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

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Lorina Benitez
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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.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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