More on: community support
Jun 13, 2011
How time flies!? Nine years ago today I was locked up in San Quentin State Prison’s solitary confinement, also known as The Hole. Yes, June 13, 2002 started my life in the hole for exactly eleven months. It all started when my friends Rico, Mike, Stephen and I signed a proposal requesting classes on Asian American history and literature, ethnic studies, a student body, a faculty body and that our rights be honored in the San Quentin college program. It’s a long story.
Few people understand what is like for a prisoner to be locked up in solitary confinement, which it’s a prison within a prison. The psychological effects that long term isolation has on prisoners are often detrimental. However, I was able to get out of the hole and remain sane. I kept a journal of my time in the hole. I will share it with the world in hope to shed some light on the conditions of solitary confinement and how I had survived that ordeal. I will use the initials of people I identified for confidentiality purposes. Let’s see how folks feel about my time travel back to the past.
“Evening. I don’t know what time it is right now, but it really does not matter. I’m in the hole. There is no difference if I know what time it is. I have nowhere to go. I’ll be in this cell for a while. I’m by myself.
My companions are noises from people yelling, talking and the echoes of my voice when I hum a few bars. I’m feeling extremely peaceful. There is no feelings of anxiety, regrets and hopelessness. I’m bathing in peace. I don’t know why I’m feeling this way, but I’m grateful. I’m in the hole. My reaction and feeling about being in here is totally different from my first time in the hole.
It was on October 26, 2000 that I was in the same situation. I had everything going for me then. This time I don’t seem to have much. The extreme of having so much to having nothing was too much of a shock for me last time. This time I’m mentally prepared. That made a huge difference. Also, I have faith that I will win when this is all over.
I was at work this morning when Officer R came picked me up. He informed me that I’m going to get locked up. I said goodbye to all the library workers. S cried as he hugged me. He’s a very emotional person. He has a lot of good qualities. I was allowed to pack my things up. When I got to the cell, it was searched by a squad Officer D. He took some books, photographs, writings, letters and misc paperwork. It took me some time to pack up my stuff, mostly books. I much have a hundred books. I ended up with 8 boxes 1 bag and the TV. L helped me carry them to the storage room. He told me that he loves me and that we will win. I believe him. It’s sad to leave him by himself. He’ll have to stay strong and fight for us. I didn’t take a lot of food, only some can goods and rice. I felt calm and peaceful when I was packing.
After I signed my lockup order, C/O R to infirmary and to C section “the hole.” I yelled to Rico while in the cage to let him know I’m here. I stood in the cage for almost three hours. Boy, do I have patient!? I was able to talk to Mike for a bit. he was going to the law library. After I was escorted to my cell, I took time to clean the cell with a piece of rag. Someone left a bible, half of a Stuff magazine and a book in the locker. At least I have something to read if I want to.
My neighbor “Little” gave me three envelops and 3 pieces of paper. I appreciate his help. I wrote a letter to Mom and N. It’s a short letter just to ask them not to worry. I also wrote to K and sent him the copy of 114, (the code for lock up order.) I also sent a 602 as a citizen’s complaint again Lt. N. I hope to hear from the court soon. Dinner was hot doges and beans. I was hungry so I ate them. B sent me a couple of stamped envelops and paper. It was nice of him to do that. Mike gave me some stamps shampoo and toothpaste.
During mail pick up, I received 6 pieces of rerouted mail. They were all inspected and read twice. My mail are flagged. I was happy to receive those letters. I got letter from J, A, M, K and O. I got a fan mail response from the SF Weekly story. K was very vocal about the injustice done by the governor. I want to write her back. A shared a lot with me. He talked to Yuri about me. I’ll read J’s letter before I go to sleep. I wrote her a short letter, but didn’t make it out. I’m still feeling good right now. I hope all is well with Rico, Mike and L.
We will win.”
Jan 21, 2011
I maintain contact with a few people in the Pen. Whenever I have time I would write to them. I still remember how good it felt to get a letter from the “free world.” Receiving letters from family and friends is one way to maintain contact and ties with the community. It also means that people in prison are not forgotten.
Today, I received a letter from a life term prisoner who I had done time with. I met up with him during my visit to Vacaville Medical Facility with the San Francisco Reentry Council a few months ago.
I just want to share an excerpt of what he wrote:
“I was denied parole because of weak parole plans. What a bummer, I took them 29 1/2 years [with] 25 years of that was clean time, no write ups, or disciplinary action and I was denied parole for three more years under a law that became active literally about a week before I went to the parole board on 4-3-09. Marsey Law, huh, what a rip off. Here it is 2011 and I go back to the board next year 2012, so really have to dot my i and cross my ts.”
Well, it’s good to know that he has not given up hope.
May 22, 2010
Gordon J. Lau Elementary School, San Francisco, CA
Spoke about communication and violence prevention, to approximately 70 parents.
Aug 04, 2009
San Francisco, CA
Presented for ACT, APILO’s youth program, on the importance of the individual, family and community, to 10 people
May 16, 2009
San Francisco, CA
Spoke for Community Youth Center San Francisco, at the Parenting Summit, to approximately 60 community members
Mar 26, 2009
San Francisco, CA
Presented in English and Cantonese, at Brotherhood and Sisterhood Assembly workshops, to approximately two classes of 50 students
Mar 16, 2009
San Francisco, CA
Spoke about the impact of incarceration on the health of individuals, families and the community, at Professor Donna Willmott’s “Health Impacts of Incarceration” Health Education class.
Students will gain an understanding of prison culture and the specific challenges an incarcerated person faces when re-entering society. Ethical considerations along with identifying systemic barriers and rights retained by this population will be explored.
Feb 13, 2009
San Francisco, CA
Spoke about the importance of community service, the API prison population, and struggles in the Prison Industrial Complex, to approximately 200 freshman students
Feb 02, 2009
San Francisco, CA
Spoke about the Community Response Network, to approximately 30 broadcasting students.
Jan 02, 2009
The year of 2008 breezed by like a sparrow riding with the wind of a tornado. Sometimes I don’t even remember all the things that have had happened in my life.
I’ve been in the “Free World” for 22 months. However, I feel like I’ve been here all along. Who would’ve thought that I am still in the United States? My immigration status remains the same – deported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is still waiting to secure my travel document from the Chinese government so it can process my deportation. I’m still under ICE’s Intensive Supervision Appearance Program. I have to check in with ICE three times a month. My appeal in the ninth circuit court of appeal has been pending for over two years. I have no idea when the court will issue a decision.
Therefore, my status in the US is still uncertain. Fortunately, with the support and dedication of my friend Ben Wang, we were able to secure the commitment from Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Mike Honda to express their support to sponsor a private bill on my behalf to stop my deportation in the 2009 congress. With Obama as the president, hopefully my chance of getting the private bill passed increases. Only time will tell.
In the meantime, I continued to work full time in the Community Youth Center (CYC) of San Francisco. Since my 20 months of employment in CYC, I was promoted three times. Currently, I’m the Senior Project Coordinator responsible for two components that work on decreasing the violence in the schools and the community – the Community Response Network – Asian Pacific Islander (CRN-API) and Intervention.
The stigma of being a formerly incarcerated person has worked for me and against me. There are those who will continue to doubt me. That’s fine. As the saying goes, “You can lead a cow to water, but you cannot force it to drink.” One thing remains unchanged for me is my dedication to service the youth and community to the best of my ability. I find it extremely rewarding to be able to utilize my experiences to provide services to the often under-funded and under-served API population. Therefore, it is humbling to be accepted and validated by most of my peers and community for what I do. Because when you give me a chance, you give thousands of other an opportunity to change their lives.
I have attached a chronology of some of the things that I’ve done this year. They are the direct results of your support and faith in me.
In my reflection of this year, I realize that sometimes I’m disconnected with society. There’re so many things that I did not learn or understand as a result of my incarceration. Therefore, sometimes I unknowingly hurt the people I care about, myself included. At times, I find myself thinking that being in prison is better than being in the so called “Free World.” I feel like I am living in a lie and that my life is one big lie.
I know that I have much to reflect on and take direct actions to make changes. That’s why I ask all of you to keep me humble and continue to guide me in this finite journey of life.
Thank you for being there for me and being my mentors. Your presence in my life reminds me of how rich and lucky I am.
As we embrace the year of 2009, let’s continue to be kind and loving to ourselves so we can pass the same loving kindness to others.
May you and your families be happy and healthy.
My heart bows to you,
Your humble servant,
Sep 27, 2008
About the Event
“Other: Voices of Asian Prisoners”
Saturday, Sept. 27th, 2008
Critical Resistance Conference in Oakland, California
Panel workshop featuring Rico Riemedio, German Yambao, and Eddy Zheng. They discuss changes that have occurred in the Asian prison population over the past 20 years, concerns and struggles particular to Asian prisoners, and how Asian prisoners build community and resistance inside the Prison Industrial Complex. Organized by the Asian Prisoner Support Committee (APSC).
Jan 02, 2008
Happy new year!
It’s a blessing to be able to type this message to you. Where as in the past, I have to rely on others to do so.
It’s been ten months since my release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Life is good.
After being in prison for 21 years, one would think that my transition to society would be a difficult one. But not so in my case. Since the day I returned to the free world, I just keep on moving forward.
As you can imagine, everything is new to me. I’ve experienced many first times. That’s why every day of my life is full of excitement.
However, what I find most rewarding and satisfying is doing work that I love. I’m working full time for the Community Youth Center (CYC) of San Francisco as a Project Coordinator for the Community Response Network – Asian Pacific Islander(CRN-API). I get to service the youth, family and community of San Francisco. Also, I’m privileged to be given opportunities to share my experiences in schools, colleges and community based organizations. It is like a dream come true.
As for my immigration status, not much has changed. My deportation order is still active. I do have an appeal in the ninth circuit appeal court. I don’t know what’s going to happen. What I do know is I am not going to worry about the things that I have no control of. I am just going with the flow and stay busy.
I have attached a chronology of some of the things that I’ve done since my release in February. Please take the time to read it because you’ve played an important part in all my accomplishments.
As always, I can never accomplish any of these without the continual support from all of you and the community. I am grateful for your presence in my life.
Please continue to keep me humble because you sustain me, because without you there is no me and because you are beautiful.
2008 is going to be another awesome year. Let’s keep on shining… living… loving…
Apr 18, 2004
Prisons have become the primary institutional interface for more and more youth, informing everything from pop culture to worldview and life expectations.
by Dan Hoyle, AlterNet
If so many young people are growing up in prison, what exactly are they being taught?
“In prison, you learn to talk less, listen more, and observe — and you learn patience,” says Eddy Zheng from a pay phone in Solano State Prison in Vacaville, CA. In 1982, when he was 12 years old, Zheng came to America from Canton, China, with his family. His parents worked full time — “my Dad worked at McDonalds; all he memorized was how to say ‘mayonaise, lettuce, tomatoes.'” Zheng didn’t adjust well. In 1986 he was convicted of kidnapping with intent to commit robbery, and was charged as an adult at the age of 16. “I grew up in prison,” admits Zheng. Still learning English when he was admitted, Zheng took ESL classes and got his GED, and then went on to receive an Associate Degree of Arts through extension classes at San Quentin State Prison (he has since been relocated to Solano State). He plans on starting a youth guidance center for new immigrants when he is released. Zheng realizes his story is unusual and praises the “huge support from family and friends beyond the community of incarceration” that have helped him make the most of his time in prison.
( read full article online here )