Sad news: West Block has lost another guiding light. On Sunday, August 9, Sergeant G. Polanco died from coronavirus. Polanco, 55, a West Block unit Sergeant, is among the growing death list in our San Quentin community.
We have lost 26 [29 by printing] of our incarcerated peers, friends, and associates to this deadly disease. Polanco became the first correctional officer to die of the illness at San Quentin.
The daily interactions between guards and prisoners are always complex: from the hardliners (on both sides) who view each other with disdain to the humane, who try not to lose their true selves in this environment.
Polanco was in the humane category. In a place of constant uncertainty, stress and toxic personalities—once again, on both sides—Polanco will be remembered as a fair and impartial person and officer. Polanco had the ability and skill to de-escalate any situation with his smile and years of experience. He would respect the rights of the incarcerated.
If we anticipated we had something coming, he made sure that we would get it. But if you broke the rules, he would give you what you’d got coming, too. Polanco was never away or isolated from the housing unit. He was always available to listen to grievances or just have a casual conversation.
“I remember when Sgt. Polanco would work West Block, we would talk in the rotunda, where I played my guitar, about politics, old school music, and travel,” said Aaron Taylor, former SQNews Sports Editor. “In those conversations, it was just two middle-aged men talking about life, not a correctional sergeant and an incarcerated person.”
“Polanco will also be remembered for being one of the first to volunteer and help sponsor the incarcerated “Sign Language program” where incarcerated men learn signing and become mentors to the incoming deaf population.
“Polanco was always interested in connecting to the human—which isn’t normal in CDCR—but also not an outlier at San Quentin,” said Taylor.
Polanco embodied leadership and what it takes to be of service to your community and nation. He comes from a military family and a line of correctional officers. His uncle Lee Polanco, a military veteran and former San Quentin correctional officer, retired and became the prison’s Native American Chaplain. Polanco’s son is currently in the military.
As the coronavirus continues to ravage San Quentin, while the administration attempts to get a handle on the situation, it shows that the illness does not discriminate between guards or the incarcerated.
Sgt. Polanco will be missed not just by his co-workers, but also by some of the men in blue, whom he counseled, gave support during rehabilitative programs and debated sports trivia with.
Rest in Peace, Sergeant.
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