The Coronavirus as seen through the eyes of Insiders

Part XII: Letters from the Harris County [Texas] Jail

See also   Part I   Part II  Part III   Part IV   Part V   Part VI   Part VII   Part VIII   Part IX   Part X   Part XI

These excerpts from inmates at the Harris County Jail in downtown Houston, Texas, were originally catalogued and published May 1 at The Texas Tribune in this piece by Ian MacDougall. The Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

D. March 30: “We’re all scared of this place getting infected it only takes one guard or the wrong inmate for it to be spread in here like fire in a barn. They say they’re trying to release some of us but doing very little.”

Paul April 4: “As of 4-4-20 we have been quarantined and no one has informed us as to what’s going on with our situation, and since being quarantined no one has been tested in order to check and see if anyone may be infected with COVID-19. Everyone on this dorm is concerned about what’s going on and what is going to happen.”

Ren April 8: “At this present time I am sick with a bad cold/flu, possibly coronavirus. I am scared. So I am letting you know, I got really sick on last Friday. I told my girlfriend over the phone to call the medical clinic to tell them I was feeling bad—so I could get them to come get me and be seen as a walk-in . . . they checked my vital signs and my fever was up . . . I was rushed out in an ambulance to Ben Taub Hospital to be screened by a doctor, so I was given medication, a shot, and a chest x-ray. Then they released me on Saturday and sent me back to the jail and screened by the 1200 Baker St. clinic — then they put me in a quarantine tank on the 4th floor at the female inmates’ floor for 14 days. I am scared because of some guys in here that’s sicker than I. I do not want to die in here.

Greggory April 13: “These are frightening times here at the Harris County Jail! The last I heard, over 1,100 inmates were on quarantine. I feel great, but see fellow inmates getting, and staying sick for over 2 wks. We’re literally living in bunk beds that are only 2 1/2 feet apart on both sides! No “social distancing” here!”

Matthew April 13: “It’s scary in here to say the least. I was diagnosed with asthma and scar tissue on my lungs when I was twelve. I’m on an albuterol inhaler and Singulair which is a breathing medication. I don’t know if my lungs could make it through COVID-19. Social distancing is impossible and hand sanitizer is not available. The only way to get bleach is to buy it with food from commissary from the trustees. They are trying to contain something that is impossible to stop in here. A detention officer that works the 701 Kitchen tested positive for the virus so all the kitchen workers in 3D4 were put on quarantine. This left no available people to make our food! To fix the problem, the guards and floor workers started passing out sandwiches. This caused a lot of inmates to burn mattresses & blankets on the 7th floor and a lot of animosity towards guards throughout the jail. Also us inmates are literally having to fight other inmates for commissary and food. Only the strong survive attitude.”

Rich April 14: “Being locked up with no fighting chance is wrong. Most of us don’t have life sentences to have a death sentence because of lack of medical supplies, basically it’s like sitting on death row.”

Ken April 16: “And each day that I wake up I’m in fear of my life. Our bunks are about 8 inches apart. And the tank next door is quarantined, there is a doorway between us and them that is not sealed. The whole social distancing is not in compliance. We are closer than 6 ft. We are in a dorm with 58 men. I would like to know if there is any help for us inmates and how do we go about getting word to someone that could please help us out. It’s like they don’t care about anyone in here. Not all of us are guilty of the charges that are against us. Please take this letter seriously because people’s lives are in danger.”

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    • #72199 Reply
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      Perry

      I could use all kinds of Nouns to describe all of these Outright Cold-Blooded Non-Humanoids! As I alluded to before, in many of my Posts responding to Pieces like this: What these Jail and Prison Officials are not, is outright Criminal in and of itself. I don’t have to wager that none if them, will ever get Arrested or go to Trial for the blatant sanctioned murder, they’re committing…and will most likely Get Away With. I Damn Sure will NEVER go to Texas again for the rest of My Life. Been there once as a Teenager long ago. I won’t go back. The Lawsuits will undoubtedly be flying in droves down there too, before long.
      How many Crooked Judges does it take to throw out ten thousand Lawsuits?
      I’ll Wager it will be nearly ALL Of Them!!
      I seriously will Pray for these Men and Women.
      Here comes The Revolt!
      Done.

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      Lori OK VOICES

      Heartbreaking….

    • #72931 Reply
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      kmb

      I was at FSL Elkton until 4.29.20. I had covid_19 with the conscious realization of symptoms on around 3.22.20. I was not ever tested. I presented myself to medical staff twice in person and once asked for help via electronic request. I had no response from the electronic request but both times I went to medical I was told I did not have a fever and should return to the unit. In mid April I was placed in quarantine in the visitation room pending release, due to the close temporal proximity to my original halfway house date (6.19.20). On 4.28.20 I was told I would be going to halfway house in Toledo. On 4.29.20 I was put on a bus and am now in halfway house, too far from my home to qualify for home confinement. In my time at Elkton I observed their incompetent and ham handed attempts to “control the spread of the virus” and believe the intent of staff was to create a list of actions taken that they could point to to mitigate their responsibility. Inmate safety did not appear to be their intention. From news reports it appears the situation has only worsened. Now testing has begun and 1 of 4 inmates is testing positive. These are not antibody tests, however, and by waiting to test they have ensured that the numbers are lower, since many inmates, myself included, had recovered long before wide testing began. My case was, thankfully, mild and I did not fear for my life. I did fear for the life of my elderly cubemate and the others subject to risk from exposure to me after I had tried to notify staff of my illness. I witnessed much and I am worried daily for the lives of friends that helped me when I was ill. I can not help them in return. The guilt juxtaposes and diminishes any joy at being closer to home.

      Also, remember that half or more of the deaths at Elkton came from the FSL, which houses approximately 1/5 of the inmate population.

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