COVID-19 ALERT: Eastern New York Correctional Facility

On Friday, 13 March, a site director from the Bard Prison Initiative told me and other inmates that professors wouldn’t be coming to teach classes for the foreseeable future. The director explained that this was a precautionary measure to avoid accidentally exposing students to Covid-19.

This was the first sign that a lot of things around the prison were going to change.

Given the extensive media coverage of the virus, I expected that Bard would tell professors to take such precautions. But I didn’t account for how dramatically Covid-19 would alter my life as an inmate.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have to wait long to find out. The very next day an announcement was made informing inmates that “out of concern for the safety and wellbeing of staff, all visits from the outside to inmates” – ie family and friends – would be “suspended until April 11, 2020, with the exception of legal visits.”

In order to compensate for the visits being taken away, the prison would provide inmates with five free letters via postal mail, two free electronic email stamps via JPay, and one free phone call via Securus a week until the crisis resolved itself.

The mood within the prison immediately became grim.