By Casey Rawlings
SANTA BARBARA, CA – Keith Zeasley has been incarcerated at Santa Barbara’s jail since February of this year, and when he appeared in Santa Barbara County Superior Court Tuesday morning, with the assistance of his attorney Mark Owens, he had some COVID-related complaints.
Zeasley is currently incarcerated and attended his case virtually using Zoom. When he entered the assigned room with phone access, he asked the nearest correctional officer if the area had been cleaned before he arrived.
He noted, “Did you clean the phones?” he inquired. “COVID is going around man, it’s everywhere,” he elaborated, stating, “I feel like I’m really sick right now, I have a lot of concerns about it.”
Santa Barbara County Main Jail has 819 total beds, many of which are currently occupied, according to Santa Barbara County Custody Records. This means that the jail is currently far from low occupancy, which obstructs any efforts to maintain social distancing.
Zeasley has been incarcerated since February. Since then, he has had virtual meetings with his attorney as well as judges, however he has expressed frustration with the lack of consistency in their appearance and support.
He explained his growing disillusionment with time waivers and judges taking time off, describing that “every time we put time off the case, I come back and there’s a new judge who always comes up missing. Every time, we take a few weeks off and I come back and it’s always a new judge who is supposed to hear our cases and know what’s going on but that never happens.”
After he voiced his concern, the judge referred him to speak privately with his attorney, citing that he was “on record” and should therefore speak with his attorney instead.
After being given the chance to speak confidentially, attorney Owens and Zeasley returned to the main room where there were more administrative pauses as procedural conversations occurred.
Zeasley, still looking dismayed, earnestly vocalized his struggles once more.
He expressed what he was currently feeling, describing, “I’m miserable, and I’m going through more crises and crises every day. Do you get what I’m saying?” After a moment of silence, his attorney hesitantly and apathetically replied, “I do.”
It was clear by his tone of voice and expression that Zeasley was upset and hurt by his situation. He elaborated on the causes of his despondency, noting that “every time I go to jail, my life is turned upside down; I have no resources and no money.”
The judge and attorneys had little response to his statements, and scheduled a trial date for Aug. 17, nearly a month from now.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, incarcerated folks have gotten infected and died at disproportionate rates to non-incarcerated populations, which is exacerbated by transfers, lack of PPE, and pre-existing lack of spatial potential for social distancing within prisons, jails, and detention centers.