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Zine collects letters from Michigan prisoners recounting their experience of the pandemic

Posted at 3:26 PM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-12 15:26:46-04

LANSING, Mich. — Eugene Marr and Scott Libby are both inmates at G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson.

The two don't have much in common except the shared experience of being incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, an experience each wrote about in a zine titled The Pandemic Inside.

The zine was put together by Michigan Abolition and Prison Solidarity. The letters from Marr and Libby are two of twelve.

"This coronavirus has impacted everything from society right down into the deepest, darkest pockets of the prison," said Libby, who writes under the alias Robert Winburn. "If you add sunlight, I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant. And this was important for us to get out and perhaps add some light on what's going on in this very dark place."

That's exactly what Libby, who has spent 25 years of his life in prison, seems to be aiming to do in his letter. It talks about his unease living in an 8-man cube during a pandemic, his thoughts on the legality of having prisoners enclosed in a small area and his observations of prison medical staff.

"The question is not if we will be infected, it's when," Libby writes.

In an interview, he added, "only the strong survive."

Marr has been incarcerated for nine-and-a-half years and has contracted COVID twice during the pandemic. His letter talks about his anxiety over not being able to social distance at his bunk or in the bathroom, as well as the feeling that he and his fellow inmates are "just sitting here, waiting for it."

Marr has an auto-immune disease and his uneasiness surrounding the lack of social distancing was especially pronounced in his interview. He said, "It put a feeling in your body like, I'm locked up, I'm a prisoner, but I wasn't sentenced to death."

At least 143 Michigan prisoners have died from COVID-19, and at least 26,203 have contracted the disease and recovered, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

As the delta variant blankets Michigan, Marr said, his unit is on COVID watch once again.

"It's always an uphill battle, but I know there's a bright future for me waiting for me to go home," Marr said. "A lot of family and loved ones."