Dear ACLU of Idaho, Human Kind, and Black & Pink Boise,
Hi, my name is Tasha. I have been incarcerated for two years and four months. When I first heard about COVID-19, I was at Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center (PWCC). I heard about it on the news. I was very scared, thinking about my loved ones on the outside, I felt helpless. Then it dawned on me; “what if it got in the prison system?” Then I really started to panic thinking about everyone getting sick and some even dying from it — it really frightened me.
Then the warden went around taping “How to Stay Safe” and “Symptoms” signs all over the walls. Then someone came and talked to each tier about all the moves that were going to be made to keep everyone as safe as possible, and how everything was being canceled. I had already known that because I worked in the chapel at that time in PWCC, and my bosses let me know things were going to be changing for a while and to post cancelation notices. Then the big move happened and they started housing Riders with Lifers. When that started happening I knew it must be serious because they are not supposed to house Riders and Lifers together.
Memos went up about getting free soap so we could wash our hands. The news continued playing every day all day. The talk amongst us was “it’s going to get in here from staff members so why are they moving everyone around?” If it got in, it would spread like wildfire.
Thank God there have been no cases. I feel they are doing everything they can to keep it out. They test staff before they can come in. We still don’t have visiting time or volunteers. They say maybe July, I hope so. I need my church services, that helps me. It’s scary though because once they do open things up that’s when it [the virus] will get in. The warden said it’s not “if” it’s “when.” I’m afraid she is right.
Being in prison during the pandemic is a catch 22 because right now I feel pretty safe but would rather be with my family during this time. Once it does get in I’m really scared because we are living on top of each other there is no way to keep a distance.
It’s really frightening.
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.