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The struggles of APA prisoners

Apr 25, 2003
» Articles, Reflections

One inmate’s call for APA community support

by Eddy Zheng, AsianWeek, VOICES FROM THE COMMUNITY

Asians do not go to prisons. When people mention the word prison they usually conjure up images of hard-core criminals — murderers, kidnappers, drug dealers, gang members and sexual predators. Prison also brings to mind the mass incarceration of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and poor whites. Rarely do people associate prison with Asian Pacific Americans.

I am an APA prisoner who has been incarcerated for over 17 years. If I have to write about all the struggles APA prisoners have to endure, I can write a book. Since I am writing an essay, I will share with you some of what it is like to be an APA in prison.

The first thing an APA prisoner is subjected to is the surrender of his ethnicity. The prison system promotes racial segregation by grouping prisoners as “Black,” “White,” “Mexican/Hispanic” and “Other.” It is a means of control by creating a separation of culture between races. As soon as an APA is processed into the prison he is categorized as an “Other.” He is no longer Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Japanese or any other ethnicity. Once he is labeled, for the rest of his stay in prison he will be living, showering, eating and hanging out with those who are in the same category.
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APA Inmate Challenges Prison Segregation Policies

Apr 04, 2003
» Articles

by May Chow, AsianWeek

excerpt:

An Asian Pacific American inmate at Avenal State Prison is challenging the racially segregated housing and discriminatory discipline policies at San Quentin State Prison and the California Department of Corrections (CDC) — practices that violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In November 2001, Viet Mike Ngo, 33, petitioned the Marin County Superior Court for a writ of habeas corpus regarding San Quentin’s alleged violation of an inmate’s guaranteed equal protection under the law.

“San Quentin uses three racial/ethnic categories for the purpose of segregating inmates in cells (double-celling) and during lockdowns,” Ngo wrote in the petition. “Whites are routinely assigned cells with whites, blacks with blacks and Mexicans with Mexicans. There is de facto segregation in this housing unit by cells.”

(read full article online here )

Asian American Studies Denied to San Quentin Inmates

Mar 28, 2003
» Articles

APAs fight for their rights behind bars

by Ji Hyun Lim, AsianWeek

excerpt:

Education frees the mind, builds character — and some argue — may reduce recidivism. For Eddy Zheng, the San Quentin College program has been rehabilitative. Seventeen years ago, Zheng was sent to prison for armed robbery, sentenced for seven years to life. During his years in prison, he has been able to read, write, learn English, and receive both his GED and his associates degree. With his education, he hopes to educate at-risk kids about the consequences of crime when he is released from prison.

Zheng has taken all the courses offered to him, but he and his fellow inmates are still thirsty to learn more about their roots as Asian Pacific Americans. On March 11, Zheng, Viet Mike Ngo, Roy Remeidio and Stephen Liebb proposed to the academic committee that the education program include courses that reflect their cultural history and identity. The four men signed a petition as a formal request. However, they were faced with an unanticipated reaction.

( read full article online here )