JULY 2021
Finally, after months and months of waiting, I got arthroscopic surgery done on my right knee. I had the same surgery done on my left knee a couple of years ago and so now I was all set and ready to go skiing. Though I did still have to get out of prison. I was just wrapping up another semester of college with a string of good grades and I still had no writeups in prison so all was going good.

It was time for my annual review and that posed some problems for me. I only had 20 points which in CDCR parlance meant I had to transfer to a lower, level 2, facility. I was on a level 3 facility at Salinas Valley State Prison. But first, I had to meet with my correctional counselor and go before the Unit Classification Committee (UCC) in order to find out what their recommendation was. I was eligible for a level 3 override since I was enrolled in the local college, so that looked good to me.

Before that happened, five days after I came back from my knee surgery, I was tested for COVID-19 since I had left the prison for the day. I was tested with the Rapid Test and the PCR test mailed out to Quest Diagnostics in Sacramento, CA. Well, I tested positive on the Rapid Test and I was mad. I was sent to my cell and told I would have to quarantine in medical isolation on another yard. I told C/O Flores, my floor cop, I wasn't going. I was refusing.

He told me that Capt. Panissi had told him that I had to go. I told him to tell Capt. Panissi that I was refusing, and if the captain really wanted me to go there, he could escort me over there and verify with me that the cell was not a germ-infested cesspool since that was where they had been sending all the sick inmates previously. You see, I was not sick at all.

Well, much to my surprise, Capt. Panissi didn't come and see me. Instead, he sent three inmates, one of which was the Inmate Advisory Council Chairman, and they told me that the captain had sent them to persuade me to go to isolation. This was a problem to me on a couple points. First, my private COVID test information is not legally disclosable per HIPAA rules, especially to other inmates. Secondly, an inmate is not allowed to be in a position of authority over another inmate per prison regulations.

I told them to kick rocks and soon thereafter, Sgt. Cervantes showed up. He told me in no uncertain terms that I had to go. I told him “No way." I wasn't sick, and if I went there, I felt I would get sick because it is really dirty and bad over there. He said I had to go. I told him to have medical test me again since I really wasn't sick at all and it was big mistake. Besides, I told him, there had been a bunch of false positive tests recently and that was how I knew how bad it really was over there. He said fine, we'll make a deal, I will go to medical and see if they will test you again, and if they don't, you will have to go.

I said okay, not wanting to upset Sgt. Cervantes, who had been helpful to me in the recent past regarding questionable cellies. Nevertheless, Sgt. Cervantes came back and told me that the medical staff wasn't going to test me again. I would have to go to C-Yard medical isolation where I would be tested again, and if I was negative, I would come right back. I said "fine'' and I was allowed to take a box of my personal things including my TV and my CD player.

Now mind you, I had just had knee surgery 5 days before, yet the staff expected me to walk like a mile over to C-Yard and I told them that they were crazy. They said that we would stop if I needed to rest and I told them I already had to rest. In spite of my protestations, we headed out. After 200 yards an officer Hannamika came by in an electric golf cart and we begged him to give me a ride. He obliged. God was there for me that day for sure. I wasn't going to make the whole walk without damaging my knee.

So, we got there and I went right into a cell by myself. I was the only one in the B Pod of C7. C-Yard is a GP yard with 180° buildings which means they are setup for more violent prisoners. There were a couple people in the other pods, but in my pod, I was all alone. In my cell I had electricity and cable but no heat or hot water. Unfortunately, I had no hot pot to heat water since mine had burned up and I had not received my new one yet. I anxiously awaited additional testing but sure enough, there was no test. Nobody came and saw me. The C/O's just sat up front in their office out of sight. I never saw a person again that night. They never walked by my cell or otherwise checked to see how I was doing. I was in medical isolation for sure.

Morning came and I was frozen. I wanted a cup of coffee and I had no hot water. Basically, I was angry. I took out my anger on C/O Ellelle and she was none too pleased. I asked her what was going on and she told me that somebody would come and see me and I thought, boy am I gonna let them have it. Well, eventually they came and took my temperature and I was told that someone would come and test me in the next day or two. I was devastated. Following this another nurse came to change my dressing on my surgical incisions and she was frank with me. She said they wouldn't be testing me until they got the result from the PCR test mailed out to Quest Diagnostics.

In essence, I had been tested again already and if that test came back negative, I would still have to do one more test and be negative again in order to be released and sent back to my unit. If I tested positive, then the whole cycle of two clean tests would be in play again. I was floored. I was kicking myself for not refusing and staying in my A-Yard cell "confined to quarters".

The rest of the day I froze and listened to music buried under my blanket. Nobody walked by my cell or otherwise talked to me all day. I was getting depressed. The next day came and I was distraught. I gave the C/O's so much grief that eventually C/O Ellelle gave me some hot water from her microwave just to shut me up. She told me that in her 21 years of service, she had never done that. I thanked her and offer thanks to the Lord.

Soon thereafter, about 1pm, I was yelling out my door at the surveillance tower and the C/O came out of hiding and listened to my complaints. I told him that I was "man down" and needed to see a psych doctor because I was having a mental crisis. He told me I could go "suicidal" and be transferred to a crisis bed or else nothing could be done. I gave up and crawled under my blanket.

The next day came and it was Saturday. In prison terms, this is a day where you get nothing. It is an off day. Well, it started off okay since officer Ellelle was still on duty and still offering me hot water for my coffee. Later on, it went all bad though. I once again claimed "man down" and got absolutely no response. I then got really mad and I "boarded up". Boarding up is when you block out your windows and refuse to talk to staff. I waited for the sergeant to show up since I was ignoring C/O Ellelle.

About three hours later, a Sgt. Gonzalez came and talked to me and he asked me right away why I hadn't refused to come to C-Yard if I had heard it was so messed up. I told him my story and he said that if I wanted to leave, he would see what he could do, but I had to uncover my windows. By 4:45pm I was on my way back to A-Yard. My PCR test had been negative and he was able to get medical to clear me for return to my unit. Thank God for Sgt. Gonzalez.

Back at "home" I programmed as usual and contemplated filing a 602 appeal against Capt. Panissi for his staff misconduct related to his actions surrounding my false positive test. A few days later I spoke to my correctional counselor and she said she was going to have to recommend me for transfer to a level 2 EOP yard since I was still technically in the mental health program known as EOP, short for Enhanced Outpatient Program. I told her I was giving up my EOP status and she told me that wasn't going to happen until July. I confronted my mental health team and they said because of the stunt I pulled in medical isolation, I had to be emotionally stable for 90 days in order to get off EOP. Of course, that didn't set too well with me so on June 1st, I decided to pull the trigger and file a 602 against Capt. Panissi.

After that I wrote a letter to my correctional counselor explaining why I should be given a level 3 override and thus be allowed to stay on A-Yard at SVSP and continue my education at the local college. I also explained to her that I had been a model prisoner in the almost 3 years I had been at SVSP and that I could help other inmates in the future. Her response was that I just wasn't going to be able to stay without the approval of Capt. Panissi and so she scheduled me for a UCC meeting on June 8th. I began to strategize how I was going to ask the captain to stay all the while filing and pursuing an appeal alleging staff misconduct against him. I figured the truth is the truth and we must all be accountable for our actions.

As the week progressed, I was able to get into the law library and I did some fascinating research on the new computers that had recently been installed. I also found out that the new tablets that all the prisoners were going to be provided had the new LexisNexis legal library on them. Unfortunately, the inmates who had received the test version of the tablets at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, GA, had been searching out inmate's case histories on them creating safety issues and so the LexisNexis feature was temporarily being pulled.

Regardless, I was happy, sort of. There was a stack of forms and some paper on the concrete desk with a cup and a spoon. Noticeably missing however was any type of writing implement. I had no way to write anything and I had a lot to write.

Every 30 minutes a C/O would come by my cell and place a digital reader against an electronic button and registers that he has checked on the inmates well-being. Sure as heck, I asked every one of those cops for something to write with and they just told me that they weren't sure they had any, or I would need to get one tomorrow. Night turned into the morrow and I was still trying to get a pen or whatever. No luck. I slept and watched TV and basically did nothing all day.

By Sunday, I had had enough and when the C/O asked me if I wanted yard, I said "sure." I asked for some kind of clothes since I was still in nothing but my boxer shorts and T-shirt. The C/O said they didn't have any. Out I went into the grey, 8am morning, and it was cold and breezy, but not Mammoth cold :) I went into a 20-foot-by-10-foot cage with a toilet and a sink but I was not going anywhere near the toilet or the sink. I met a couple of hardcore GP inmates and talked law with them. I told them why I was in Ad/Seg but I got the distinct impression that they thought I was full of it. Anyway, that lasted about 3 hours and it was back to my cell for TV and napping. My day was done.

Come Monday morning I woke up mad and I vowed to stop doing that. I got a prison jumpsuit finally and a pen and felt better. I then went out into the cage again and it was sunny this time, but windier. Even so, I was happy to be free as it were.

About 12 noon Capt. Panissi showed up to interview me and my first thought was yikes, I am in it deep now. But he was kind and considerate and told me that Drummer was a "piece of shit" and that he was going to send me back to A-Yard and lock up Drummer in Ad/Seg. Capt. Panissi added that I never should have been locked up in the first place. He said that the petition was a joke and he was not even considering the claims that the other inmates had made.

Not long after that in walked Drummer and all I could say was "Oh, hi.there." He told the cop escorting him that I had been extorting his family and himself regarding his case and that he had initiated an FBI investigation. I laughed and bit my tongue fully believing in Karmei and it was not my place to correct him and possibly jinx myself. Soon therafter I went "home" to A-yard to a suprised building full of people sure that the captain had screwed me over for filing a claim of misconduct. I told the rapt audience my story and they were shocked.

I will continue my story in my next update however I do want to share the second part of my article REHABILITATION IN THE CDCR.