24 Hour Lockdown

7/23/2020 Sean wrote:

I have been confined to my cell 24 hours a day for the past 52 days without due process. CDCR wont call it punishment but what how else do you describe being locked in a 9 by 6 foot cage for two months? I have received this punishment not because I have done anything wrong, but because this is how the California Department of Corrections now operates in he age of Corona virus. The first 41 days of my lockdown were the result of a preventable COVID-19 outbreak that infected me with the virus. The past 11 days of lockdown have been the result of a sudden move to another yard, and being placed on orientation status. If CSP-Corcoran wanted to, I could have been cleared off orientation status within 24 hours. But what is it to the jailers that I am confined to my cell? They are not the ones who are missing the sunlight, fresh air, and the ability to walk around. My world is 9 feet by 6 feet shared with another man, a complete stranger I met 11 days ago. I am cut off from my family; no visitation, no phone calls. Our only communication is letters that take days at best, if they arrive at all. My wife and I have never faced issues with the mail before, but since the beginning of this lockdown we have suddenly had a number of our letters go missing.

My current orientation status should not extend much longer. (Note: Orientation ended 7/27, Sean was on orientation a total of 14 days but still doesn’t have phone calls)  I will hopefully be off orientation any day, but what good will it do? Due to Covid-19, CSP -Corcoran is currently operating under a Modified Program Schedule that restricts all inmates to their cells for 23 hours per day. Each inmate is allowed a single hour of day room time per day or 1 hour of yard on a rotation schedule that works out to about 2 hours per week. This excessive confinement to 9′ by 6′ cells is inadequate to maintain the health and well-being of the incarcerated population. Personally I already feel the deep sense of defeat that has set in. What is the point when I am locked in a concrete box separated from my family? I have not been allowed to see my wife for 5 months so far and there is no likelihood of visitation anytime soon. Even when this orientation is over I will only be allowed out of my cell 1 hour a day, if they even run program, which is not guaranteed.  And maybe 2 hours of yard per week which is also not guaranteed. This is no way to live, even for those may deserve incarceration. Being wrongfully convicted and subject to such treatment while waiting over 3 1/2 years for the Federal District Court to issue a ruling from my Evidentiary Hearing is excruciating. This is not a life. 

The only view out of my cell is a 30 inch by 5 inch piece of rectangular glass looking down into the day room. My back window is frosted over with paint that does not allow even sunlight in. Sometimes I look down into the day room and the scene I am confronted with both haunts and terrifies me. I see little elderly men, frail and weak, who have been transferred to Corcoran from Chino to avoid the COVID-19 outbreak there. Most of these elderly men are what CDCR labels as “high-risk medical” meaning they have serious underlying medical conditions and are supposed to be housed in specific high-risk medical facilities; which Corcoran is not. Many of these elderly men use canes and wheelchairs to get around, one even has a prosthetic leg which I have never seen before in prison. It haunts me because this is a potential future I may suffer because the system does not care about the truth of my innocence. It terrifies me because even these elderly men who were moved from Chino to avoid the virus outbreak still do not socially distance or wear masks properly. How many will survive when COVID-19 inevitably gets in here again? Will I be exposed again? Staff and incarcerated individuals alike still cannot seem to grasp the need to wear masks or socially distance. How many more need to get sick or die before they do?

My wrongful incarceration began at age 16. I am now 34 and have had over 17 years of my life  stolen. In the past I always believe my innocence would be proven, that the truth would set me free as they say. Unfortunately, the system does not care about the truth. If it did, it would not take a judge over 3 1/2 years to issue a ruling. It has been half a decade since the 9th Circuit Court ruled that the readily available evidence my trial lawyer, James Clark, failed to show the jury would have made it virtually impossible for me to have been involved in the crime. Not only did we prove all of this evidence at the Evidentiary Hearing, we also proved that William Wellman, who the prosecutor gave a deal of a seriously reduced sentence to testify against me, lied to the jury about how and why he changed the time he claimed the crime occurred. Had Wellman not changed the times, my alibi for the original time frame was indisputable.

No one cares that an innocent 16 year old kid was wrongfully convicted and sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole. I used to believe the system would see the truth and correct this serious travesty of justice. Now, more than half my life is gone, lost forever to these concrete walls. COVID-19 has taken what little I had left to hold onto. I do not know where COVID-19 or my wrongful conviction will end. But after 17 years of nightmarish hell it only seems to get worse with no end in sight.

About Sean & Emelia

Sean O'Brien was wrongfully convicted in adult court in El Dorado County, California and sentenced to Life Without Parole at the age of 16 without a shred of physical evidence tying him to the crime for which he was convicted. Sean and I have been friends since grade school and we were married in 2017. We live and grow together in love with the knowledge of his innocence, our faith, and hope for our future. We embrace this journey, wherever it may take us, cherishing each moment we have together and staying true to our hearts. This blog is about the past we share, our life together and our fight for justice. Thank you for reading. God bless.
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