Quarantine Fatigue vs. Escalating Prison Lockdowns (During COVID-19 & Black Lives Matter Protests)
By Ava Martoma, Age 13
Like much of America, I’m feeling quarantine fatigue. On the upside, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on … well, everything. Lately, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, and the Black Lives Matter protests have occupied my thoughts. Truth is, I’ll never really know George Floyd, but I do know how he suffered in the last minutes of his life because there’s video proof.
When authorities found that a corrections officer was responsible for smuggling in the contraband, prisoners hoped that the lockdown would end. Instead, sanctions got tougher, family visits were cut back, and I lost the ability to see my dad regularly.
Confined to their housing units
Suspended from all outside visits indefinitely
Limited to $25 a week in commissary (shopping)
Restricted to unpredictable phone and email access
That’s when I lost the ability to see my dad and when I started to panic about his safety. The only way I could reassure myself that he was still alive was by constantly refreshing my browser on the BOP’s death announcements webpage. Eventually, he was allowed to make brief calls every few days - only enough time to exchange “I love you’s!”
Just when it seemed like the BOP’s lockdown couldn’t get any worse, nationwide protests erupted on the streets in response to the death of George Floyd. The BOP reacted by further restricting prisoners, even though they weren’t the instigators of the protests. This time, the BOP implemented the most severe lockdown protocol, which has only been used once in their 90-year history.
As I said, quarantine fatigue has given me a lot of time to think. Incarceration - already an extreme form of social distancing - is a significant punishment for most prisoners, just as the coronavirus quarantine has been for us. Taking away prisoners’ ability to connect with the outside world destroys their lifeline. If we are feeling pressured after just a few months of restrictions, imagine how bad it could be under “total lockdown” conditions that get more oppressive over time. It’s a set-up for disaster, one without the cameras rolling.