Is a prison using an outbreak of Valley Fever as an excuse to kill off black prisoners?
Penned July 8, 2013 by Spoon Jackson
“Whatever crimes they committed, the inmates at two state prisons in the San Joaquin Valley weren’t given death sentences. Yet state officials’ sluggish response to a continuing outbreak of valley fever is putting prisoners at an unacceptable risk of serious illness, even death.”
– The Sacramento Bee, June 19, 2013, Valley Fever is Too Deadly for Delays
Blacks, Filipinos, the elderly and those with medical issues are most susceptible of catching valley fever. On June 24, 2013 I was kidnapped and transferred to (Un)Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) where a ravenous fungus called valley fever, an incurable health destroying fungus that is unrelenting on blacks, Filipinos, chronic care patients and elderly. The courts had ordered PVSP to transfer out all blacks, Filipinos and prisoners 55 years and older. Yet they transferred me to PVSP even though I fit into three of the categories in the court order. The state prison is moving in more black prisoners to PVSP at a furious pace, while telling the courts and judges they cannot find the housing space to transfer blacks and other high risk groups out of PVSP.
I went to the PVSP medical and one of the staff told me it was okay for prisoners who already contracted the valley fever to stay here, they cannot get it twice. They are sending more prisoners of African decent here, so that they can catch the disease and stay here and waste away in this cesspool of valley fever.
It is all absurd. I’m black, diabetic and older than 55 and yet I was brought here, right in the middle of a court order for PVSP to move out people like me.
I don’t believe the courts meant for CDC to send more blacks to PVSP to become chronically ill or die.
I am in the orientation building and nearly every day I see more black prisoners brought in, in blatant disrespect to the laws and courts. CDC is giving a poor example for folks they have been entrusted to rehabilitate by violating court order after court order, and law after law. To still send blacks to PVSP after it has been deemed a death trap with a 90% chance to catch the deadly fungus is inhumane. People were sentenced to do time away from society, but not to be subjected to inhumanity. For PVSP and their medical staff to say: “Once you catch the fever there’s no need to transfer you” sounds like a hideous plan, similar to loading blacks like sardines on slave ships to see how many will become ill and die on the voyage – betting on how long the body can suffer before dying. There is no cure for valley fever. So isn’t that murder? And why is that okay? I have no idea how long I will be here. The longer you stay the bigger chance of catching the fever.
I tried to stay on at New Folsom in our creative arts program (formerly Arts In Corrections) for as long as possible. I wanted to look out for my great students from all cultures, barrios, ghettos, the country and suburbs. Blacks, browns and whites. I hope they will remember that putting pen to paper is the most important thing. I hope they will remember that “the universal is personal” and that “art withers without fellowship.” I hope they will remember to send their work home and out into the world. Remember to stretch the language and not cuss so much. I tried to stay on there at New Folsom for the sake of my bird family and friends: The Gosling Five, the cow birds, red-winged blackbirds, crows, hawks, pigeons, turkeys and turkey vultures. For the sake of my natural nature cell window theatre. I tried to stay on for as long as possible for the two amazing supervisors Kari and Jim and my fellow teaching artists. Ken, the blues man and I were the last ones standing in the Art room.
I cannot lie, my heart is broken and my spiritual heart is shattered because PVSP took my flutes, my music. Adieu! It was an honoured space we shared. Thank you all. Say hello and good bye to the birds. Keep it real. It seems that fate, karma or whatever never allows me to say good bye except on paper, where I am at my best. I am sitting in this foul (Un)Pleasant Valley hoping I don’t cuss any of the oppressors out. I need the words of my long time friends in Sweden to keep cool. Normally I adore the heat, but not this contaminated heat here at PVSP that mixes with deadly germs like diesel oil fumes to destroy the body.