Shearod McFarland was born and raised in Detroit. As a teenager, he was founded guilty of second-degree murder and a felony firearms charge and sentenced to 25 to 40 years in Michigan state jails. Shearod has invested more than 30 years behind bars, with more than 11 of those years in singular confinement.
Of the top 50 COVID-19 clusters in the United States, 33 are prisons or prisons. With COVID-19 creating chaos in detention centers throughout the United States, at the time of this composing in May, Michigan ranked second in the variety of validated cases in state jails and had the highest prison death toll of any state. Shearod communicated with us through the prison e-mail system to explain what is presently taking place at Parnall.
I’m jailed in Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan, where COVID-19 is sweeping through. My life and the lives of hundreds of other incarcerated guys have altered drastically given that this pandemic started.
I started taking COVID-19 seriously when it actually started spreading out in New York. My fiancée lives in the Bronx, and the very first cluster of cases in the state remained in Westchester County, which is right outside the Bronx. I was focused with the thought of her contracting the virus and had to eradicate the sense of dread that I felt. Loss has actually been a continuous in my life so it’s always lurking in the back of my mind. I didn’t want to experience another severe loss to this weird infection.
I became aware of the very first 2 confirmed cases of coronavirus at Parnall back in early March. Within weeks those two initial cases quickly became hundreds of infections. Up until now, Michigan prisons have over 1400 verified cases and more than 50 detainee deaths. Parnall has had 10 of those deaths, and counting.
It’s very difficult to get an accurate image of just the number of males here have been infected because at the start of the crisis the department’s response to the sick was to quarantine them in an empty cell by themselves. What sort of choice is that? You get sick and basically have to be positioned in solitary? Not an attractive possibility. So, sadly, a number of the guys chose that unless they became alarmingly ill they would deal with the virus on their own, instead of seek medical help. The main variety of infected here at Parnall is less than 200, however in truth the numbers are way greater than that. Maybe 3 to 4 times that figure.
This facility is nearly a century old. It’s a petri dish-like environment, viruses spread out exceptionally quick. Two of the housing systems here are built like a huge vertical zoo, just cage on top of cage. The other three units are open-air dorms that house nearly 400 prisoners each, in what is probably less space than a small warehouse. Detainees sleep, eat, shower, and utilize the restroom in these human storage facilities. Social distancing is essentially difficult.
We live in eight-man cubicles, which are roughly 20 feet by 13 feet. The spread of an extremely infectious disease like COVID-19 is inescapable if it gets into the prison.
Living under such conditions is currently a high-stress scenario (which probably negatively impacts your immune system), but having to face the risk of a lethal pandemic ups the ante by 10. Some of the other males here are also quite vocal regarding their fears of the virus.
I personally know a few of the guys who have actually died from COVID-19 One was Fort, who had actually remained in jail for 44 years, given that he was 16 years old. He was also simply a few months from finally going home. After I found out about his death I felt terrible! I needed to grieve for the man. To understand that he ‘d invested over four years in prison– from youth to their adult years– only to pass away from this infection right when he was about to be launched. It seems so terrible and unreasonable.
Parnall is a level-one (minimum security) facility, which usually implies that the roughly 2000 males housed here get a lot of time for instructional programming and leisure. But COVID-19 in some way entered the prison and changed all that. Now Parnall is like a segregated and deserted ghost town.
Usually there’s a great deal of interaction here amongst the prisoner population. Social interaction is a substantial part of prison life. It’s how we break the dullness of imprisonment. We study together, work out together, have spirited conversations, play basketball, cards, and parlor game like chess and checkers. But Parnall rapidly turned into one of the centers of the break out in the Michigan Department of Corrections, and ever since, all activities have ceased.
So on top of the common soul-numbing monotony, the coronavirus has removed us down to having even less to do. Currently, Michigan prisons have no main entertainment backyard or extracurricular activities like health club or weight pit. There are no sees, no curricula running, no religious services, and no table video games of any kind. All of these steps are reasonable however hard.
Now a common day for me has actually been mostly remaining inside reading, talking on the telephone, and seeing tv. I’m an outdoorsy type, but in an attempt to manage the spread of the virus within the population, the organization has separated the real estate units and close down the main entertainment yard.
I’m someone who takes my mental and physical health really seriously. Because now considering that there is no primary lawn, a much larger group of males are forced into a much smaller sized area.
Also, using these face masks has become an issue. The department provided us the masks most likely a month too late and now they’re ending up being a point of contention between prisoners and some officers. It’s something else to bug us about. I mean, yes, I comprehend the requirement, but some staff are requiring us to use them even when we’re sitting all alone, with nobody within ten feet people, or when we’re exercising.
I don’t believe that the state federal government has given the crisis in the jail system anywhere near what decency would require, but I can say that no matter the value that society places on our lives, we have actually been sources of support and help to each other. And that in itself is proof of the abundant human potential that lies behind the walls of jails all over America.