Lock Down by Jay Goodman

Right now, I am sitting in my cell because all of the Federal Prisons are on lock down across the United States. It’s been a week today and we are hearing it is going to be another month before we will be allowed back out. We heard on the news that several prisoners were killed at a Federal Prison in Texas, so they decided to lock down all of the prisons. We also heard that they’re going to move some of the gang members around, which of course will help, I’m sure. It seems that the Federal Bureau of Prisons have come up with another wonderful idea to lock down the entire prison system, punishing the masses because of a few bad people. Not like they really needed these men to lock down the entire prison system, because over the last fifteen months that I’ve been here, they have been very creative in coming up with many reasons to lock us down.

Just off the top of my head, allow me to name a few, once an inmate from the cell block I live in that said something disrespectful to a lady who works here and even though it happened outside and she called for other guards who put this man in isolation, the administration still locked down our cell block the rest of the day. Another time there were two inmates on quarantine in my cell block, when it came time to let us out of our cells, the guard opened their door as well and they came out with us. About ten minutes later the guard realized what he had done and called for a ranking officer. When he arrived, they locked us down again, and even though those two prisoners ended up being taken to isolation, the administration kept us locked down. One hundred and twenty-six prisoners are punished because the officer didn’t do his job. If the guard would have looked on the bulletin board, showing which cell was on quarantine, that never would have happened, but instead of the administration punishing the guard, the entire cell block went without being able to talk to their family, or even being able to shower. When I was talking with other prisoners about this the next day, people were saying this is how the Feds do it, they want the inmates to punish the others that mess up, what’s crazy is to hear them tell me this like it is completely normal. They actually believe this shit, like it’s written in stone somewhere. I wanted to remind all of these men that these two guys went to isolation, so there is no way all of the prisoners could have taken care of the situation as they like to believe it is, so why were we locked down?

There are several reasons, one they know they can, because they have the inmates believing this is how it is. Two, the staff are a bunch of lazy ass idiots who would rather have us locked down. Now instead of having a little work to do, to being able to do absolutely nothing. They can go sit in their offices, watch movies, play video games, or just go to sleep. The day after the incident with the two quarantined guys, we are let out to use the phones, computers and shower. We were out about twenty minutes before they locked us down again because there was a fight in another building. Not within my cell block, but a completely different building. When I asked why they were locking us down, I was told they always do this because they worry it will spread to other cell blocks. The odd thing with this statement is, at this time every single prison in the Federal system was on lock down. All of our food was brought to our cell blocks, the food carts were not being delivered inside the cell blocks, but left outside in a breezeway. When I went to the medical department, back then we could only go with our cell block. No school, no outside rec with other cell blocks, so as for locking us down out of fear it would spread was yet another stupid statement. A friend of mine was telling me before we got locked down for Covid, that anytime someone would fall out from smoking K-2, the administration would lock down the entire prison for at least a week or two and put every prisoner on a twenty-five-dollar spending limit when they went to the store that month. He told me this went on month after month because people would keep falling out from smoking this trash. Of course, when I asked him why, he told me because the administration wanted the prisoners to take care of it. I still shake my head every time I hear this statement, and what’s even worse, there are inmates who actually believe this shit. For one it is not my job or any other man in here’s job to police the other inmates. We are not guards, we aren’t getting paid to do the job of the guards.

Now, let’s just suppose the prisoners did beat the shit out of the others who are smoking this K-2, every time one of them would get smashed, guess what would happen? We would be locked down for an investigation. So, if we don’t beat these guys that fall out for smoking K-2, we get locked down. If we kick the shit out of them we get locked down, either way we are screwed. Not to mention, do you know how many people in here smoke K-2? Hundreds. We would stay locked down. For every thirty that left, thirty more would show up. But as I keep saying, it really has nothing to do with us, because regardless of if we police our own or not, the administration is going to find a reason to lock us down.

Now not long after these situations took place, something happened in isolation with some prisoner they had to gas. Of course, the administration locked us down, but once the situation was taken care of, did they let us back out? Of course not! Another time all of the guards came running in screaming for us to go to our cells. They went from cell to cell looking at each prisoner, cuffed a couple men and took them to isolation. They were horse playing, it was very obvious, but they still locked them up and kept all of us locked down.

Late last year, around August, this place had a good run without much happening. One Thursday we had been out all day, every one went to their cell for four pm count, a little after five, our guard made the following statement, “I am sorry to tell everyone, but we are officially locked down for Covid.” Now we had been out all day, it’s after five, so everyone including our fearless leader, the warden, had decided to have us locked down in the evening. That means he had to have known there was an outbreak earlier, but chose to wait until he left. So, we went from Thursday evening until Tuesday without a shower. When we asked the guard about a shower he said, “You all are coming out tomorrow.” So, supposedly we have a bad enough outbreak from Covid that he had to lock the entire prison system down for, as they love to say, “For safety and security of the institution.”, but after five days we are amazingly healed. I believe that about as much as I believe I’m going to the moon today. It’s never ending, it’s always something. If it’s too foggy in the morning, they’ll lock us down for a special count right after breakfast. Which is understandable, but after they count, instead of letting us back out, they’ll just leave us in our cells for hours. Not long ago, it started snowing in the afternoon, right after chow time, the administration called for a special count, the guard said we’d get out soon as he did count. We stayed locked down for two days. Anything and everything they can do to lock us down and keep us in our cells, they will. When people tell me, this is how the feds are, I cannot help but think, “No! This is not how you allow it to be.”

Everyone who is reading this, I want you to remember, just because we are sitting in prison, doesn’t mean we have lost all of our rights. We haven’t lost the right protecting against cruel and unusual punishment, it’s called the Eighth Amendment. For all of you who say “This is how the feds are.”, spend some time on the computer, or go to the law library and read the David Ruiz lawsuit in Texas. This one man kept the Texas Prison System in litigation for twenty years. This man revamped the whole prison. Take a long look at this lawsuit and realize change is in our hands.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez