Growing old in prison after COVID-19

By Major Tillery

Major Tillery is an innocent man who has spent 35 years in prison because gross prosecutorial and judicial misconduct led to his fraudulent conviction for murder in 1985. He has spent 20 years in solitary confinement. Major has become an advocate for prisoners’ rights against the injustice of the police and courts. He submitted this letter to Tear Down the Walls this month.

This is the third time my block has been placed in isolation due to the Covid virus. I am myself a Covid survivor. I’m not blaming anyone about my situation besides Pharaoh Trump, and the poor care of the healthcare provider WellPath and their Dr. Little, who is a fifth-rate doctor at best. [Editor’s note: Dr. Paul Little and other medical staff at SCI Chester were named in a lawsuit for malpractice and misdiagnosis by a former inmate in February of this year.]

This pandemic is very hard on everyone, prisoners and staff, and my block was hit the hardest. But for the elderly it is extremely hard, with lack of exercise, and only getting a half hour out of cell time alone for showers, kiosk, and phone. Your bed becomes a killer to your bones. The anxiety of knowing you can catch a virus that has no real cure can be hard to take — even at 70 years old. I trained my body over the years to work out, but this is a long lockdown.

Just like in the streets there’s a lot of people who have gained “Covid weight” from being quarantined. I now experience post-Covid symptoms, such as shortness of breath, my bones hurt, not to mention fatigue at times. When I had Covid I was told I had to ride it out because there is no known cure. At least I can say here at Chester the administration makes an effort to try to have some in-cell activities.

I recognize the need to prevent the spread of this virus, and the precautions that need to be taken. But when you have older people with other medical conditions like myself, lack of exercise, and isolation, stress, and plain old boredom can exacerbate your underlying conditions. 

The first lockdown was about five months ago, and this is the third lockdown for my block, so this is growing hard on all the men — regardless of age — on this block. But what can you do when you live in a country that elected Pharaoh for President.

I will say this: At Chester the administration is always trying to contain the virus, even asking prisoners for input. But we need more outside time with social distancing because being cooped up in the cell without fresh air can be counterproductive.

With this virus it’s like taking two steps up, then three steps back.

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