Editor’s Note: this is an “interview” that Amber did with a fellow inmate that was in Unit E, which is acting as the quarantine unit at TRU.
I had an unrelated medical issue and went to the clinic to have it taken care of. While there they took my vitals. I didn’t have a fever. They asked me if I’d had a cough. I said yes, I was just getting over a dry cough and shortness of breath. They then started their isolation protocol.
They gave me three different tests. One for COVID-19, one for flu, and one for something I don’t remember. They also took a chest x-ray.
They then walked me to E-unit and stripped me out in the showers. I was given boxers, T-shirt, socks, sandals, and orange coveralls. The same clothes as IMU. They then put me in a cell. When I first got there I was told I would be there for 14 days. Then I was told my 14 days don’t start until symptoms go away. So that gives you a date for when you’re getting out. Every morning at 8 AM the nurse comes around and does vitals. Temp, blood pressure, blood O2, and ask about symptoms. Every other day a provider came with the nurse.
After I had been there for seven days they wrote in my file that I’d coughed. So they reset my time without telling me.
I had no showers and no clean clothes my first week there. We had phones.
Then, after that first week, I got to shower and got clean clothes which lasted a week. But then the COVID-19 positive people came in from MSU and they took away our showers and phones. They put all of us without symptoms on one tier and the positive people on another. There is only one phone on a wheeled cart and they don’t want us to cross contaminate it. So nobody gets to use the phone.
The last three or four days I was there they brought people from the camp who were sick with fevers and coughs and waiting on their tests. They put them on the same tier as us. E unit has sliding doors like in the IMU. There are massive air gaps about two inches (5 cm) all around the door. So we are all breathing the same air.
There is no light switch, no electrical outlet, and no emergency button. We have to ask the c/o to turn the light on or off when they do their walkthrough which is supposed to happen every hour. They come through every two to two and a half hours instead.
There were spiders everywhere. There was no hot water. I had intermittent access to the phone. I didn’t have access to stamped envelopes. I had access to pen and paper. We got puzzles, coloring book pages, color crayons, and children’s games to pass the time. There was a book cart and once we got done reading them they were contaminated and hot trashed. Once per week there was mail, and the mail I received in E unit had to stay in E unit when I left.
Cops brought us drinking water four times a day because the water was not safe to drink. All our food was delivered in styrofoam trays and boats. The food always arrived cold.
It was hard to get lights turned on or off because the light switch is on the tier outside the cell.
I was cold until the weather warmed up because there’s no heat.
About halfway through my stay we finally got sweats and shortly before I left we got new balance shoes to wear in the cell.
A couple of the staff were good about taking care of us, the rest were useless. All the time if I asked for something the c/o would say “sure, I’ll go get it” then not come back for two hours and claim ignorance.
When I first got there the big wigs would walk through two to three times a week. Captains, lieutenants, people in suits. By the time I left the sergeant who worked there wouldn’t even walk the tier except maybe one a week.
The only way to get out is to tell them you don’t have symptoms even if you still don’t feel 100% because your 14 days don’t start until you have no symptoms. So feeling cruddy from no sunlight and no showers and no communication with your people can keep you there longer.
No yard. No fresh air.