from a translated letter by M, currently detained at Dodge County Jail in WI
To whom it may concern: I am originally from Mexico, am in my 30s, and gay. I’ve been in “ICE” custody since 2019 and have experienced and seen so many things in detention at the Dodge County Jail in Juneau, WI….
For example, the situation with COVID-19. Here in Pod-D is where I’ve been for more than 17 months locked up, and they have not given a test to a single immigrant or person in federal or Marshal’s custody—in case you didn’t know, we’re all together, although supposedly we’re supposed to be only immigrants—unless you demand it, like letting your lawyer know, or writing a notification to your immigration agent. In my case in particular it was different because I was showing more symptoms than the other prisoners. All of us are together and I’m certain that all—yes all—were infected with the virus. Although the officials put us in quarantine, only six people tested positive. After being locked up for six days of quarantine, where the nurse gave me the test, only specifically to me, and from there continued to test the others (see note below).
...they didn’t let me use the telephone to notify my family and spouse about the living situation.
Meanwhile in quarantine, they didn’t let me use the telephone to notify my family and spouse about the living situation. It was thanks to another immigrant who I asked the favor of calling my family, because only I wasn’t allowed to use the telephone, take a shower, or clean my cell, even while all the others were. When the officials came to distribute the food, I asked them if I could use the phone and none of them gave me an answer. They only told me I was “fortunate” or “got lucky” but I asked myself what the hell kind of luck do I have? The nurse came to give medicine to the people who were sick (diabetics, people with heart disease, those who need medicine), and it was there I took the opportunity to talk with one of the few nurses who was really kind and understood the situation of all the immigrants, to ask her about my status, if I was positive or negative for COVID-19. But she didn’t tell me anything, only that she’d come to give me pills for pain or vomit or to take my temperature. So they gave me pills for pain, but I told them I don’t have any pain, I just want to use the phone to talk with my family…
After a few days locked up, I wrote a note to the nurse about my COVID test, and on the third day I found out that I was positive. They didn’t give me any paper or medical diagnosis; rather, after various days had passed, I had to ask the doctor to give me a copy of my results. I needed them as proof to show the lawyers of other inmates who certainly aren’t from “ICE,” [including someone] who [came] from federal prison after serving his sentence (13 years). This person got in contact with his lawyer to explain the situation we were experiencing with COVID-19, and the way the officials in Dodge County were handling the situation.
1. I ask myself, how did we get contaminated with the virus? If when they brought in an inmate, they had to pass through the quarantine process (one cell for just him for 12 days, for the officials to be certain that he didn’t bring any virus with [him]…
2. The officials who came day-to-day to supervise us did not wear their face coverings properly. The nurses also did not correctly use their masks, and they did not wear plastic gowns.
3. When the situation started to get worse, there were more complaints coming from us and we wrote to the immigration officials. They came to see the way Dodge County was handling the situation. At that moment, all the officials of the prison started to use the uniform similar to the one of doctors like the ones we see in the news. The uniform was a plastic visor to cover the face, two masks correctly worn, latex gloves, and a yellow-colored uniform. This is what they used because the Supervisor of “ICE” was that day personally observing how they were following the protocol of hygiene and safety for us. It was only that day they used the uniform, while the ICE supervisor was there.
4. When the lawyer of that person called the jail to ask about information regarding the virus and to know how all the prisoners were doing, the jail said or argued that they’re all good, there are only four people infected in all the jail. The jail was leaving out information, why?? I don’t understand why they would hide information about the virus when we were already all at risk of contracting it. In Pod-D alone, where I am, six people tested positive. And in other cells or pods, they were also in quarantine… So, the lawyer of those inmates was collecting information to one way or another help all of us. The jail is afraid of losing the contract with ICE, US Marshal, or other. For the huge risk that they were putting us all in with the virus?? They [ICE officials] had to have brought the virus here, because we haven’t had contact with anyone from outside. All of the programs were cancelled: bible study, English classes, etc. So, only an official could have brought it here…
There is so much to say about the management of this detention center which is certainly private. All of this is a business for Detention, the cost of a 20 minute phone call is almost $5.00. They used to give us 2 free calls because of the virus, but now they’ve taken those away and with that the raise in price, the food we usually eat every day, is in the morning (blueberry bread), a small container of milk and juice. For lunch and dinner, the menu is the same every day. They give us pasta with soy, pasta with soy, and rotten potatoes poorly cooked, this is almost all the meal of all the days...other prisoners tell us that in the jails from which they come, the food was much better than what we eat here. Because they come from different counties, we know the food here is, sorry for the word, but it’s disgusting. Also, the same prisoners work in the kitchen to prepare the food, and one day a prisoner told me that he saw different food in the kitchen (chicken, real chicken, or that is to say, he found actually edible food, and it turns out that food was to take pictures of that they’d send to ICE to show them that they were giving us good food), so again they’re omitting information.
With respect to the cleaning, or more like the liquids that we use to clean our cells, toilet, floor, the tables where we eat and the chairs, it’s nothing more than green and blue liquid that looks like what we use in our homes, I think it’s called Windex, only that here it’s diluted, mixed with a lot of water, and the same with a green liquid called Buckeye, according to them it’s a neutral disinfectant…
The clothes they give us only two times per week is made up of one pair of pants, a green shirt, four briefs, four pairs of socks, and only one time per week they give us clean blankets. According to them, all of this is washed with water and soap, which is yet another lie. Why do I say this? Because I have personally washed these clothes they’ve given us when they say it’s clean. I wash it in my cell and it’s there where I realize that the clothes are super super dirty. Everything here for detention is a lucrative business.
I feel angry about everything that happens in this incarceration. Hopefully there’s something more to do to make this system change here and also not permit family members of the officials to work here, because basically it’s like the daughter, the dad, the girlfriend or boyfriend of the official. They can’t do that, family members working together, it would be a conflict of interest…and [hopefully] the officials who work in immigrant detention might be a bit more humane and that they don’t treat you like a dangerous criminal.
I hope that you can understand everything I wrote you in these pages. Thank you for everything you do for Latinos and all the immigrants of other countries, many thanks…
Note from translator: Sounds like only six formally tested positive because ICE was withholding tests and test results.
Submitted on behalf of M and translated by Gabe Hillman Alvarez