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The Staffing Crisis

The epidemic of understaffing is growing rapidly. I've been incarcerated since July 2020, and the staffing issue is getting worse not only in prisons but in jails as well. The first jail I was housed in held no compassion whatsoever. It was filthy, biased, and inhumane. The guards decided to pick and choose what to pay attention to. When situations were important, they were nowhere to be found. A girl was dragged around and beaten up in an open dorm for 45 minutes while another girl screamed at the top of her lungs, and yet no guards came for hours. This is one of the many examples I've experienced just from my first year in jail. Whether it was due to negligence or understaffing, I'll never know. It's an issue that needs to be addressed.

Once I was transferred to prison, I truly understood the crisis. From nurses to officers to counselors, they are all overworked, and it affects their daily lives as much as ours. A recent incident drives this point home and I believe everyone needs to hear it. On Saturday, May 18, around 8:00 in the morning in my building, a girl that I've known for two years now cut another girl's arm wide open with a razor blade. The main reason was because she is a schizophrenic, among other issues, and because in general population there are many triggers and not enough help for her. She is a highly intelligent individual. She's had outbursts before -- suicidal threats, episodes, etc. She has been housed in population, which has made her a danger to not only herself but to others for obvious reasons. She had no beef with that girl. The other girl had just come from intake and had been minding her own business at a table in the day room doing arts and crafts. The intake had asked this lady how she was, and maybe that made her a target. Ultimately, anyone could have been. Something triggered her to do what she did, and the intake had to go to the hospital to get eleven stitches. It could have been a lot worse. Both of these girls are victims, as well as the many others who witnessed the "incident."

Later that day, the building attempted to hold a peaceful protest in the chow hall because this incident was the final straw for many, and it demanded attention. There are no mental health counselors on staff during the weekend. Why is that? We don't have the staff to support the need for on-call weekend shifts. So, the initial answer from the administration was to lock up the individuals in segregation that were part of the protest because it was considered "inciting a riot." They didn't even know the whole situation. Once they did, the Major decided against segregation.

We incarcerated people are instantly in the wrong just because we want change and have to show out for what we want or need, and there's no other way. I have actually heard from a counselor that they don't have enough staff to see everyone who needs to be seen. THAT'S A PROBLEM! The understaffing crisis makes our living environment even tougher to navigate—just human warehouses to stuff us into by the numbers at the lowest status possible. We must look after one another and work harder to keep one another afloat and safe. This environment is so much for self, and unity is truly needed. There are many that do go against the grain and establish so much change as well as rehabilitation. They are resilient against all odds. The system needs revival and more staff to make changes. There are plenty of opportunities coming about after COVID-19 hit, only we need staff to operate these things. These matters need the spotlight to bring about differences in prisons across the nation.

Jennifer Zuckerman, Fluvanna Correctional Center

1 Comment

Lori Zukerman
Lori Zukerman
4 days ago

Could you please correct the spelling of my daughter's last name? It's Zukerman, NO "c".

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