Crisis At Stateville

We in prison are in a unique and unfortunate position. We are in the care of the state. The state of Illinois, IDOC in particular, is responsible for our health and safety. 

Let’s examine how that has played out for us…more than 30 men have died here of Covid 19. 

There are less than a thousand men here. That’s a 4% mortality rate, FOUR TIMES THE NATIONAL AVERAGE. It’s mostly because of the indifference and neglect of staff, and insufficient medical care. 

Many of these men were immuno-comprimised, and died as a result of not being separated and quarantined properly.

The Illinois Governor JB Pritzker mandated that ALL state employees be vaccinated. Employees of IDOC and their union AFSCME actively fought the vaccination order. They actively resisted the order to get vaccinated, despite the fact that they are in positions to care for inmates in Stateville. 

It’s their job, their responsibility to keep men here safe and healthy, and out of harm’s way. Yet, they refuse to get vaccinated. Approximately 30% of the staff here at Stateville are vaccinated.

They are still actively fighting the vaccination order, and are trying to use the religious exemption.

Under these circumstances you would think the staff at Stateville, though unvaccinated, would take special care not to get Covid, or pass it to others. Unfortunately, that is not the case. They all decided to get together at Woodridge, Illinois, rent out a banquet hall and have a Christmas party. 

It turned out to be a super spreader event. 

Over 100 staff members subsequently tested positive for Covid. They came to work and passed it on to their co-workers, and the men they are supposed to be caring for.

Friday, Dec. 31st, the tac team (tactical officers) escorted outside medical personnel to administer Covid tests to prisoners here in the facility. They have decided to test everyone in the facility twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Today is Tuesday, Jan. 4th; they came around this morning to administer tests to everyone. 

The tester revealed that Friday’s tests found 140 Covid positive tests of prisoners. 140 positive tests!!! It’s spreading like wildfire in this place thanks to the stupidity, and indifference of the IDOC staff. The members of the tac team who came to administer tests this past Friday have all subsequently tested positive.

They are NOT quarantining those men who have tested positive, despite having an empty cellhouse in which to place them. They are instead doing NOTHING, leaving these men in place. So, if my cellmate is positive, and I am not, I am still forced to stay in the cell with a Covid positive prisoner. How is this even remotely acceptable as a medical practice? 

It violates every protocol set up by the CDC!! 

It puts men’s lives in danger.

There is a cellhouse here, E-House, which is nearly empty. There are only about 30 guys in the cellhouse currently. That means there are over 100 cells they can place those with Covid positive tests in. Yet, they have devised a policy of quarantining in place, which jeopardizes the health and safety of not only staff, but every other prisoner around them.

I am in C-House, on 6 gallery. Unbeknownst to me, several guys in my general area have tested positive for Covid. Sunday, when we went to the shower, these men with positive cases were allowed to go with us who do not have Covid. We were not told! We were not given the choice to take our own health and safety into consideration. 

Had I known, both I and my cellmate would have refused showers so that we did not have direct contact with Covid positive prisoners. 

The staff put us in the untenable situation of having direct contact with these guys. This violates every Covid protocol from the CDC and everywhere else. IDOC is continually placing us in danger, without even telling us.

These Covid positive prisoners who have been allowed to quarantine in place use the same phones that we do. The phone is passed from cell to cell, Covid positive prisoners touch it, breathe into it as they talk on it….then pass it on. 

Again, we are not being told that these guys are Covid positive, nor are we being given any cleaning supplies to clean our cells, or the phones. We do not have bleach or disinfectant to sanitize the phones…we do not have hand sanitizer or any other cleaning product.

 IDOC is giving us NOTHING to protect ourselves with. We are not being provided with essential cleaning supplies so that we can protect ourselves.

We are in the midst of an outbreak, yet we are only on a quasi-lockdown. We do not have school, chow, or yard, but every other prisoner with a job is out of his cell, running around, unmasked, and ungloved, doing everything from passing out trays, to passing out water….they do this so that the staff does not have to work. 

When one prisoner was asked why he did not have a mask or gloves, he responded “I asked, but they said they don’t have any for me”. Staff also walk around maskless and gloveless passing out mail, food, and Covid. 

This outbreak is not being taken seriously in any way whatsoever.

We are not being provided with essential cleaning supplies, nor are we able to buy them from the commissary. They do not sell bleach wipes, or baby wipes..they do not sell hand sanitizer, and for the past 4 months, they have not even sold us soap!! 

The most basic of cleaning supplies are not given to us, or sold to us at all. FOUR MONTHS without soap!

Things here are on the edge, men have been protesting. Today, the entire C-House refused our food trays. Some men have declared hunger strikes, others have told staff openly about killing themselves. 

We are barely getting fed, bread has become a luxury and a treat. 

Yet, men are refusing their food, protesting over IDOCs policy of keeping Covid positive guys in place, endangering everyone around them. Many guys here are vaccinated, but no one wants Covid!! 

There are still immuno-comprimised men here, diabetics, cancer survivors, Covid can, and will still kill people, and IDOC has placed all of us in danger.

The lives of prisoners don’t matter to most people, but we are fathers, sons, brothers, uncles and friends. Our lives matter. We need people to let IDOC know that our lives matter. 

Please speak up, and speak out before it’s too late.

Anthony Ehlers, B60794