Covid- 19 update from Prison | 5.18.20 | Dennis Cockerham

My Perspective on Prison Life | Noah Bergland

Covid- 19 Update

I just came in from my first hour outside in almost two months!

It all started last Friday, May 15, 2020. A Town Hall was announced. Where all inmates are called down to the basement, to a large meeting hall which is, at all other times known to us, as the TV room.

During this Town Hall, the Assistant Warden and our Chief Psychologist announced that like the rest of the world, and in accordance with BOP mandated procedures, a slow re-opening process was about to begin.

It was stated that particular inmates would be returning to work. They would be rotating opposite times and days, throughout the week, with the other housing unit. This included the inmates that normally worked for commissary, horticulture, and compound. In prison, I would label these as our ‘essential workforce.’

Also included in this process was going to be a “Meal Grab And Go Rotation.” With this in place, inmates from the housing units would walk through the cafeteria and pick up one of our daily meals, per the schedule to be posted. Starting out, the Durand Housing Unit would go on Mondays and Wednesdays. The Lloyd Housing Unit to go on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  The rest of the meals would be delivered as they previously have since the lockdown began.

And there was, of course, the most important phase of this re-opening to us inmates, the availability for outside recreation. A bulletin would be released later in the day outlining these procedures.

The following is the content of that bulletin:

MAY 15, 2020
Procedures for Outside Recreation

FPC Yankton has developed a plan for recreation and outside time for the inmate population during the COVID-19 crisis. The following procedures will be implemented effective 5/18/2020.

* All inmates will be required to have on their Inmate ID Lanyard as well as a face mask when outside their housing unit.

* Nash Gym will remain closed.

* Inmates can utilize the walking track, tables around the track, and the court area. Pull up bars and sports equipment will not be authorized. No group sports.

* Inmates will not have access to any other buildings during outside recreation time to include the front steps of Kingsbury. (Kingsbury is the housing unit that is being used for inmates being quarantined before heading home.)

* No personal items outside the housing unit other than a radio and headphones.

* All outside recreation times are subject to weather, unannounced counts, or security concerns.

All changes to the scheduling of the outside recreation will be approved through the Operation Lieutenant or Captain. The following recreation time slots are being reserved each day.


Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
7:00 AM – 8:00 AM
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Release and return to the unit will only be during the move.

Although there are six time slots daily, you should expect a minimum of one time slot each day to be canceled at the discretion of the Operation Lieutenant or Captain.

Education/Recreation staff will have oversight of implementing the inmate recreation schedule. Inmates will rotate through the Recreation Time Slots per the following Inmate Recreation Rotation:

Inmate Recreation Rotation

Lloyd 1 – Top floor of Lloyd – Last names A – K
Lloyd 2 – Top floor of Lloyd – Last names L – Z
Lloyd 3 – Bottom floor of Lloyd – Last names A – K
Lloyd 4 – Bottom floor of Lloyd – Last names L – Z
Durand 1 – Durand Range 1&2 – Last names A – K
Durand 2 – Durand Range 1&2 – Last names L – Z
Durand 3 – Durand Range 3, 4, 5 – Last names A – K
Durand 4 – Durand Range 3, 4, 5 – Last names L – Z

This rotation will never change.

That was the end of the bulletin.

Of course, the first thing to change today, Monday, May 18, 2020, was the canceling of the ‘Grab and Go Meals.’ We were given no reasons for this change.

The next thing to be announced was that the rotation for inmate recreation, had indeed, been modified (changed).

At this point, the schedule is beyond my understanding, maybe theirs too. Either way, in the Durand Unit (mine) all of the inmates with the last names ending A – D were able to, after a temp check at the door, go out and walk the track today from 2 PM – 3 PM. I was one of those inmates. With my temp checking in at 98.2, just a little cooler than your average dude (LOL) I went outside. IT FELT GREAT !!!

Even with masks on, no touching allowed, or use any of the exercise equipment, it felt GREAT !!!

It was a well-needed boost to my spirit. I had been starting to think that outside was a figment of my imagination, or maybe a distant place that I may have once visited at some time in my past. I am glad to report that I am wrong and it is real. Thank goodness for that.

I am unaware of exactly how often this will actually be available to us. In these times, all things are subject to revision at a moment’s notice. That being said, whenever it is available, I will be there!

I had forgotten just how beautiful the grounds are here. The trees and the flowers are either being replanted or already in bloom. The squirrels and the birds acted as if their own memories of us had faded as well.

As I walked the track, the air was fresh and crisp as it hit my lungs. The smells of the yard overwhelming, confusing my senses. As if the time apart had left me unable to distinguish the tree from the flower. I put my hand to my face as if to rub the sleep out of my eyes after a deep dream. I could not help but look at the sidewalks, the streets, and the backyards of the homes in the area.

The difference was obvious and explained in one quick view. A picture that will now be permanently painted in my mind and recalled any time I think back to COVID-19.

On the other side of the street and across the alley, there was a fenced-in backyard. Within the yard, gently blowing in the wind was a single swing tied to the family tree. As it gently swayed, I was at once filled with the idea of it having its own memory. A memory of a time when it too, was not just an ornament hanging, out of season, from an overgrown and under kept Christmas Tree, but an instrument of joy which brought fun times and laughter to many.

But that was not the only idea it gave me. It was like from within one thought was born the other. The fact that I was indeed outside, walking this track, and able to see this very swing. This idea, this fact, it gave me hope and I wanted to be able to share that hope with all of you.

Tragedies, they do and will come, but working together and making the right choices…we will always survive!



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