Mushrooms, May 3, 2020:
You'd think that, after more than 17-years behind bars, I would have learned the most basic, most important lesson of all, which is that the government should never be trusted. Clearly, this is a lesson that has yet to sink in because, until last night, I believed the information contained in the lockup orders posted by the prison administration.
Before I proceed any further, allow me to explain what a "lockup order" is, and why it's so significant. If you've never had the misfortunate of being incarcerated, then you probably don't realise how much physical space a prison occupies, which, if you've ever seen the inside of a cell, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. How can a place that gives the people who have to live here so little space, and then fill that space with so many people? But such is the "wisdom" of the prison system. Regardless, the end result is that you have a single prison divided into multiple facilities, or "yards," physically separated to the point that, in many cases, you can't see or hear what's taking place in another yard.
In California, when something happens that requires a change in program, or even a complete lockdown, the administration is required to post a daily "lockup order." The purpose of the lockup order is to provide staff and inhabitants alike with a list of expectations, authorised activities, unauthorised activities, an explanation for the changes, and, where possible, a projected expiration date for the changes. When the CIM (California Institution for Men) posted its lockup orders, it explained the social distancing protocols expected (even if many were physically impossible), and went on to list how many cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed, presumably in the entire prison. As someone who prepares a lot of legal documents, I should have known enough to take a closer look at the wording, as the lockup order didn't say how many cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the prison, it simply listed how many cases had been confirmed on D-Facility.
Up until last night, I, like everyone else on my yard, had been led to believe that guys who reported to medical with any potential COVID-19 symptoms were being transported to Colusa Building, a housing unit on my yard, where they were quarantined until their test results came back. If positive, they were supposed to have been taken off the yard and transported to a hospital, or so we were told, but last night, I had a rather interesting conversation with a prison guard. I asked him how many confirmed cases there were. He pulled out the lockup order and showed me that the number was now 72, and when I expressed surprise that it was that low, he pointed out that this was only the confirmed cases on D-Facility. This did not include the cases on the other facilities. When I pressed him for additional information, he explained that people were not being removed from Colusa Building upon confirmation of COVID-19, like we'd been told, but were only being removed when their condition required hospitalisation. In addition, the CIM was now being used as a hub for inmates from various other prisons throughout this area. While he didn't have the exact numbers, it was his understanding that the actual number of confirmed cases from the CIM was over 150, and this didn't include the transplants from other facilities.
The other night, the yard was shut down because of a transport. Turns out that they weren't bringing people onto the yard, they were removing the people in Colusa Building who'd reported to medical with COVID-19 symptoms, only to test negative for COVID-19. (I should point out that, at this moment, if you report to medical for any COVID-19 related symptoms, they're immediately removing you from your housing unit and placing you in a building with other suspected and positive cases of COVID-19.) What I didn't know, what I couldn't have possibly known, was that, when the bus took them back to their assigned yard, there was a near riot, as inmates in the dormitories attempted to refuse the returning people entry to the dorms. Given the recently discovered inaccuracies of the tests, and the extremely cramped nature of the dorms (they're currently at 160% of designed capacity, despite a court ruling to reduce the current capacity to 137.5%), I can sympathise with their feelings, but the officer's response perfectly summed up the prison system's position in the matter: "at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how right you are. When you're given an order, we expect you to follow it."
As I've said in a previous post, I've now served just over 17-years on a sentence for a crime I never committed. With just under 6-months left to serve, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the inability to comply with social distancing protocols, combined with my underlying health conditions, make surviving another 6-months in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic all but impossible, especially when many of the guards in here refuse to wear their masks. I thought I would have been one of the people released early, but, as usual, they came up with a list of restrictions which excluded me. It didn't matter to them that I was now serving my final 8-month consecutive sentence for a nonviolent misdemeanour. The only thing that mattered to them was that two of the charges I was (falsely) convicted of were for violent, sexually based, offences. As such, there's no way in Hell that I'll ever be let out so much as a day sooner, no matter how much danger my continued incarceration poses to me, the people who work here or the community.
By now, you're probably asking yourself why I chose to title this piece "Mushrooms." Can you imagine a better title for a piece that describes a system that keeps you in the dark and feeds you bullshit? If that's not a mushroom, then I don't know what is.
I usually end with a statement about how I'd welcome any questions or comments, either by posting them here, or sending them to me at the address listed below, but what I'd really like to do is engage in a discussion over whether or not releasing people from prison early is the right thing to do, and if so, who should be impacted. Should we, as everyone seems to be doing, excluding the most vulnerable among us, simply because one of their convictions was for a violent offence, even if they've only got a few months left to serve anyway? Or should we be practicing what we preach, exercising the compassion we speak of so often?
Shawn L. Perrot CDCR# V-42461
CIM C-Del Norte Upper: 246L
P. O. Box 500
Chino, CA 91708
(Below is attached a Daily Program Status Report, Part A - Plan of Operation/ Staff and Inmate Notification)
2020 aug 12
2020 aug 12
2020 may 30
2020 may 30
2020 may 30
2020 may 24
Thanks for writing! I finished the transcription for your "Mushroom" post.
The questions that arise in your post are certainly difficult to answer, or indeed, to give any concrete and meaningful answers to.
I believe that the points you make about early-release for potentially vulnerable individuals who are nearing the end of their sentence anyway, are definitely valid. For an individual such as yourself, who faces underlying health conditions, and who has served 17-years, with only 6-8 months left of incarceration, it does seem almost futile and potentially dangerous (to your health) to deny early-release.
Likewise - as you brought attention to the fact that CIM is currently functioning at 160% capacity, rather than 137.5% as is aimed at, it is also significant to point out that enabling early-release for individuals such as yourself who have served well over two-thirds of your sentence, and are potentially vulnerable to the virus - would ease the pressure caused by overpopulation in certain prisons. In this sense, allowing early release for those eligible individuals, would undoubtedly help to tackle coronavirus and prevent further spread. It is disgraceful that so many prison guards are refusing to wear their masks, as they are threatening the health of countless individuals, both within and outside of the prison.
This said, it becomes very difficult once you make one rule for certain individuals, and another rule for others. Who could objectively judge if a person is truly 'vulnerable' to COVID-19, (given that thousands of completely healthy individuals have died as a result of contracting the virus, whilst many individuals with underlying health conditions who have been deemed 'vulnerable' have recovered from the virus.)
Additionally, whilst it may be horrifically unfair to an individual who has been incarcerated for a crime that they didn't commit, it is understandable that shortening sentences can occasionally be potentially very dangerous for the rest of society. Certainly, recent cases of individuals in England who have been released early, and then gone on to carry out acts of terrorism (such as Sudesh Amman), have resulted in the emergency terror law that ended early prisoner release until they had served two-thirds of their sentence and with the approval of the Parole Board.
In light of these points, I'm not sure where I stand overall, but certainly, with regards to specific individual cases, I share your views on early-release.
Thank you again for your post Shawn, I hope that you remain healthy in spite of the awful conditions, and frightening times. All the best from England,
What is the best way to communicate with you?
I tried sending to an email address listed here but it bounced back instantly as undeliverable.
I "watched" your (week of Feb 1, 2021) trial all week, except that Monday afternoon was not streamed. I got all of the other parts. Mon-am, all Tue, all Wed, All Thur, All Fri. I won't say much more here because I don't know what is okay or not okay to say here. Just wondering if this will reach you or not? What should I do or not do at this point? I am thinking probably nothing until the March continuance. Was it set for March 3 or march 4 to start up again? I will add that to my calendar to make sure I do not miss any of it. If there is anything else I should do, let me know.
Chuck (at) ajustfuture (dot) org