gets us?

So far no one has been confirmed as a case in here, but, then again, no one that I know of has been tested so only the Gods know for sure. The facility offers medical support, but I personally believe the farther away from them I stay the better off I’ll be. I’ve not been impressed in the past with their care.

We are charged for everything in this facility $0.50 for Tylenol, $10 per medical kit, $1.06 for a ramen noodle. Indigent inmates are provided basic hygiene supplies but if you have $1.00 you do not qualify for that service. 

The facility shut down their lobby so visiting is limited and the only way for family to deposit money for us is online at $7.95 per transaction fee. This facility is a state holding facility and a lot of these guys, including me, sit here for 75% of our fixed time. Now we have the fear of the virus and not much we can do to help ourselves. I pray to the Gods that I am able to at least be transported to IDOC custody before this thing hits inside here.

As one of the Lieutenants told us, ‘some of you are going to die’ but then said we are safer in here. Maybe it’s just me but I sure do not feel safer because of my incarceration. Do I really deserve to be kept in the dark, potentially exposed to a life-threatening virus and sentenced to multiple years in prison for a charge that would be a misdemeanor in any other state?

I lost three of my family members last year during my incarceration. Are the loved ones I have left going to lose me before I am allowed to have my freedoms and basic rights restored?

 -Dustin, Bonneville County Jail

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. 

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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.