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By Yohannes Shakhem (Nottoway Correctional)

In 2019 COVID-19 stepped onto the world stage and within a few years millions lost their lives and a lot of us in prison felt firsthand the pain of losing loved ones to the deadly virus. Condolences to my sister and brothers who still give but sadly we in prison are losing our lives to another plague that the outside world hardly even notices other than our families and loved ones. This plague that I’m speaking about is cancer. Within the last eight months, two comrades (Shawn ‘Flip’ Joyner and Wayne Scott) have passed away with two more comrades currently undergoing cancer treatment. Is it any wonder that the food we consume arriving in the prison in boxes is marked “for institutional use only”? The officers are warned not to drink the water we prisoners drink and, in fact, bring or purchase bottled water from the staff vending machines. So what is causing the rapid rise in cancer cases in Virginia prisons? Virginia DOC most likely will respond by saying it’s our genetics and/or an unhealthy lifestyle. We prisoners who only rely on the word alone of VADOC nor will we prisoners accept a review board hand-picked by them. How about that civilian review board? We need our food analyzed! We need our water analyzed! Now we need our air quality analyzed! Regardless of our convictions, we are humans and the Eighth Amendment alleges our treatment to be humane?!

Note: The Yale School of Medicine recently posted an article, 'How Incarceration Raises Risk of Cancer Diagnosis and Death—Even After Release' on March 17, 2023. Read it here.


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