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‘Social Distancing Doesn’t Exist Here’ – What The Pandemic Feels Like Behind Bars

Lorina Benitez
Jacob Benitez is currently serving a 26-year prison term at Avenal State prison.


According to the New York Times, the biggest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country arewithin correctional facilities. Near the top of that list is Avenal State Prison in Kings County, which has reported 1,353 cases among the incarcerated population and 93 among staff.It also remains the facility with the second highest case count of all of California’s state prisons.


So what is it like to be inside the prison right now, grappling with more restrictions on an already confined life? Confusing, frustrating, and at times scary, says Jacob Benitez, a man who’s been incarcerated at Avenal since June 2019. In this interview, Benitez tells health reporter Kerry Klein about the challenges of social distancing in prison and the feelings of loss from not seeing loved ones face-to-face, as well as what helps him stay positive from day to day.

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