#24: Video Fridays in 60 Seconds — COVID-19 Arrives Here Behind Bars

These crosses and necklaces are hand crafted from cloth and dyed with sugar free koolade. They smell awesome!

A lot has happened this week. On Monday, all of us were issued homemade facemasks per directive from the director requiring facemasks to be worn at all times. A week ago supplies were purchased, and thousands of masks were made here by us inmates. By coincidence, at my facility the first COVID-19 case amongst staff was confirmed on Wednesday. The staffer in question was one of the outside contractors.

The institution acted quickly by quarantining those inmates who worked closely around the contractor. All of the other contractors that had regular contact with this individual have been sent home to self-quarantine. Our warden promptly contacted all of us by email and kept us appraised of the situation. Guys are thankful for this engagement, and thankful that quick action has been taken.

COVID-19 cases have appeared in a number OH facilities, first amongst staff, but with a growing number of inmates testing positive. At my institution there aren’t yet any confirmed cases amongst the inmate population, though this may change.

Social distancing is being taken seriously here. Recreational activities have been curtailed, and social games have all been suspended. Even our commissary has closed to physical shopping. Instead, we submit our shopping lists and commissary then fills the order and sets it at the front door of the store for pick up. Pick up orders are supervised and overseen by commissary staff, and the process has run smoothly.

By mandate from the director, commissary prices have been cut to “cost,” which equates to a 20% mark down on nearly everything. Most inmates rely on money sent to them by their families. By cutting prices you are in effect reducing the financial burden on our families, all of whom are already suffering financially because of the stay at home orders. It’s a thoughful move all of us are thankful for.

The director Ms. Annette Chamber-Smith has been in regular email contact with us, and has kept us appraised every step of the way. I am continually surprised at the engagement and compassion this director has shown us. It is consistent with her efforts at reform and rehabiltation. My peers and I think highly of her engagement.

Someone out there recently told me they didn’t know how they were going to get through this time of difficulty. In a strange way, everyone is facing a hardship similar to what us prisoners experience. My advice? Just do it the way I do here–one day at a time. Eat the elephant, as I like to say. How does one do that? One bite at a time of course.

Everything will be fine.

*The spread of coronavirus behind bars is serious, especially with todays aging prisoner population. Do share this post with others. Even behind walls all of us are doing our part through social distancing, good hand washing, and hygiene. No one is immune.

7 thoughts on “#24: Video Fridays in 60 Seconds — COVID-19 Arrives Here Behind Bars

  1. Marija

    Hi Christopher, those crosses and necklaces look great.
    It is nice how they have compassion and take care of you. Like you said, everything will be alright, just one day at a time.

  2. I am always surprised at the talent that is in the lock-up. I am having a difficult time reconciling what could be two sides to the same coin: criminal behavior with compassionate creativity.

    Does one beget the other?
    Do you have to be creative to commit a crime?
    Why do inmates in the lock-up turn to religion? Seems to me that they should have taken that step before they became guests of the State?

    Does anyone (inside or outside) have a suggestion?

  3. Alice

    Here’s a suggestion from an outsider, as I’ve never been incarcerated, but do consider myself a creative:

    Divergent thinking is part of creative trait structure. Creatives simply think differently. Their prefrontal cortex isn’t exactly “on,” but this gives the ability to see what often others cannot see, or to hear or imagine or experience really on any level, what others generally cannot. They can see and experience, quite viscerally, possibility itself as reality.

    Creative minds thrive on high risk/high return strategies. Their thinking in the things that matter to them are like this: “How far can I take this?” and the brain will seek out every possible opportunity to take the purpose further, whether it’s good or bad, and if none are available, so must one be created. And the creative mind always succeeds in this endeavor.

    I imagine the incarcerated creatives had the creativity at one point to weave a web that for a time only they could navigate; to push ahead with something they shouldn’t have been doing and push and push until they found their limit. Or perhaps, they had the creativity to tell themselves a story about how what they were doing was justified, even though it clearly was quite evil. Yet those same thinking skills are there to push ahead with what anyone would recognize as beautiful and touching, to see how far they can hone their craft, to see how set apart from the ordinary it can become, to discover what their skill can evolve into.

    There’s really no middle ground with a creative. We’re “all in,” one way or another. We’ll find it on either end of the continuum of behavior; just keep us out of the ordinary.

  4. Alice, On one hand I see your point but flipping that coin over, do I interpret you correctly that a creative, in this case criminal, does not have the ability to adjust their creative behavior except when and only when they reach discovery?

    If so, am I to understand that the creativity cited in these posts by the incarcerated can be interpreted that they were on a path they could not get off?

    One more question: I think you will agree that civilization has progressed not regressed. Therefore, am I to believe that starting with the “invention” of the wheel, all the way up to the physics of the cyber, are the product of someone or something that wanted to stay out of the ordinary? No middle ground here?

  5. Alice

    Kupper, I’ll answer your last question first, best as I can tell of what I experience and what I observe:

    It’s not about WANTING to stay out of the ordinary so much as it’s about the fact that doing the ordinary is a death of sorts for the creative mind.

    Aside from that, here’s a quote from the U of Toronto’s Dr. Jordan B. Peterson to think on in regard to your last question:

    “You have to be pretty damn smart to be creative because otherwise you’re just going to get to where other people have got, and that’s not creative by definition.”

    Yes, I absolutely believe that every example of progress made in this world started with a creative mind. However, it definitely couldn’t have made it without the “conservative mind”
    (not speaking politically here, rather, “trait conscientiousness”) to run the idea, the product, the service, the art, to something truly meaningful….creatives start ideas and the conscientious run them. One can’t succeed without the other.

    I’m still thinking of how I’d like to answer your first two questions. I’m no authority here, but I do pay close attention to these things. I’ll answer them soon. Thank you for your questions…makes me think more clearly about my own beliefs and thoughts.

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