EVARISTO sALAS jr.
of the wrongfully convicted "Junior"
from Sunnyside, Washington State (USA)
March 4, 2022
Author: From the editors
Evaristo is still in K-Unit and has now had to do an eighth test for COVID-19. Due to a lack of communication resources in this long-term lockdown, we were unable to provide a new update on the current state of affairs. For the time being, Evaristo is still incarcerated until March 2026. That is his original release-date.
On the other side of the world there is now a much bigger and painful problem: the war in Ukraine. Like no other, Evaristo knows the pain of having to leave family members immediately. That is why he expresses his sympathy to all refugees from Ukraine.
Everyone has probably also seen how thousands of Russian protesters have been arrested the last days. They will be considered criminals for life in their Russia…
In this war there are only losers. We stand for justice and are against any form of oppression. We therefore speak out against the Russian government, and in particular their so-called ‘president’ who is destroying the lives of an unprecedented number.
Stay strong everyone, and be kind to each other.
suddenly Moved to k-unit
February 6, 2022
Author: Evaristo Salas jr.
As Airway Heights Corrections Center’s infection rate for the coronavirus is near 900, it seems all the efforts to stop the spread have failed miserably.
The testing came too late, the constant moving of individuals from one unit to the next only helped facilitate the spread.
The number of infections of the virus is surely much higher than 900 and may have even surpassed a thousand.
There now only remains a few clusters of uninfected individuals spread throughout the facility.
Although the prison administration is obligated to protect those individuals, it is now painfully obvious that those measures of protection seem to have done the opposite.
On January 31, 2022, I received the results of my second corona-test which was administered five days prior. I was again negative. Two hour hours later, I was told to pack up my property because I would be moving to another unit. Fifty to sixty other individuals who also tested negative for the virus were also told to pack up their personal property because they would be moving also.
We weren't told where we would be going or why we were being moved.
As the process of moving began, chaos ensued. M-Unit’s dayroom was soon filled with fifty to sixty individuals all clamoring for cardboard boxes and moving carts to place their property on. There was no order to the process, no guidance was given, it was pretty much “free” for all.
This was all too much for one individual who decided that not only was he not going to move, but he was going to voice his dissatisfaction with the whole process of moving and the lack of information that was being given for the move.
As he grew more emotional, he soon began to yell at the correctional staff that were present. He was then quickly handcuffed and taken to the hole.
As the chaos continued and the majority of the individuals that were told to move were packed and ready to move. It was announced over the intercom that all the individuals that were told to pack up and move, needed to grab their property and head over to the other side of the dayroom.
There we stood clumped together nearly shoulder to shoulder on the other side of that dayroom, personal property close by or in hand. Four hours would pass before we would slowly make our way across the courtyard to the K-Unit.
As I arrived in K-Unit I was given the number of the cell that I would be housed in and directed to where I needed to go.
The cell was extremely dirty and had up until a few hours prior housed two individuals that were infected with the coronavirus.
I was told it had been cleaned and disinfected, but there was no smell of disinfectant and the cell was obviously gross.
So before I moved into the cell, I thoroughly cleaned and disinfected everything. This took a considerable amount of time. It was nearly midnight by the time me and my cellmate settled in.
On February 1, 2022, I was administered my third test. It will take an average of 3-5 days for me to receive the results.
And just today, 40 individuals that are housed here in K-Unit, the unit I was just moved to because I tested negative, just tested positive for the virus and are now, as I write this, being moved out of K-Unit to another unit.
I can't peer into the minds of the individuals that are making the decisions to move us around, or look at what strategy is being employed in terms of stopping the spread of the virus here within Airway Heights Corrections Center.
But what I do think, is whoever is making those decisions has failed to recognize what encompasses a prison setting or is just ignorant of it.
When you house 260 individuals within feet of each other, double bunk cells that were originally designed for one individual and have them use sixteen bathrooms, twenty phones, three ‘jpay-computers’ and have a day room that was originally designed for sixty-two people.
It's going to be nearly impossible to implement any measures that will effectively
stop the spread of any virus.
Reducing the prison population seems to be the most obvious short term way of reducing the infection rate of covid 19 here at the facility, or at the very least making it manageable.
I sincerely hope that those in charge will take a logical look and keep all options on the table when it comes to dealing with the real issues that are behind the easy spread of COVID-19 in prison…
violated human rights in medium-security prison
January 30, 2022
Author: Evaristo Salas jr.
The hostility that was first expressed here in M-Unit in the beginning days of the quarantine/lockdown, has slowly turned into a reluctant acceptance amongst the inmate population.
We have all come to the realization that there is literally nothing we can do. We can't protect ourselves from the coronavirus because we are too closely housed together. The mask, the handwashing, even these lockdowns and putting us in quarantine has done very little to stop the spread of the virus.
We can do even less when it comes to requesting information on the results of our corona test that was administered over a week ago on January the 19th.
All such requests have been ignored. One individual was even taken to the hole for demanding his test results…
The uncertainty of our predicament brings a deep sense of anxiety with it: every cough, every sneeze is met with the fearful stares of many who have neither the means nor the power to conclude whether that person is sick or not.
I personally have a great deal of frustration with the lack of transparency and lack of consideration given to our rights to stay in touch with our families in the outside world. We can hardly communicate with anyone out there. And that seems to be the hardest part for me to deal with.
I understand the safety requirements and the need for us to keep a certain distance from each other, but I think it is fairly easy to manage the use of the eleven phones that are situated in the dayroom in a safe way.
Istead, the prison administration has decided to go with the use of only four cordless phones and one twenty minute phone call for each of the 268 inmates in this unit.
That equates to seventy-four hours of phone time in total,
which means it would take over five days for the entire M-Unit population
to use the phone and call somebody for just once.
This shows that allowing the inmates to maintain their family support system during these hard and stressful times, is not a priority for the Department of Corrections*.
I believe there is a more humane way of instituting the quarantine requirements that are necessary to help mitigate the spread of the virus here within Airway Heights Corrections Center.
The prison administration first needs to be more transparent with the actions they are taking. They also need to be more forthcoming with information about the number of infections and the results of the tests that are being registered.
Most if not all the hostility and frustration that arises from the implementation of these COVID-19 procedures, stems from the lack of information that is being conveyed to the general inmate population.
For the prison administration to ignore the most basic questions about what is taking place, creates a void where disinformation and speculation become the only information received. This enhances the anxiety of the inmates. They may become more inclined to respond in a negative manner and that creates a large amount of tension for everyone.
Since a large outbreak of the coronavirus, everywhere is a public health issue. I believe it is very important for this prison to take a comprehensive look at their approach in dealing with all the outbreaks within the prison
and to implement changes that take into consideration the mental and emotional impact it has on the inmates and their family members.
We can work together to make the spread of the virus less likely. In order for that to take place, the legitimate concerns of the inmates and those of our families need to be heard and addressed. I fear the chaos and mismanagement that has been a part of these last major outbreaks, will continue if our voices stay ignored by the people who are in charge…
* “The DC Department of Corrections (DOC) is one of several agencies under the oversight of the Deputy City Administrator/ Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice. The mission of the DOC is to ensure public safety for citizens of the District by providing an orderly, safe, secure and humane environment for the confinement of pretrial detainees and sentenced inmates, while providing meaningful opportunities for community reintegration.”
UPDATE BY THE EDITORS
After Junior sent this blog out to be posted on this website, the prison administration gave his first test result back and it came out to be negative.
Meanwhile, they took another COVID-19 test and Junior is now waiting on this new result. They also moved dozens of prisoners out of his unit yesterday evening.
It is not clear what is going on now, because no information is given yet about the current state of affairs. It is also unknown when this lockdown/quarantine obligation will be lifted.
Covid-19 behind bars, part 3
January 23, 2022
Author: Evaristo Salas jr.
This place is currently on lockdown because of the omicron flood and it looks as if the COVID-19 ‘prison history’ is beginning to repeat itself.
I had hoped that I would never have to experience the sickness, mayhem and chaos that I experienced during the first outbreak of the corona virus here at Airway Heights Corrections Center ever again. Unfortunately, reality strikes back.
On January 7, 2022, this prison had its first confirmed case of the more infectious ‘omicron’ variant. Two days later, it had sixty-six confirmed cases and right now almost everyone got infected. The entire facility, which is housing over 2,200 inmates, is on quarantined-status.
M-Unit, which I am currently housed in and what was the epicenter of the first corona outbreak back in November of 2019, was massed tested for the virus about two weeks ago.
I also got tested,
but I don't know if I’m positive for COVID-19 or not.
They don´t tell us anything about the results.
Instead, we are all locked in our cells for days.
The reaction by the inmates to another corona-lockdown is a mixture of frustration, fear and anger. Although there is barely any information about officially confirmed cases of the corona virus here in M-Unit, the virus is most certainly among us.
A large number of individuals are showing mild symptoms, only a few are really sick.
The quarantine debacle that took place last year during the first outbreak, is fresh. The disruption to the inmate's routines and the number of times they had to move, has made most of the inmates ignore the safety precautions that are being implemented by this prison administration.
Some have even resorted to purposely spreading the virus in a twisted strategy to overwhelm the prison so that they wouldn't have to be quarantined or moved, while others refuse to be tested.
It looks like I am at the mercy of those who have zero to no respect for the lives this virus has taken and that's why I experience tension: I have something to live for, I can still have a future out there because I hope to be exonerated at some point in my life. And then, I want to make it home as healthy as possible and seeing my family again after two long years of not having visits.
And now: omicron. Unfortunately, at this point it doesn't seem that the prison administration has learned much from the mistakes of the past. Their policy of moving inmates to other units in an attempt to stifle the spread of the corona virus, is once again spreading the virus to previously uninfected areas.
The first indication that corona had spread to M-Unit took place a few days after a large group of inmates was moved to this unit from the infected area of another unit.
Why these moves continue to take place (even to this moment that I’m writing this blog) is beyond me. It seems fairly obvious to me that the best approach would be to keep those who are infected with corona in their residing units and isolate them over there, rather than move them around the entire prison where the potential of infecting others is much higher.
Either way at this point, I think it's too late to stop the spread. I feel that even though I have been vaccinated and boosted, it doesn’t matter if I will get omicron or not, cause I am already placed under the terrible conditions of this type of prison-quarantine.
I have done my best to social distance, wash my hands and wear my N95-mask, but unfortunately I can't get my cellmate nor those around me to do the same anymore. It's too late and to most correctional officers I'm just another criminal, so getting back my yard time and going to the law library is out of the question for now.
I find myself again in isolation, but my spirit is strong, my faith unlimited and my hope undeterred. I have respected those things that deserved to be respected and have feared those things that deserved to be feared.
Right now I can barely have contact with the outside world and we have no fresh air to ventilate the units or cells, but I am doing fine:
I don't feel sick, there is always a little bit of food and I can still do my job, which is cleaning and disinfecting the dayroom. I can even send a picture of myself to the other side of these concrete walls.
“The fir tree has no choice about starting its life in the crack of a rock… What (nourishment) it finds is often meager, and above the ground appears a twisted trunk, grown in irregular spurts, marred by dead and broken branches, and bent far to one side by the battering winds.
Yet at the top… some twigs hold their green needles year after year, giving proof that – misshapen, imperfect, scarred – the tree lives.” - Harriet Arrow
In time, we will learn how to live with this virus. What once was something new and uncertain will eventually turn into an endemic.
I believe that all those individuals who have pushed through the stress that this pandemic has created
will be rewarded by a life that knows a little more freedom...