Prisons aren’t prepared for pandemics like COVID-19. For Steven, incarcerated in Pennsylvania, such an inadequate response means he is helping other incarcerated men write compassionate release papers.
The other thing to know about Steven is this: Early in the pandemic, while on lockdown, he taught himself “Blackbird” on the guitar:
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
He wrote the following note at the end of March 2020:
I would compare prisons’ response to this ordeal to someone getting into a car accident and then deciding to put on their seatbelt. They only recently started taking the necessary precautions. None of these safeguards, however, address the elephant in the room. There are a ton of sick and elderly inmates. Fact: these people will die if they are infected. A friend of mine works in the infirmary. He told me that the infirmary simply lacks the ability to care for these people, both in respect to equipment and to personnel. They’ll essentially be left in their cell to fend for themselves. Isn’t there such a thing as a manual ventilator? I’d be willing to sit and pump air all day. I’ve been asking some of the men if they wanted me to prepare commutation or compassionate release papers for them. Many know this could end badly. There’s really no other way of looking at it.
After all this is said and done, society needs to have a real discussion about the manner in which it wants to punish. If super viruses are the new norm, prisons simply cannot exist in their present form. They’re a public health hazard. They are essentially stationary cruise ships. An argument can be made that because these prisons cannot care for those they imprison, their existence is in violation of the Eighth Amendment.