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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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