While waiting for the election to be called last week, a couple of us at the IAS masked up and tended to the changing seasons at Solitary Garden. After discussions with Tim Young, we took out some plants which were failing and seeded the bed with cover crop to add nutrients to the soil over the winter. Our plan is to get the garden ready for a spring replanting.
In our most recent letter from Tim Young, the Solitary Gardener currently incarcerated in San Quentin, Tim describes his experience of the orange skies that have been covering California and the West Coast. Like many of us, he sees this as a troubling forecast for the future of our climate and environment.
We recently received a message from Tim, our collaborator on the Solitary Garden public art project at UC Santa Cruz, who is currently incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison. He was writing to express his gratitude for all the people who have written him letters and sent him support!
This week we received the first letter from Tim, our Solitary Gardener currently incarcerated San Quentin, since mid-July! The good news is that Tim is feeling better, but he is definitely struggling.
Looking at the 6’x 9’ sculpture of a solitary confinement cell sitting in the smoke of the fires is also to see an urgent question—a reckoning— emerge. When prisoners are called state “resources,” what are the connections between mass incarceration, our overflowing prisons, and the state's need for labor of this sort?
In mid July it was announced that prisoners would no longer have access to phones in San Quentin, to try to control the spread of the Covid-19.
With more than 50% of the people locked up in San Quentin already testing positive, and many more displaying symptoms, the new measures seemed both cruel and too little, too late. Tim and those on death row and in solitary confinement have already been in their cells for 24-hours a day for weeks, sick and utterly isolated. They were denied the ability to call loved ones for the foreseeable future.
With cases of coronavirus skyrocketing in San Quentin State Prison, (SFChonicle’s headline reads “They’re calling man down every 20 or 30 minutes,”) Tim Young’s worst fears are being realized.
“What we have here is the tale of two knees. Kaepernick used his to make Black Lives Matter. Officer Chauvin used his to make Black lives nonexistent”
Today Tim Young called from San Quentin, where he has been on Death Row for 14 years, to talk about the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck.
We are relieved to have gotten two letters from the UC Santa Cruz Solitary Gardener Tim Young on Saturday, one dated from March 30. Since he has been writing letters twice a week since the pandemic began about what is happening in San Quentin, it was an uneasy twelve days with no mail.