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Prison COVID-19: A CALL TO END SLAVERY Vol 1, Number 11

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COVID 19 IInformation
ffor P
d Staff
St ff 
V l
1 Number
b 11,
11 December
b (Second
d Issue)
) 2020



mid nationwide protests for social
justice and cries that “Black Lives
Matter” from ancestors of African
slaves, the fact that slavery still exists in the
United States seems to have been forgotten.
Following President Lincoln’s issuance
of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863,
the United States constitution was amended to specifically authorize enslavement of
one group of people—prisoners: “Neither
slavery nor involuntarily servitude, except
as punishment for crime whereof the party
shall have been duly convicted, shall not
exist within the United States, or any place
subject to their jurisdiction.” 13th Amendment, Section 1.
This form of slavery—subjugation based
upon social status rather than race—is still
slavery in all of its abhorrent forms. The
fact that states like Washington have craft-

A Call to End Slavery ...............1
Virus Updates ..........................3
Letters ......................................6
Anti-Slavery Law Introduced ....7
Cons, Staff Get Vax First? .......8
State Did Little to Stop Virus ....8
Ed's Comments........................8
Report From New York.............9

ed their criminal laws to disproportionately
target people of African descent, Farrakhan v. Washington, 338 F.3d 1009, 101314. (9th Cir. 2002) (compelling evidence of
racial bias and discrimination in Washington’s criminal justice system), blurs the line
between "race-based" and "social-statusbased" forms of slavery to the point of being indistinguishable.
To be clear: the state of Washington in the
year 2020 has slaves, and they are forced
to work in taxpayer-supported businesses
called "Correctional Industries." The practice began long ago, while Washington was
still a territory. Until the year 1877, the entire Washington Territory lacked a prison.
Criminals were incarcerated in jails run by
local sheriffs with questionable security
at a rate of a dollar per day per prisoner.
Experiencing population growth and a rise
in crime, the legislature of the Washington
recognized that there were simply
t many convicted felons to continue the
of housing inmates in county jails,
a a centralized prison was needed.
The federal government offered to turn
the McNeil Island federal facility for
even though it cost over $50,000
t build and was worth more than $100,000.
a successful attempt to discredit
t federal facility as "unsafe for keeping
prisoners," two independent counter
were made by Thurston County
William Billings and former Pierce
Sheriff Jerry Smith. Both men off
to construct a prison and take custody
o the inmates in return for a subsistence
and the right to the labor of the
Other entrepreneurs recognized

the profitability of such an arrangement and
"soon the legislature was beset by a horde
of public-spirited citizens, all anxious to
relieve the territory of its custodial problems." Billings and Smith combined their
proposals and used their political influence
to gain legislative approval of the contract,
which was signed by the territorial governor. A local newspaper complained that in
giving the six-year "lease" to Billings and
Smith, the territorial legislature had conferred "a special privilege to the fullest extent."

... prisoners are legislatively mandated to work
in state-owned businesses called "Correctional
The prison was operated under a "contract system" that was common in the
northern states after the Civil War. Under
the contract system, prison officials and
private contractors entered into legal agreements under which the prison would furnish a certain number of slave-laborers at a
fixed price. Like the earlier form of slavery,
the convict was sold to the highest bidder.
Under their contract with the Washington
Territory, Smith and Billings would receive 70 cents per day per inmate, $500 for
transportation costs, and all proceeds of the
prisoners’ labor. In turn, Billings and Smith
agreed to "house, feed and clothe the convicts, caring for any who grew sick, recapturing those who escaped and employing
them in suitable work."

Smith and Billings joined a third partner, Oliver Shead, who provided land and
$4,000 for the construction of what would
be called the "Seatco Prison," located
in the current town of Bucoda, in South
Thurston County. The 40 by 150-foot, two
story prison was constructed of Douglas fir
planks. Cells were located on the first floor
and the only access to the lower level was
a single, narrow, kerosene-soaked staircase
on the second floor. A guard stood watch
on the landing at all times. Each of the 36
unheated, eight-by-ten-foot cells featured
2-3 straw beds with scant linens, a bucket
in the corner for a toilet, a tiny glassless
window equipped with bars, and dungeon
like darkness.
The right to keep the prisoners' wages
was a great incentive to keep them working. The prisoners were required to work
9-12 hours a day cutting firewood, clearing roads and land, helping local farms,
toiling in Shead's sawmill, a brickyard,
mining coal, or in the prison shoe and tailor shops. Billings and his partners started
a cooper factory for building barrels, and
later formed the Seatco Manufacturing Company to make sashes, doors and
blinds. According to reports, these enterprises were "wildly profitable." The Seatco
Manufacturing Company—manned completely with prison-slave-labor—became
"one of the largest sash and door factories
on the coast at the time." By 1883 Washington taxpayers were paying Billings and
his partners $33,000 a year to house 73
prisoners, $1,533 of which was for six nonexistent prisoners. The biggest profit, however, was the free labor provided by their
captives: "So grasping were the contractors
that they would work men on the verge of
the grave."
Seatco, a Native American word for "The
Devil's Home," was called "Hell on Earth"
by the men confined there. To cut costs and
satisfy the guards "personal love of cruelties," prisoners were fitted with iron cuffs
riveted to each ankle and fastened together
by long chains. Each weighed 10 to 18
pounds, and the inmates wore them round
the clock—resulting in sores and maiming
their ankles. George France spent seven
years at Seatco, and in his book "Struggles
for Life and Home in the Northwest" describes how "[w]hen the prisoners came in
from work, the sight and clatter of chains
was deafening and damnable, nearly all
being in double irons, riveted to their legs,
wearing them day and night, sick and well,
all the time."

The keepers at Seatco maintained discipline with corporal punishment and torture.
Frequent punishment included a bread and
water diet, exposure to cold, the whipping
post, and frequently administered kicks and
blows by the guards. Solitary confinement
was rarely used, as it kept the inmate from
working and reduced Billing's income. Instead, tactics such as the "water treatment"
—a pitcher of cold water held high above
the restrained inmate and poured directly
into his open mouth—were used to punish
misconduct such as speaking out of turn.
The near-drowning experience would be
repeated until several episodes of unconsciousness were achieved. One inmate had
nine of his teeth pulled by a guard after reporting the conditions to a visiting group
of territorial legislators. Billings and his
partners boosted profits further by pocketing the subsistence allowance and materials provided by the territory for the inmates
and denying privileges such as correspondence, visitation, and access to clergy
– which was highly unusual for the time.
Rail-killed stock and game (often in advanced stage of decomposition) were common fare for meals. Inmates were provided
one set of clothing, which soon became
little more than rags. Medical procedures
were administered without pain relief. According to France, “[t]the conditions were
comparable to those of the Dark Ages.”
Seatco gained a widespread reputation for brutality, and it wasn't long before tales of torture and neglect found
their way to area newspapers. An exposé
by a Seattle paper charged that the treatment of the prisoners at Seatco "was of a
sort better adapted for the care of animals
than human beings." The paper criticized
the contract system at Seatco as a "system wrong in principal, and doubly so in

practice. It opens the door for the entrance
of personal greed of gain, cruelty, and
neglect of men so kept." Public pressure
caused Governor Newell to seek legislative
approval to provide removable irons for
the inmates. The territorial legislature approved his initial request, though it took
another three and one-half years before removable irons were provided.
As newspapers published accounts of the
scandals and abuses at what was dubbed
the "Seatco Dungeon," calls were made for
a more thorough legislative investigation
to ensure that "the cupidity of contractors,
and the natural thirst for cruelty, which is
the usual result of absolute power, do not
overlap the line of simple justice." In 1886,
the legislature decided to take direct control over the prisoners and voted to abandon the contract system. The Seatco Prison
closed in May of 1887, and the ninety-three
remaining prisoners were transferred to
the new state penitentiary in Walla Walla.
In the absence of slave-labor, the Seatco
Manufacturing Company was soon fraught
with financial difficulties, sued by its creditors and contractors, and became insolvent
by August 31, 1896. The prison burned in
1907, and its legacy caused the town of
Seatco to change its name to Bucoda.
Historians contend that all that remains
of the Seatco Prison are a few artifacts
in Bucoda Town Hall, a commemorative
stone at the site, and a mass unmarked
grave in Tenino for the Seatco prisoners
who didn't make it out alive. But that contention fails to recognize that Seatco's legacy of exploiting prison-slave-labor didn't
end with its closing.
Indeed, as soon as prisoners arrived at
the new state-run facility in Walla Walla,
they were set to work quarrying stone and
making bricks to build the walls of a facility that would enslave citizens for the next
130+ years.
In the present day, prisoners are legislatively mandated to work in state-owned
businesses called "Correctional Industries."
RCW 72.09.100 and 72.09.460(2). Like
Seatco, prison-slave-laborers make furniture, clothing, containers, and are "let out"
to local farms. Like Seatco, prisoners who
refuse to work are subject to disciplinary
action, loss of privileges, and extensions to
their terms of confinement. The whipping
post is gone, but prisoners are still being
shot by guards, assaulted, suffering and dying from medical neglect, served “food”
akin to roadkill—spoiled, rotten, and inconsumable.
Prison Covid News

The difference between the Seatco
Manufacturing Company and present-day
Correctional Industries is that Seatco was
"wildly profitable" while Correctional Industries spends millions of taxpayer dollars
each year. The Legislature contends that
such a massive waste of taxpayer funds is
necessary to achieve the "laudable goals of
avoiding idleness, encouraging adoption
of a work ethic, providing opportunities
for inmate self-improvement, and providing a means for paying restitution." RCW
72.09.010(5). These justifications are identical to the Southern plantation owners
view of the Negro slave, and are as untenable as they are outrageous.
How can anyone "benefit" from being a
slave? Far from being a "self-improving"
activity, slavery degrades, dehumanizes,
and devalues human life. The Department
of Corrections (DOC) created and perpetuates idleness by limiting the amount of
time to prioritize Correctional Industries
over everything else. A prisoner cannot pay
thousands of dollars of restitution through
a ‘job’ that pays 65¢ to $1.60 per hour—especially when the DOC seizes a significant
portion for “cost of incarceration” and to
“develop and implement correctional industries. . .” RCW 72.09.110. Most prisoners possess a strong work ethic—a drive
that is often misguided into antisocial or
destructive behaviors. If the legislature
truly wanted to provide opportunities for
self-improvement, it would transform the
DOC’s slave labor factories into education and training facilities—a statistically
proven way to improve the lives of prisoners, help them reintegrate into society, and
reduce recidivism.
The simple truth is that the state of Washington has no interest in rehabilitating
prisoners, improving their lives, or seeing
that restitution is paid. Its only interest—
as shown by 153 years of history—is to
perpetuate the practice of slavery. George
France emphasized a century-and-a-half
ago that “imprisonment will never reform
even those who need reforming, until the
courts and prison officials and Governors
are reformed—they being worse criminals
than the worst they send and hold in prison.
It amazing that facts so simple and vital
should not be obvious to all.”
Slavery is slavery, and no amount of
legislative gloss or plantation-owner-like
excuses can justify its use. As Longinus
reminds us: “Slavery is a prison for the
soul, a public dungeon.” The United States
sanctioned the enslavement of Africans for
Volume 1, Number 11

more than two centuries. Like the current
practice of prison-slave-labor, every court
in the land held that it was perfectly constitutional to confine Africans and force them
to work—leading to some of the darkest
days our Nation has faced. More than two
hundred years after the original form of
slavery ended, our Nation is still plagued
by the trauma and injustice it caused. The
practice of exploiting and abusing socialslaves has now existed for almost as long
as its race-based predecessor. It is time for
this shameful and harmful practice to end,
and for our state to find a better way of
dealing with crime and the individuals who
commit them. If we don’t, the never-ending
trend of devaluing human life, discrimination, and social injustice will not only continue, but will be magnified exponentially
by the 2.2+ million people confined in our
Nation’s jails, prisons, and detention centers every year.
George Washington once lamented that
"[t]here is not a man living who wishes
more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery. But there
is only one proper way and effectual mode
by which it can be accomplished, and that
is by legislative authority." The Washington State Legislature could abolish prisonbased social-slavery with a stroke of its
pen, and we call upon all citizens to demand that our elected officials do so, and
do so promptly. To quote Thomas Jefferson: "This abomination must have an end,
and there is a superior bench reserved in
Heaven for those who hasten it." We will
save a seat for you. ♥

A Nation's Treaty
2.2 Million US Slaves

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a
punishment for crime whereof
the party shall have been duly
convicted, shall exist within
the United States, or any place
subject to their jurisdiction.”
Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S.
“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery …
shall be prohibited in all their
Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, Article 4,
a treaty the US is a signatory to.

[The following virus updates are
only a part of the news stories
relating to the pandemic unfolding inside the nation's prisons and
jails. Your outside people can read
the full version of these stories, as
well as more of this type of reporting, on our website at Your outside people
can also read current and back
issues of this newsletter on the
America is Letting the Coronavirus
rage through prisons
Roughly two million people confined in
the nation’s prisons and jails face a grim
challenge: how to stay alive inside a system
being ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Like the nation overall, U.S. correctional facilities are experiencing record spikes
in coronavirus infections this fall. During
the week of Nov. 17, there were 13,657
new coronavirus infections reported across
the state and federal prison systems.
Few inmates considered eligible
for early release even as COVID-19
flares up in prison
Nevada prison officials say they’ve identified just two people in a population of
nearly 14,000 who might be eligible for an
early release on the basis of their susceptibility to COVID-19 and other factors, even
as more than 80 percent of the inmate population in a Carson City prison has tested
positive for coronavirus.
Sick convict wrote 17 letters pleading to be freed. Covid silenced him.
Waylon Young Bird is among at least
seven inmates who have died this month
amid an outbreak at a federal prison medical center in Missouri. In a letter dated Oct.

28, he wrote that dozens of inmates in his
unit had tested positive but he was, so far,
one of the lucky ones. “I’m afraid I may
be infected by the time you read this letter,” he wrote. “Please as a compassionate
judge, can you help me thru this situation.”
Young Bird tested positive for the virus the
next day. He died exactly a week later, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
New COVID-19 cases in Michigan's
prisons hit all-time high
The number of active COVID-19 cases
among Michigan's prisoners has reached
what's believed to be an all-time high during the pandemic, with 4,010 current infections in facilities across the state. And
last week, the Department of Corrections
reported a record number of new cases in a
single day, logging a staggering 1,137 additional prisoner and staff cases on Nov. 12.
COVID-19 cases more than double
in Michigan prisons in two weeks
The number of inmates in Michigan
prisons testing positive for COVID-19 has
more than doubled in just two weeks. Currently, 2,790 inmates are considered active positive cases. The number was about
1,200 two weeks ago.

people’s ability to protect themselves. Thus
far, the state’s treatment of COVID-19 in
correctional facilities has been grossly inadequate.
Airway Heights prison faces 64 new
COVID-19 cases in inmates overnight
Airway Heights Corrections Center reported 64 new COVID cases Tuesday,
nearly 10 times the number of cases the
facility has recorded since the start of the
pandemic. Thirty staff have also tested positive for the virus.
COVID-19 running wild in
Minnesota prisons
The number of positive COVID-19 cases being reported in Minnesota has been
breaking records, with the Minnesota Department of Health reporting 8,689 new
cases and 35 new deaths as of November 14. The state has a cumulative total
of 220,960 positive confirmed cases and

Inmate outbreak: 800 infected with
COVID-19 in state prison facilities
At least 800 inmates housed by the Utah
Department of Corrections are infected
with COVID-19, and two have died in the
past week.

Dozens of National Guard soldiers
step in to help SC prisons during
COVID-19 pandemic
Hundreds of National Guard soldiers
are still responding to COVID-19 in South
Carolina, and dozens of them are helping
in our prisons. The South Carolina Department of Corrections has reported more than
2,400 cases of COVID-19 in inmates, more
than 550 cases in staff members, and 33
deaths associated with the virus.

Handling of COVID-19 in Nevada
prisons and jails ‘grossly
In June, the Nevada Department of
Corrections not only failed to mandate
mask use by residents and staff, it issued
a policy prohibiting incarcerated people
from wearing face coverings, citing “the
risk of escape.” This cruel and misguided
logic fails to protect those under the department’s charge and actively sabotages

COVID-19 outbreaks continue to
grow in Alaska prisons
Two weeks into an outbreak, the number of COVID-19 cases at Goose Creek
Correctional Center in Point MacKenzie
keeps climbing. The facility now has 204
cases, all of which are active, according to
a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections. That is an increase of more than
90 since the last report eight days ago.


Texas inmates paid $2 an hour to
move COVID-19 victims' bodies
Amid a spike in COVID-19 cases, Texas'
El Paso County is paying prison inmates
$2 an hour to move the bodies of deceased
victims of the disease. While prison labor
is a common practice across the U.S., the
reliance on inmates to handle the task of
moving the corpses of COVID-19 victims
is raising questions about the ethics of such
Wisconsin prison system sees
highest single-day spike in
COVID-19 cases with 808 new
The state Department of Corrections reported 808 new COVID-19 cases among
inmates--the highest single-day spike in
cases in the state prison system since the
start of the pandemic. The new infections
bring the total number of COVID-19 cases
among inmates up to 6,977 and the active
case count to 2,063, according to DOC’s
data dashboard.
As COVID-19 races through
Kentucky’s prisons, one in five
inmates has been infected
One in every five of the 10,165 inmates
housed in Kentucky’s 14 state prisons
has been infected with COVID-19 since
March, with state data showing active
outbreaks this week involving nearly 800
people at five different prisons. “The news
from the corrections front is not good,” said
J. Michael Brown, secretary of Gov. Andy
Beshear’s cabinet, during the governor’s
Monday afternoon news conference. So
far, 2,028 state inmates and 281 prison employees have been infected by COVID-19,
state data shows.
Inmate in Washington State
Penitentiary in Walla Walla dies
from COVID-19 complications
An incarcerated patient at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla has
Prison Covid News

died of issues related to COVID-19 according to the Washington State Department of
Corrections. Michael Cornethan passed
away on Saturday, Nov. 21, at a medical
facility near the prison, according to the
DOC. He was 62 years old.
An uphill battle against COVID-19 in
Advocates push for more widespread
and frequent testing, and for the release of
more prisoners. As of Nov. 20, New York
has recorded 1,713 positive cases among
the incarcerated population, 1,676 positive
cases among staff and 122 positive cases
among parolees since the start of the pandemic. Eighteen incarcerated individuals
have died from the virus, as have five staff
and four parolees. Health hazards in prisons
have a disproportionate impact on people
of color. According to state statistics, Black
New Yorkers made up 48% of state prison
sentences in 2018, despite representing just
15% of the total population that year.
COVID-19 death toll in Missouri
prisons climbs to 27 inmates and
four staff employees
A surge of inmate deaths this month related to the coronavirus has led to renewed
calls on the state to take additional steps to
protect Missouri’s prison population. In all,
27 inmates and four Department of Corrections staffers have died from complications
of COVID-19, a spokeswoman reported.
At least 17 inmate deaths and two staff
deaths have been recorded this month.
Federal prisons among first in line
for COVID-19 vaccines — with staff
as priority
The federal prison system will be among
the first government agencies to receive
the COVID-19 vaccine, though initial allotments will be given to staff and not to
inmates, even though infected prisoners
vastly outnumber sickened staff, according
to documents obtained by the AP.
Volume 1, Number 11
'It can spread so quickly': 300
Nebraska inmates with COVID-19
Nearly 300 Nebraska inmates have the
coronavirus, according to state prison officials. Those cases include 112 prisoners
at the Omaha Corrections Center, 71 at the
Lincoln Corrections Center and 98 at the
prison in Tecumseh. The surge in cases is
a concern for Nebraska's Inspector General
of Corrections Doug Koebernick. "Once it
gets into a prison system it can spread so
quickly," Koebernick said.
‘I was not sentenced to death’: As
virus surges through WI prisons,
cons call for safer procedures
Crisler is advocating for the release of
Wisconsin’s prisoners amid a pandemic
still ravaging the state and its prison facilities, infecting thousands and taking the
lives so far of 11 prisoners. “You don’t
want to get sick inside an institution,”
Crisler said. “The only way you get help,
and if it’s really truly a medical situation,
you have to be dying.”
Allenwood Federal Penitentiary on
virtual lockdown amid spike in
COVID-19 cases
Approximately one-fifth of the inmates
at the Allenwood Federal Penitentiary have
tested positive for the coronavirus. The
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) website Tuesday
stated 126 of the 584 inmates have tested
positive, about three times the number of
a week ago. Six cases also are reported
among staff members. The BOP did not
respond to requests for more information.
N.C. closes prisons, moves inmates
as COVID cases spike
Three state prisons have been closed,
with hundreds of inmates being transferred to other facilities across the state, as
COVID-19 continues to spike within the
prison system. State prison leaders outline

the moves in a briefing to staff. In the briefing, leaders said the move was due to both
an increase in COVID-19 cases among
inmates and the number of staff that have
been out of work at some facilities.
As COVID-19 roars through U.S.
prisons, South Korea may provide
When three prison inmates were infected
with the COVID-19 virus in South Korea
early last spring, corrections officers responded swiftly. "Walk-thru” testing booths
were installed in each of the country’s 54
prison compounds, masks were distributed
universally and prisoners had visitations
curtailed. Nine months later the Asian nation has reported only one other COVID-19
cluster of 11 infections in a prison system
that’s home to some 55,000 detainees.
Contrast that with the U.S., where the virus spread to 2,200 people at California’s
San Quentin State Prison over summer,
killing 28. On New York’s Rikers Island,
more than 1,400 corrections officers were
infected during an outbreak last spring in
which three inmates died. 90 of the 100
largest cluster outbreaks in the U.S. occurred in prisons.
Coronavirus spreads inside more
Delaware prisons
More than 170 people being held at
Delaware’s largest prison in Smyrna have
tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Correction.
That’s a big jump from a week ago, when
the DOC reported just 18 cases at James
Vaughn Correctional Center. Those cases
were all confined to the same housing unit.
The new patients are spread among four
separate units.
WGXA Investigates shocking
conditions in some Georgia prisons
during pandemic
According to the Georgia Department
of Corrections Website, 2,283 Georgia inmates are COVID positive, 2,079 have recovered from COVID-19, and 82 inmates
have died from the virus but one nurse who
Virus News ............. Continued on page 10

[Editor's Note: Because of the lead article on page 7, which is important breaking news, I've had to cut nearly a page of
letters from readers. Maybe next time.]
Getting Better?
The COVID-19 is here, and we have felt
it. No Deaths have been reported as of now,
but all five units are locked down. As of
November 9th, unit one is on modified lock
down, which means day room and courtyard twice a day for 50 minutes. There are
three wings per unit so each day you get
one morning and afternoon courtyard, with
your wing only. When I walked out for the
first time today it was a ghost town. I will
try to keep you updated the best I can. I do
ask one favor from you all, please wear
your mask. I understand the nuance of everything that relates to a mask. Just wear it!
Gregory Tallard, Wisconsin
Open Communication Key?
Thanks for the newsletter, I like your
opinions and feedback with some of the
letters ... you are right, we can change
things only if we want it to change from
the inside. But what I see more and more
is that we, as inmates, like to take the easy
road! We complain constantly, however,
we are too lazy to file a grievance. So we
let others do the heavy lifting. A good example, when I got off isolation, I went to
see the chief health administrator, and in a
respectful manner voiced my opinion and
provided her with some suggestions. Information and open communication is key to
lower the stress within the inmate population. Will it be done? Who knows? Right
now we only have 2 quads under quarantine status and believe it or not nobody in
isolation. Preventive measures even in prisons work, but only when both parties, security and inmates alike cooperate. We go
eat in the chowhall, go to the canteens, go
to the rec field, and starting this week go to
the chapel. However, lots of patience is required as we can only do this one quad at a
time. This is not the time to be angry at each
other or take it out on the guards or other
staff, the virus is the enemy! The infections
in the city of Miami-Dade are steadily rising. Complaining about it doesn't help, we
have to do our part, as inmates, to keep the
virus at bay. Believe me! I learned my lesson, where before I got the virus, I could

walk miles and miles on the rec field, now
I can barely walk to the chowhall as I'm
out of breath.
Rudy Vandenborre, Florida
His Take on Things
Response to volume 1 #8 page 7 “Stepping Up”. Mr. Zellmer is incorrect. I am
also at WSP, was a witness to his incident,
but to this date staff are either not wearing
face masks or not wearing them properly. I
still see staff bunched up in the 8x6 office
5 at a time wearing no masks. Yard staff
not wearing them talking to prisoners in
less than 6 feet. Wearing them on their chin
while doing tier checks. When this first
started in May there was a memo from HQ
that all staff will be issued N95 masks. To
this day I have never seen one. There was a
KIOSK message 11/4/20 that stated any inmate not wearing a mask and not maintaining a 6 ft distance will receive a WAC 103
infraction. It said this is not a punishment
but to express the seriousness of the virus.
But what are they doing about the staff not
following the rule? We know by Zellmers
experience. Anyone who has done more
than a year knows it's suicide to complain
about staff not following the rules.
Volume 1 #6 page 6 “Need high-powered
lawyers” Volume 1 #10 page 6 “Heavy
Lifting.” Attorneys are not going to save
you. The “high powered lawyers” in WA
who filed suit over the prison covid lost.
Our power lies in our ability to withhold
our slave labor! I saw on the news El Paso
inmates handling covid bodies at the local
morgue. Those fools are risking their lives
for what? An extra dollar a day. With that
said in WA we have contract attorney’s
RCW 72.09.190 who are specifically paid
by the state to do just what you’re asking.
I advise all states that have such services,
make your requests, keep copies of your
correspondence, then file grievances when
they fail to respond. Those of you in states
that don’t have such services kite your law
library for address, have your people look
up the state or local bar association website, which provide list of attorneys that
specialize in civil litigation. It’s all a waste
of time but go ahead and try. Down the
road you’ll have proof of the unavailability
of that option.
Finally, in most issues of the Prison Covid people sound shocked at the prisons
response or lack thereof. Prisons are reactive, not proactive. They are either ran by
government employees with an attitude “I

showed up to work, what more do
you expect from me” or worse,
they are privatized and run for
profit with Ill trained staff. All
you on the inside who can buy
commissary, have your people
buy food or property packages
can afford to pay for this news
rag. Holiday is coming up with
family willing to buy you something. Have them purchase a year
of this newsletter. Do your part,
otherwise do not bitch about what you got!
Jeffery McKee, Washington



[Editor's Note: Back when the slavery of
blacks was taking place in the old South,
it was next to a crime for slaves from one
plantation to communicate acts of resistance to another plantation. The same is
true of today's slaves of the state. Across
the country there have been mass protests
by prisoners around virus related issues,
and in support of Black Lives Matter. But
I can't report these news stories because,
like the slave masters of old, your captors
do not want you to know that resistance is
taking place.
The information you are allowed to receive is so tightly controlled that many issues of this publication have been banned
for merely listing the name of the author
of an article or printing a letter writer’s
name. When I do so the mail rejection notices claim this newsletter “Contains correspondence, information, or other items
relating to another Washington State incarcerated individual … or attempts or conveys correspondence between incarcerated
These rejections are on their way to
court. My point is that, like the slave masters of old, they treat you like children.
They are “protecting” you from a reality or
point of view they don’t agree with.
Interestingly enough, yesterday the U.S.
imposed additional sanctions on China.
Why? Because they "suppress freedom of

Prison Covid News

By Tal Axelrod
en. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep.
Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) proposed
a joint resolution Wednesday to
remove a punitive provision in the 13th
Amendment of the Constitution, which
outlaws slavery. The resolution calls for the
House and Senate to craft an amendment
saying that “neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude may be imposed as a punishment
for a crime.”
The lawmakers said the wording would
close a loophole in the 13th Amendment
that still provides an avenue for slavery to
be legal. The amendment currently reads
that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime
whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States,
or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
“America was founded on beautiful principles of equality and justice and horrific
realities of slavery and white supremacy,
and if we are ever going to fully deliver on
the principles we have to directly confront
the realities,” said Merkley. “The exception to the 13th Amendment’s ban on slavery corrupted criminal justice into a tool of
racist control of Black Americans and other
people of color, and we see that legacy every day in police encounters, courtrooms,
and prisons throughout our country. Slavery is incompatible with justice. No slavery, no exceptions.”
“Our Abolition Amendment seeks to finish the job that President Lincoln started by
ending the punishment clause in the 13th
Amendment to eliminate the dehumanizing
and discriminatory forced labor of prisoners for profit that has been used to drive the
over-incarceration of African Americans
since the end of the Civil War. No American should ever be subject to involuntary
servitude, even if they are incarcerated,”
added Clay.
Merkley and Clay were joined by 17 cosponsors in introducing the legislation.
In a statement announcing the legislation, Merkley and Clay tied the loophole to
“Black Codes” that were implemented in
the late 1800s and used by Southern sheriffs to lease out imprisoned people to work
landowners’ fields. Merkley and Clay said
the language created “a financial incentive
for mass incarceration” that they say still


Volume 1, Number 11

exists today in unequal treatment of people
of color in the criminal justice system.
The proposal comes after a summer of
national protests over systemic racism and
police brutality following the shootings of
unarmed Black Americans by law enforcement. The legislation garnered the support
of an array of activist groups.
“This change is long overdue. The punishment clause in the 13th amendment is a
legacy of slavery that has allowed people
incarcerated, disproportionately Black and
brown, to be exploited for decades. It is
long past time that Congress excise this
language from the US Constitution which
should begin to put an end the abusive
practices derived from it,” said Laura Pitter, deputy director of the U.S. program at
Human Rights Watch. ♥
[Editor's Note: Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony
Bottom) has served close to fifty years in
New York prisons for killing two NY police
officers. Sometime back around 1976, Jalil
filed a petition with the United Nations in
an effort to abolish prison slavery. At the
time I too was a prisoner and, in a small
way, helped him by raising the slavery issue in the prisoner-oriented publication I
was then publishing. Jalil provided me with
a copy of the documents he had filed with
the UN. It was back then that I first became
aware of the issue of social slavery.
Now, just as I was about to print this issue, a comrade sent me a link to the above
article about modifying the 13th Amendment in order to remove the provision that
permits prison slavery. The article totally
blew me away. I have been struggling to
abolish the slavery amendment since 1976,
and never in my wildest dreams did I think
I would live long enough to see any substantial progress being made. My work was
merely to lay the groundwork for the next
generation of prisoner activists.
While this particular effort to modify
the Thirteenth Amendment may or may not
pass into law, the issue has nonetheless finally reached the ears of state power—it
has gained some traction. And it has done
so because prisoners across the nation have
been writing and protesting their condition

of state-sanctioned slaves. There is nothing
more powerful than an idea that has settled
into the consciousness of the masses of oppressed peoples. The struggle against slavery is an idea whose time has come.
With the abolition of slavery the nature of
imprisonment will be radically and forever
altered. The right of prisoners to vote, for
example, will only be the first step. Readers are urged to peacefully and responsibly
take up this call for constructive change.]
Ed Mead

A Tale of Two Prisons
Federal corrections officials in Louisiana
did a poor job of protecting prisoners and
staff during the early months of the pandemic, a new watchdog report confirms. At
FCI Oakdale, officials failed to quarantine
infected prisoners for days after diagnoses
and then didn’t tell staff to wear protective
gear. At another federal prison 53 miles
away, however, prison officials took reasonable precautions and helped stymie the
spread of COVID-19.
USA Today
Gov. Polis says Colorado prisoners
shouldn’t get COVID-19 vaccine
before free people
Gov. Jared Polis said he believes incarcerated people, who’ve been subject to
many of Colorado’s most severe coronavirus outbreaks, should not receive access
to upcoming vaccines ahead of free people.
It’s a position he’s stated twice in the last
week, and that seems to go against the vaccine distribution plan Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment
published weeks ago.
4 more Colorado inmates die of
COVID-19 over the last week
There are 1,558 inmates and 207 staff
members with COVID-19 in Colorado's
jails and prisons and four inmates have
died from the disease within the last week,
according to a release from the Colorado
Department of Corrections (DOC). This
brings the total number of COVID-19
deaths among Colorado's inmate population to 11, the DOC said.



his newsletter started its young life
by focusing only on the states of
Washington and, to a lesser extent,
Oregon. But over time we have grown into
a national publication for prisoners. While
we try to keep the focus on the COVID-19
virus, on occasion we come across something that should be shared with prisoners
in general. The front-page article “A Call
to End Prison Slavery” is a history lesson
for prisoners here in Washington. I thought
it was important enough to share with all
our readers, although it is not virus-related.
When the time comes that the COVID-19 virus is making a retreat on the inside, and there is a vaccine available. Then
we will need to talk about the future of this
newsletter. At that point the primary reason
for the existence of this newsletter will be
largely gone.
When the day comes when it is time to
stop publishing Prison Covid there will be
two options: The first option is that we just
stop putting out the newsletter, since the
need for it will be pretty much gone. Or,
secondly, we merely change the name of
the publication to something else and start
printing monthly national prisoner-oriented
newsletter. That means we stop being only
about the virus and instead focus on the
peaceful struggle against state slavery and
to work for democracy on the inside, including the right to vote. And yes, general
prison happenings too.
The good news is that you get to vote on
this future. The bad news is that with voting comes a certain degree of responsibility
and sacrifice. The future of this newsletter
will turn on the number of stamps we receive from our readers. If a newsletter like
this is important enough to you to donate a
portion of your meager wealth, then it will
be important enough to us to continue producing it under some other name. Oh, hell,
maybe we will just keep publishing under
the same name—for tradition’s sake.
Finally, I really wish you on the inside
would stop using the word "inmate" to describe yourselves and your peers. You are
prisoners and convicts, not residents or inmates. Language matters.
See yourselves as you are; not how the
state defines you. Correctional institutions
are prisons! Superintendents are wardens.
Guards are not correctional officers. All of
them are holding you against your will at
gun point. If you can't see that then you are
reading the wrong publication. ♥



erri Fowler grew up in a family of
cops. Dad was a police chief in a
St. Louis County municipality. Her
younger brother was a police officer in the
city of St. Louis. Law enforcement was in
her blood.
She applied to be a corrections officer in
the Moberly Correctional Center in midMissouri. “I was never instructed to wear
any (personal protective equipment),”
Fowler says. “The other officers weren’t
being protected. We weren’t being ordered
to wear masks. I was around everybody.
This just didn’t seem right to me.”
At the time, and for most of the coronavirus pandemic, there was very little maskwearing or social distancing in Missouri’s
prisons. Fowler was moved from the medical unit to another wing, but she was still
around detainees and fellow employees.
So Fowler made a decision on her own.
She was going to quarantine at home until
the COVID-19 test from the detainee she
had direct contact with came back negative. There was a time when a new employee like Fowler making a decision to
protect her fellow employees would have
had the backing of the Corrections Officers
Association, the union for such employees.
But because of Gov. Mike Parson’s efforts
to de-certify the union, Fowler didn’t even
know it existed. The DOC just stopped recognizing the union. “There was a concerted
effort to get rid of the union,” Cutt says.
She spoke out against poor COVID-19
procedures and became a target, Fowler
said, making it impossible to do her job.
She resigned in June, citing in her resignation letter that her employment took a
downward turn after she was disciplined
for trying to protect the health of her fellow employees. Since then, COVID-19 has
raged through Missouri prisons like a wildfire, killing at least four corrections’ staff
members and 27 detainees. At one point
in November, there were as many as 1,500
detainees and 500 staff members infected
with the virus.
“People need to know what’s going on in
those facilities,” Fowler says. “They didn’t
take COVID seriously at all.” ♥



hen the first COVID-19 vaccine
is officially proven safe and effective and vials are distributed
across the country, among the first people
to receive them -- for the safety of the nation -- should be the millions of workers
and incarcerated people within jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers.
That's the gist of a resolution said to have
"overwhelming" support that is under consideration during the American Medical
Association virtual meeting. If passed, the
AMA would urge appropriate vaccine distributors -- the federal government as well
as vaccine manufacturers -- to put the penal
system in the front of the lines to get the
Of the top 20 largest clusters of COVID-19 disease in the country, "19 are in
prisons or in jails, with a growth rate that
doubly outpaces the general population,"
according to one of the two resolutions
considered in the AMA's Public Health reference committee.
"This is an extremely critical" issue, said
Charles Lee, MD, president-elect of the
American College of Correctional Physicians and its representative to the AMA.
"We know inmates and correctional workers have an extremely high rates of coronavirus infection and can secondarily affect
the public when they go home or when they
leave these institutions."
Ian Motie, a regional medical student
delegate from Tallahassee, noted that for
incarcerated populations, physical distancing and other preventable measures "are
simply infeasible."
And Tiffany Bell, MD, of the AMA Section Council on Psychiatry, said 20% of jail
inmates -- 15% of those in state prisons -have serious mental illness, adding another
level of difficulty to contain the virus. "As
a result the virus spreads easily. It's often
introduced into prisons by staff members.
Therefore...inmates, along with correctional staff, must be among the first to access
vaccines." ♥

The world is changed
by your example;
not by your opinion.
Prison Covid News



hank you for the updates re how other correctional facilities across the
U.S. are faring. I’ve been receiving
your newsletter for about 4 months now,
and it wasn’t until the November 2020 edition that I (finally) read something about the
New York State prisons: “Covid-19 surge
strikes two New York prisons.” WHY WAS
I NOT SURPRISED? The problem, however, was that the article originated from
the Wall Street Journal, reported to them by
a New York DOC spokesperson. Let me
give you the perspective of our situation in
here from an inmate’s point of view.
I’ve been down 24 years, have been here
at SSCF 10 years, and if there’s one thing
consistent about our system (especially
SSCF), it’s that there is NO consistency.
So, it was only expected there was a spike
in cases here in NYSDOCCS. The seriousness of the pandemic first hit SSCF back
in March 2020. The inmate population here
followed the (local New York City) news
of it and spoke of it like it was only an “outside” public issue. We on the inside had a
real false sense of security, believing they
were safe because, “We are already quarantined by virtue of being in here, away from

inmates fabricated their
own masks, only to be
told ... that inmates could
not wear masks.
About a month passed, and then cases
began to appear. Those reported being sick
were basically put in a keeplock-like status to quarantine them, right there still in
general population. The more serious cases
went to the infirmary, if not to the outside
hospital. By about April-May, the first inmate died from the corona virus. He was
a mess hall feed-up worker who delivered
trays under escort by a C.O. who worked
outside the mess hall, who was later found
to be positive with the virus.
Two more deaths were reported within a
month later here at SSCF—one of whom
was an officer. Respectively, though not
excused, those passed did have preexisting
conditions. By this time the televised news
began advising the public to wear masks.
The NYSDOCCS ordered the visit rooms
and all programs (school, volunteer svs,
chapel, etc.) closed. The officers and civilians (here at SSCF) began wearing the blue
PPE masks, but none were issued to the inVolume 1, Number 11

mate population.
Many inmates took matters into their own
hands and fabricated their own masks, only
to be told by officers under orders by higher-up superiors that those inmates could not
wear masks. Their rationale: it was against
rules/regulations; that no DOCCS directive or FOP contained language allowing
face covering except in cases involving
hazardous jobs requiring masks, respirators, as such items are deemed Class-A
tools. The reality began to settle in, that
they (C.O.s and civilians) were allowed
to protect themselves and we (inmates)
weren’t—and people are dying. Scores of
grievances were filed by inmates. None
were answered, let alone even processed,
because the grievance officer was ordered
to stay home, deemed non-essential staff.
Ultimately, pressure was met and the administration here conceded to issuing PPE
masks ... but only to the food service workers in the mess hall. Because no memorandum from Albany existed just yet, the mess
hall staff issued each inmate worker one
mask, which they were expected to wear
only when working each day, then had to
surrender it back to the OIC, who would
place each inmate’s mask in their own individual white paper lunch bag with their ID
number written upon it. All the bags were
stacked atop one another and stored in a
black plastic milk crate often stored down
on floor under their desk. The mess hall
workers wore the same blue PPE mask for
a month before a replacement was issued to
them. At no time were the mess hall workers allowed to take their mask back to their
cell with them.
By late May, early June, the NYSDOCCS
began to issue (white cloth) masks to all of
the inmate population. Cell by cell, handed
them out. Then we were issued another
a month later. Then again. I now have 7,
which bides me quite well, as I wear mine
diligently. But the problem I see—and have
been seeing since day one—is this: When
the inmate population did not have masks,
they complained, demanded them. Then after receiving them, they either wear them
under their chin or not at all.
It has NOT been made mandatory (direct
order) to wear one’s mask except under the
following circumstances: 1) When a mess
hall worker on duty in the mess hall ; 2)
When using the indoor/outdoor phones ;
3) When on a visit ; 4) When on a call-out
(counselor, infirmary, etc.) ; 5) And (now)

for attending the law library or whatever
school call-out are still in effect. But in every other aspect of facility operation, there
is NO enforcement of wearing their mask.
What sense does it make that mess hall
workers wear theirs, but the masses who
enter the dining halls to eat walk in without
wearing theirs. They stand about a foot or
two apart in line, talking incessantly to one
another or to people at tables, even yelling
to others across the room. The only social
distancing is where they must sit every other seat, one side of each table. Indoors and
in the yards, masks must be worn to use the
phones, but out in the yards inmates roam
about and crowd together in groups without
On the galleries some inmates (e.g.,
porters) are seen wearing their mask - by
choice. Inmates out working, moving cells,
traversing the halls, do not wear their masks.
Inmates crowd 4-5 deep in slop sinks without masks to use the kiosks. Inmates attending commissary on their buy day are
escorted via “social distancing”—20 at a
time—and yet when they arrive there they
are met with so many leftover inmates from
the previous run and sit huddled on benches
with them—many not wearing their mask.
Why do the officers and/or civilian workers
not enforce the mask wearing and proper
social distancing? Because they simply
don’t care what happens to the inmates.
If they (the officers /civilians) have their
mask on and so are safe from us (inmates),
they couldn’t care less whether we live or
die. Don’t give them the satisfaction! On
Nov. 9,10,11, SSCF (finally) did covid-19
testing on its inmates due to pressure, lawsuits. Results? We’ll see. ♥
Mark, New York State


COVID News ....... Continued from page 5
works at multiple Georgia prisons believes
those numbers are being under-reported.
It is running rampant in the prisons. The
numbers that are posted on GDC are not
accurate at all. Filthy conditions, severe
staff shortages, no answers to desperate
screams for help, being left in a locked cell
alone for days on end while fighting COVID-19 - these are just a few of the accusations against the Georgia Department of
As coronavirus cases keep rising,
Washington extends visitation ban
in state prisons
As coronavirus cases in Washington rise
ever higher, the state’s prisons are continuing to ban in-person visits for inmates. Inperson visits at the state’s 24 prisons and
work-release centers have been suspended
since mid-March, as the state Department
of Corrections tries to forestall outbreaks in
its facilities.

Union calling for new system-wide
COVID-19 measures in state prisons
The union representing state correctional
officers is calling for a system-wide suspension of visitation, increased spacing
of inmates and limited inmate transport to
prevent the spread of COVID-19 in state
prisons. In a plea directed to NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of
Corrections and Community Supervision,
Michael Powers, president of the New
York State Correctional Officers & Police
Benevolent Association, said “immediate
steps” are necessary to curb spread among
prison employees and the state’s incarcerated population. “The state needs to act
now, system-wide, before it’s too late,” Mr.
Powers said.
Report: Washington prisons officials botched response to COVID-19
outbreak at Coyote Ridge

Corrections Center
As a coronavirus outbreak ravaged a
central Washington prison this spring and
summer, corrections officials were slow,
confused and ineffective in their response,
a state watchdog report shows. Key medical personnel were absent or sidelined by
other Department of Corrections (DOC)
administrators, according to the report by
the Office of Corrections Ombuds.
Guards weren’t forced to wear masks.
Symptomatic prisoners were allowed to
mingle with others.
COVID-19 Infections Hit Record
High In California Prisons
Inside California’s prisons, coronavirus
cases have exploded, reaching 3,861 active cases last week — the highest so far.
Yet the state has slowed its early releases
of inmates, raising questions about overcrowding as the infections spread through
the prisons.

Prison Covid Newsletter ©
PO Box 48064
Burien, WA 98148




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