We were so hopeful and excited about the vaccines being administered out here in the free world. This meant that we were somewhat protected from this deadly virus that had taken the lives of too many precious souls. The women at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility were just as excited because they were finally allowed to sign up to get vaccinations. The visiting room was estimated to be opening up at the end of April, so women would see their children and family again, after a year of no visiting. Some of the older women and those that have pre-existing medical problems got their second dose of the Moderna vaccine on April 12th, 2021. The administration had acquired the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine and said it would no longer be issuing the Moderna and that the population would get J&J next week. Everyone was excited, anticipating planning visits and the fear began to subside with protection from the vaccines on the horizon. The good news turned to bad, and hope scurried out the door. There were news reports about the safety of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – several women that received the one-shot vaccine had acquired blood clots and one had died.

On April 11, 2021, the population was informed that two nursery mothers and their babies tested positive for Covid-19, then 6 more women in the dorms tested positive as well. At the end of the day 32 women and two babies in the prison had tested positive for Covid-19. The dorm was put into quarantine and the women and babies who tested positive were admitted to the infirmary. One of the women was reported to have had a temperature of 108.

The fact of the matter is that the women have not had outside contact except with the staff and one another. The new women entering the prison are all supposedly tested and cleared to be transferred to Bedford Hills, Covid-19 negative. So the question remains: How did this happen? I believe that the civilians and staff allowed into the prisons are not being tested regularly and the lives of the women are being put at risk.

I have had conversations with some of the women who have told me that officers were not wearing their masks all the time when they were on duty. When the women requested more masks they were instructed to reuse their masks by flipping them to the other side. The mess hall tables were not being sanitized after each unit ate throughout the 3 daily meals. There was no accountability for civilians or staff entering the facility. The concerns women had were never addressed and the administration says they are doing the best they can, but women are still getting the virus and everyone is afraid of dying.

A letter from inside:

All prisons should have a rapid PCR test for anyone entering the facility, temperatures should be taken before entering the facility, and a Covid-19 safety check questionnaire should be filled out by everyone entering the facility. These are the protocols that many institutions use for the safety of others and our correctional facilities should employ these measures as well because prisons are a breeding ground for Covid.

I am saddened by these developments because being incarcerated should not be a death sentence. The incarcerated deserve dignity and basic human rights. Health is one of them.