On the Lockdown at San Quentin

by Earlonne Woods, co-host of the Ear Hustle podcast

On Aug. 1, 2017, the morning started out as normal as any other, with San Quentin’s Tuesday morning powdered eggs, beans, 8 oz. low fat milk, oatmeal and a cup of watered-down percolated coffee (though I always choose the ice-cold water that’s offered). I left breakfast and headed to work, contemplating wrapping up “The Boom Boom Room” episode. At around 8:05 a.m., the population was notified by the Education Correctional Officer that there was an institution recall (meaning everyone had to return to their assigned cells). Which usually means an emergency count. This time it was a little different. There was never a count. We automatically knew that we were on some type of lockdown, which means all prisoner movement is suspended until further notice.

Mentally, you have no control over the situation so it’s no big deal. On lockdown you sit back, get some rest, watch TV, write letters, wash all of the clothes in your cell, wash your sheets, listen to all of your CDs, read books, do artwork, throw away hordes of junk you’ve accumulated over time, as well as do some of the stuff that you’ve put off for the past who knows how long. After a day or two, when you get no information about the lockdown or how long it will last, you do what you have to … you adjust. Yeah, you’re locked in a 4’5” x 10’8” cell with another person (hopefully y’all get along). Yeah, it gets boring. Yeah, the walls close in on you. But hopefully you’ve got the one thing that matters the most in this type of situation: FOOD!!! We call it a lockdown box. That’s where you keep about 60 days of emergency food just in case there is a lockdown. If you have one in place, you welcome the lockdown. If not, you’ll be forced to ration the prison food that’s given to you. That sucks; that’s when you’re jailing to the fullest.

We never knew the true reason for the lockdown. We only knew the rumored reason was “Safety And Security Of The Institution.” When rumors get started in prison, you hear everything that fellow prisoners think could be the reason: from prisoners dropping kites, to finding a gun on the grounds. Most of it is, as the current president would say, “Fake News” … lol.

Me, I thought, “Hmm … time to plot out the next pitches for Ear Hustle. Time to catch up with the plot of The Young And The Restless, see what Neil Winters and Victor Newman are up to.” Everything else, it is what it is. Just a day in the life of a lifer …

The lockdown lasted 18 days, during which the entire San Quentin institution was searched for dangerous contraband. When the lockdown was lifted, I was elated because it meant we could get back to work and wrap up episode six of our season, as well as the remaining episodes.

I thank everyone for supporting Ear Hustle and I appreciate the love that everyone is showing us. It’s definitely inspiring.