New Year at the Q
Different cultures have different superstitions. One of the superstitions in Asian culture is it’s bad luck to go visit a prison. It’s one thing if you have loved ones locked up and you’re visiting them. It’s all bad if you just go visit a prison.
In the past, I had encourage some youth to go visit San Quentin so they can get an ideal what life is like so they won’t do things that land them there. However, most of the Asian youth don’t want to go because of superstition. Their parents don’t approve of them going for the same reason.
For me, I would like to think that I transcend all superstition. Therefore, I went to visit San Quentin this afternoon to brainstorm on setting up a culture competent program to help the Asian and Pacific Islander prisoners. One of the prisoners showed me a “lai shi” he received from an older prisoner. “lai shi” is good luck money that married people or elders give to the youngsters in a red envelop during new year celebration. Since there’s no red envelop in prison, they guy use a paper towel and shaded with red color pencil to make the envelop. For money, he put a prison photo ducat (Photo ducat is used in the visiting room to take pictures with visitors. It’s sell through the Prison Canteen.,) which worth two dollars, inside the envelop. I asked the guys whether all the Asians are going to have a spread to celebrate the new year. They said everyone’s too busy working and going to self help programs. They may do something over the weekend.
Culture is important. For those who are incarcerated, they still observe their cultures as much as they can. Therefore, it’s important to have cultural specific programs cater to their needs to reduce recidivism.
Again, I’m grateful that I can walk out of the prison each time I visit. Each visit gives me perspective and makes me more appreciative of freedom.