Voices from the inside: Phone call from Burner


Introduction by Oja Vincent

On this call with Jagada Chambers (between the Sentencing Commission meeting on April 13, 2020 and the Pardons Committee meeting on April 29, 2020), Burner, who is currently incarcerated at High Desert Prison, shares deep insight and a vivid picture of what is going on inside. He begins with how people have not been given any hand sanitizer, despite being forced to mass produce them. He goes on to say everyone was locked down with no prior notice for 18 days, which was modified a week ago allowing only 20 minutes outside of the cell a day. He also explains that about a month ago, someone housed in the same unit as him, an elder named Siberia was severely sick for seven days and more than likely contracted Covid-19 from one of the prison phones.

A photograph of Burner, provided by Jagada Chambers. Date unknown.


People inside cannot be sure whether they have the virus or not because the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) has only administered 39 tests, to a population of over 21,000 incarcerated people (at the time of the interview, NDOC had not administered even one test). Burner explains that the whole unit he was in was sick for approximately two weeks, including himself, and worked out vigorously to quell the symptoms. Since, he has been transferred from that specific unit. When asked if he knew about how COVID-19 is spreading in jails and prisons across the nation, Burner replied, “I don’t.”

As a barber, Burner said he has no personal protective equipment (PPE), and replied “Hell yeah,” emphatically when asked if he feels if he and the others inside need PPE, stating “You need all of the sanitary gear for sure, especially since as a barber you are dealing with peoples’ hair, which is DNA.”

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