30 minutes | Jun 9th 2020

Inside Prison Walls: Finding Internal Safety in External Chaos

In this episode, we interview Joe Rojas on his experience of the prison system’s response to COVID-19. One of the reasons we wanted to investigate the prison system during this pandemic is because the conditions in prisons make containing an infectious disease inherently difficult. This pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color, and with people of color making up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population, one of the things we learned from Joe is that prisons are yet another space where vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by this pandemic.

Joe has been a corrections officer in the prison system for 25 years, and is a member of law enforcement. He refers to himself and other guards, as the forgotten law officers. We realize that law enforcement is a very loaded term right now and is at the center of this long and current battle for racial justice. Joe is a big advocate for his staff and for prisoners alike, and one of his main missions is to make sure everyone in the prison system is treated and protected fairly by management. Joe tells us about the stress that COVID-19 is bringing to the prison staff and inmates, in what can already be a very stressful environment.

As our country continues to fight COVID-19 and racial inequities every day, we want to acknowledge how hard this time is for so many people. We have struggled to figure out how to proceed with this project in a way that values and prioritizes both battles. Our mission in starting this was to highlight people who are working to improve our world by caring for others, and in this time of great turmoil, the stories we have collected from those on the front line of COVID-19 will continue to add to a greater sense of healing and prioritizing of self care, and we are excited to continue to share them with you. 

Resources for Suicide Prevention:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
EAP Hotline (for Prison Staff): https://www.bop.gov/resources/employee_support.jsp#eap

Resources for Inmate Rights:

FAMM: https://famm.org
RAPP: http://rappcampaign.com
ACLU: https://www.aclu.org
Marshall Project: https://www.themarshallproject.org
The Appeal.org: https://theappeal.org

Correctional Association of New York: https://www.correctionalassociation.org/about-cany
John Howard Association of Illinois: https://www.thejha.org
Texas Inmate Families Association: https://tifa.org
Texas Criminal Justice Coalition: https://www.texascjc.org

Read more about Joe's story, the resources provided, and suggested self care activities inspired by his story from the Playing to Live clinical team, on our blog.

Do you know someone working on the front lines of the COVID-19 response? We want to hear from them. Please connect us with them by emailing us at info@playingtolive.org. And finally, please subscribe to our podcast, give us a rating, leave a comment, and share the podcast with others who you think may enjoy it. We need your help to share this important story.

A special thanks to Joe for his time. Thanks to Josh Carter for the theme music, find more at https://prettylittlegoat.com, and to Lindsay Bingaman for writing our blog.