Thanks to an ACLU case (Torres, et al.v. Milusnic, et al.), Lompoc Prison was ordered to proceed with steps to alleviate the crowding and neglectful, unsanitary practices that resulted in over 1,000 COVID cases. A court-appointed doctor inspected the prison and there have been some improvements. However, the attitudes of the leadership and staff are still careless, disrespectful, and dangerous.
The following is a brief description of an interaction written in September by an incarcerated friend who is 77 years old. Because of his age and medical history, he is in the court-ordered category of prisoners being considered for early release. He was given a “worksheet” to fill out as part of that possible release process.
“My case manager, Ms. R, stopped me and a number of other inmates from C-dorm and D-dorm as we returned from lunch at the chow hall back to our dorms, and gave each of us a ‘Worksheet.’ She told us to sign the ‘Worksheet’ we had been given. Mine contained some inaccurate information. I told her it was inaccurate, and I told her I wished to consult with my attorney before I signed. She said, ‘You are refusing to sign?’ I said, ‘No, I simply wish to consult with my attorney and ask if it is o.k. to sign.’ She called over a Correction Officer nearby and said he was going to be a witness. Then she said, ‘He refuses to sign.’ Again, I repeated what I had just said. She thanked the C.O. and then proceeded to write something at the bottom of the ‘Worksheet,’ and as she began writing she told me that was all and sent me on my way. I noticed that the Worksheet did NOT give any explanation as to why the reasons it gave for denial of home confinement outweigh the threat to my health (or death) from COVID-19. I believe such explanation was required under Judge Marshall’s July 14 Order. I was told I could not receive a copy of the “Worksheet’ used as the basis for denial and that only my attorney could request and receive a copy. In talking with other inmates, these elements of the ‘Worksheet experience’ were, without exception, universal among members of the class of plaintiffs I have encountered, all of whom were denied home confinement.”
Other countries have prison systems based on rehabilitation, re-education, and treatment for medical and mental problems with the goal of reentry into the community. The U.S. prison policy is based on punishment, vengeance, and extreme sentences with a racial bias. Hopefully stories like this enable us to envision real people who are our neighbors and who deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion.