Books for the incarcerated

book cover

Project raising funds to donate paperbacks

One terrified man incarcerated in the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility at the height of the pandemic described his experience in journal entries:

December 24, 2020: Eight people (inmates) in my block tested positive. My celly’s test came back inconclusive. He might be quarantined.

December 26, 2020: He was retested on the 24th and it came back positive. I am locked in an 8 x 10 with him. Any chance I won’t get it?

CDCR should have tested staff and inmates sooner.

Mass testing in CDCR-RJDCF did not begin until after there was an outbreak, at which point people were already dying. People I’ve known for years.

December 28, 2020: Instead of quarantining my celly per protocol, he was left in the cell with me for three days and then after I’d already developed symptoms, he was taken to the gym.

There’s no heat in the gym. It’s basically a warehouse. It’s cold, filthy, and full of triple bunks of the infected.

December 29, 2020: Last night I was racked with pain, headaches, muscle aches, kidney pain, frequent urination and painful bloating.

Today I spent the day lying down. Moving makes the blood in my head rush. Tried to do a little painting but got dizzy. Bad headache.

The author’s notes were included in the PrisonPandemic Archive Project, an online collection of stories from incarcerated people and their families in 2020. It was a time when COVID-19 spread at an alarming rate in prisons throughout the state.

Created by UC Irvine School of Social Ecology and School of Social Sciences faculty members and students, the project archived more than 4,000 phone calls, letters and artwork, telling the story of the pandemic experience in prisons. The archive is available for view online, but the people who are incarcerated and who provided many of the stories, don’t have internet access.

So, faculty members are trying to raise $5,000 to cover the cost of printing a book for them. If the fundraising goal is reached, the paperback, Locked Down and and Locked Up: Stories from the Inside, will be delivered to prisons throughout the state. The book is available to purchase on Amazon

To contribute, visit the UCI ZotFunder web page.

“When we began collecting the PrisonPandemic stories, widespread lockdowns and visitor prohibitions across prisons and jails cut off incarcerated people from most outside contact,” note Keramet Reiter and Naomi Sugie, criminology, law and society faculty members, and Kristin Turney, professor of sociology. “There were no comprehensive accounts of how incarcerated people, or their loved ones, were experiencing this public health crisis. By collecting and disseminating these stories, we aim to bear witness to what people have experienced inside carceral facilities during the pandemic and to bring greater transparency to this crisis. Our collection serves as a resource for understanding the pandemic’s unequal toll. By providing individuals in prison an opportunity to share their stories, this project raises awareness to the vulnerabilities experienced by this population. Your donation will help us to share more stories with the incarcerated individuals who made this project possible.”

Mimi Ko Cruz