Essay’d Pandemic Edition #5 – James D. Fuson on Macomb Regional Correctional Facility … UPDATED 5/28

Our fifth “Pandemic Edition” features a message from James D. Fuson (the subject of Essay’d Installment #122) on how the coronavirus is spreading in Macomb Regional Correctional Facility.

Detroit Cultural Crisis Survey
James D. Fuson on Macomb Regional Correctional Facility
Sent by e-mail

Update 5/15/2020 Subject: Prisoner Antibody Testing. “On May 11th, they locked down the facility. Health service, with the National Guard in tow, came around and drew blood from all prisoners at Macomb Correctional Facility. Their stated goal is to test for COVID-19 antibodies. This is a change in DOC practice. Until now, they’ve been testing for the coronavirus.

A prison guard on the wing would call a couple of prisoners who would stand in line. The blood draw stations were set up in two of the day rooms with partitions set up. They called us in two at a time in each day room.

The DOC put on a public face-everything locked down, allowing only one prisoner to the bathroom at a time, six feet of distance for everyone. All things not enforced any other time. They even passed out a brand new, re-washable mask (still made from the same material as our state-issued shirts and pants). We haven’t had a new mask in a month.

To contrast all the bells and whistles, the prisons guards were very rude to us, barking orders and yelling like this was boot camp and accusing us of being the cause of COVID-19 in the prisons. On top of that, none of the stations were sanitized in between use. Being in the last cell on my wing, I had to stand next to a rail and sit in two different chairs that 29 other people touched and sat in before me without any kind of sanitation.

The whole process lasted about nine hours.

Ultimately, this was a good thing, the testing for antibodies. Hopefully, the administration uses the information to open up the prison a little-more than two hours of yard a week, day rooms, school. My fear is that they use the information to further mess with prisoners–arbitrarily moving us around, segregating us, or otherwise cooking the books.

We’ll see.

Postscript: on 5/22/2020, the MDOC reported that they had been performing antibody tests and confirmed that at Macomb Correctional Facility in Lenox Township: there had been 788 positive and 413 negative results, or 66% of prisoners have had the virus, As reported in the Detroit Free Press on 5/28/2020.

Update 4/29/2020 “The overcrowding here is still an issue. When they closed access to the day rooms and limited us to activities only on the wings, that forced everyone into a standing-room-only, overcrowded situation. There are a total of 60 people in one wing, plus four to eight extra people from the packed TV room. All in one area on each wing you have the phones, bathroom, showers, microwave, and water fountain, plus, in that same area, you have three cells where six people are warehoused. There are two people on the phones (always) which are only two feet apart. Next to the phones is the bathroom. In the bathroom are four sinks (which are only inches apart), where people are elbow to elbow without their masks washing their faces and brushing their teeth and whatever else. Behind the sinks are three toilets. Each toilet is enclosed by a waist-high wall that affords very little privacy and no protection from others on the toilet since they are only a couple of feet from each other. Right next to the toilet are two urinals, inches from each other, with no dividers. Lastly, there are somehow crammed into this room two hand blow dryers on each end, one in the back, one by the entrance. Right next to the bathroom in the shower area. There is a small drying/changing area (even smaller than our cells) for two people with two tiny benches (maybe a foot and half by one foot of area) and four hooks. Then there are two single-man showers with motion sensor activation. They run for five minutes and sit idle for three. Next ton the showers is a single water fountain, the only source of cold drinking water in the entire unit. And across from that is a single microwave on a small table sitting in between two cells. On the floor in the hallways amidst all this are taped boxes for people to stand in for waiting. While these boxes are themselves about five feet apart, they are next to the stairwell, the only entrance and exit for the wing so everyone walks next to the boxes, and next to the first two cells. All this for almost 70 people. plus, with nowhere to go, guys just roam the hall most of the day, pacing back and forth.  

Social distancing in prison is impossible. There are simply just too many people being warehoused in too small a space.”

Original e-mail. “They continue ramping up the stupidity level when it comes to quarantine policies. First, they were filling up the gym with people who might be infected. Then they started clearing out cells in 5-unit for those who test positive. Where do they put all those displaced prisoners? In other housing units’ day rooms. They put 16 supposedly not-sick prisoners in this small day room and, not only is this crowded for them, but these are additional people using the bathrooms, showers, phones, kitchenette, etc. And I say supposedly not sick because one of them turned out to be sick and they had to quarantine everyone in that day room. They have since filled it back up. Plus, others from 5-unit who were lucky enough to get into a cell have also been removed for illness. 

So, if you’re sick (not necessarily with the coronavirus), they pack you up, segregate from everyone, and if you test positive, send you to another facility. Though not everyone transfers. If you stay, once you’re clear of the virus, you go to an overcrowded day room, get your property back, and hopefully someday get a cell. If you are the bunkie of someone who reports symptoms, you still get quarantined for at least two weeks and you have to take the day room trip. It’s no wonder the virus is spreading like it does in here–no one wants to report it unless they don’t care where they go.

Instead of allowing limited day room and yard access like they were in the beginning, we are confined to our individual wings. Now, instead of prisoners with space to spread out and able to get fresh air and sunshine, we are jam-packed in small spaces not meant for gatherings: cells (I’ve seen as many as five prisoners hanging out in one cell) and the bathroom (prisoners sitting on toilets like they’re chairs to talk to their homies or working out [some actually do push-ups on the bathroom floor!]), while breathing in all this stagnant air with potential germs in it.

Oh, and the infected they’re riding out are going to facilities with no reported cases of the COVID-19. So it seems like it’s only a matter of time before those places are locked down. It’s a nightmare in here and people are beginning to show their stress. The prison does nothing to help, their policies push people away, and the guards treat us like pariah even though they’re the ones who brought it in here.

Well, I’m out. Print that. Get word out about what’s going on. Get juvies, elderly, sick, and foreigners out. Sign petitions. Start petitions. Hollar at politicians. Have your friends do the same.”