‘Everybody’s mood is usual, the employees are being more nervous’

How prisons are opposing the threat of COVID-19 and provide medical care — with the eye of prisoners

‘Everybody’s mood is usual, the employees are being more nervous’
Photo: Maksim Platonov

During the coronavirus pandemic, the issue about safety measures in prisons where it won’t be possible to achieve disunity by default remains open. Kazan lawyer Kamil Ismailov already told our newspaper what this entailed. To prove his words, Realnoe Vremya’s columnist who is serving his sentence in one of Volga prisons described the situation on the other side for our newspaper’s readers. Out of fears to cause discontent of the prison management, he asked us not to reveal his name and location. Read in the op-ed column how one of the Volga Federal District’s penitentiary facilities learnt about COVID-19 and what measures were taken in this respect.

Health post usually doesn’t have pills

Coronavirus, quarantine, infection, panic, toilet paper… Probably everybody is thinking about it now. There is no panic in prison. When the world starts saying that a new disease has appeared, you consider this in prison in a different way, I think through the prism because nothing happens here: there are changes in power, there are potatoes for lunch, a war began somewhere, potatoes are served again, the Constitution is changed, okay, here are the potatoes again…

Many in prison had the acute respiratory viral infection earlier this year, there was flu here, probably it was the coronavirus, but nobody knows it for sure. Everybody feels ill every year in general when it becomes warmer, but there was a very cruel virus this year, we were struck down in a week (Editor’s Note: the acute respiratory viral infection epidemic began in the republic, swine influenza cases were found). The health post, as usual, doesn’t have pills, this is why when one becomes sick and doesn’t rush there. And the medicine they can provide there is usual paracetamol. Though if you’re lucky, ibuprofen will be given. I mean it is easier to get the pills you need. Moreover, it isn’t easy to make an appointment with a doctor to get paracetamol. I will explain below why.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
When the world starts saying that a new disease has appeared, you consider this in prison in a different way, I think through the prism because nothing happens here: there are changes in power, there are potatoes for lunch, a war began somewhere, potatoes are served again, the Constitution is changed, okay, here are the potatoes again…

I was ill too in January, moreover, very ill. Everything began as usual: drowse, debility, rash… By evening I felt it was something serious because the temperature went up to 39 degrees. Of course, I wasn’t thinking of going to the health post — I had stocked up on my own medicine. The case is that an ill person must line up for inspection at 6 a.m. and make an appointment for a doctor, come by 9.30 by the opening of the health post and make a queue outside. It isn’t pleasant to stay outside when it is 10-20 degrees below zero for some two hours and the temperature is 39 degrees. This is why when you become ill, you won’t hurry for medical help not to worsen your situation. There is an ambulance, but it will arrive when you will lose your arm, though prison workers, investigators or somebody else will be the first to come. In January, a week later, I recovered, the whole prison had flu in general. As many as 50 out of more than a thousand people went to the health post.

Have a cough and high temperature? Paracetamol is prescribed

This is the situation with treatment in general. Back to the coronavirus, people began talking about it when it was said on TV. Though the news was considered as the collapse of bitcoin. I mean there was no reaction. Nobody takes it seriously, people are dissatisfied with complicated queues. We were put in quarantine in late March, while I, for instance, had been waiting for a long visit from my relatives for two months, my parents bought products. My acquaintance had it cancelled one day to the happiest day.

Now everybody who comes from the outside is taken the temperature. Directors of detachments announced first that everybody should wash their hands, then the head of the prison said the same thing through a loudspeaker. Notebooks for cleaning in detachments appeared. I can’t say so far how often they are checked — they were introduced just after 20 March.

We were put in quarantine in late March, while I, for instance, had been waiting for a long visit from my relatives for two months, my parents bought products…

Little changed in the attitude to ill prisoners. Do you have a cough and high temperature? Paracetamol is prescribed, and it is offered to stay in the health post or go back to your place.

No panic

Moreover, prison employees have begun to go hither and thither more often, different services have started to arrive. It is said the employees are also offered to do an X-ray, but I can’t say for sure. In any case, unless 20 people become ill, nobody will understand if somebody had this virus.

Everybody’s mood is usual, the employees are being more nervous because they have had new tasks they didn’t have. The most important thing for cons is food, the rest doesn’t concern them.

As I wrote above, people are put in quarantine in the health post if the patient wants it. If you want, you may go to be ill “in your place”. What’s the sense of quarantine if everybody anyway walks — somebody brings them food, gives pills, does the cleaning. I mean there is no isolation in itself, and if the virus is out, the employees are spreading it, and taking their temperature won’t save the situation.

Realnoe Vremya online newspaper