More on: Yuri Kochiyama


Oct 19, 2011
» Reflections

There was no hot water, but I showered anyway. I was told that I had a visit at 11. I felt mellow after I got up. Then I was told Mike’s back in Donner section. The transfer was an error. I was happy that he’s back even though I couldn’t see him. I don’t know what happened.

I didn’t know who’s coming to see me. It’s a surprise as usual. I went to the visiting room at ten til eleven. As I was sitting for a while, Yuri and Anmol showered up. They got there about 11:20. The guard gave them a bunch of hassle because of Yuri’s walker. Yuri was in a wheelchair. Then she got up and sat in the regular chair. Anmol said hi and gave Yuri the phone. She was all smiling and told me how highly people thought of me. She’s very tiny and frail. I had wanted to see her for a while. Finally, she’s in front of me. I thought I would be overcome with emotion once I see her, but I didn’t. Our conversation and gestures were so natural that it’s like we’ve been friends for the longest. She had a difficult time hearing me. I had to yell. Anmol and her took turns to talk to me. We didn’t have too much time. Yuri told me that her advisor from UCLA loved my poem and will print it in a journal. She asked if I could talk to his nephew EN, who’s on Death Row. He’s been in since he’s 19. His family disowned him and he wanted to die. I told her I’ll try to get a message to him. We talked a little about transfer, parole and the Ad Seg situation. She’s concerned. She wanted me to go to Vacaville because U.C. Davis’ Asian students wan to start an Asian Studies program. She’s not award of the running of the prison. She said that I’m a good writer and encouraged me to write and publish a book. I was flattered. Anmol and I talked a bit about my Ad Seg situation. He expressed his anger about what S did to jeopardize us in prison. He hasn’t talk to her since. I understand what Mo felt, but I told him to support her. I didn’t want to talk too much about it then. We’ll have a chance to air it out next time. They haven’t written support letters for me yet, but they’ll do it asap. Our visit was cut short. The officer and Sergeant were not accommodating. I did my best to stall. I don’t’ know when I’ll see them again. We need some quality time together. I appreciate Anmol for bringing her up to see me.

I received my canteen order today. I have plenty of food. The rest of the day I rested and read. I didn’t feel like doing anything else.

I was great to see Yuri. Today will be a memorable day for me. May Yuri be healthy and continue to be an inspiration in fighting for justice.

Sep 25, 2011
» Reflections

Things are starting to move along. I was called to my 115 hearing at ten till ten this morning. Lt. M was the hearing officer. He wasn’t prepared and seemed like he’s set to find me guilty. I stayed until ten til eleven and I was called to my attorney visit. Lt. M postponed the hearing due to the legal visit. I thought he was saved by the bell to make a decision. I turned in all my defense statements and supporting documents. Hopefully he’ll be impartial and find me not guilty.

I visited with PLO’s (Prison Law Office) KW from 11 to 12:35. We discussed about my situation in Ad Seg. I gave him a brief update on my status. Then we talked about the writ. He suggested that filling the writ might  not be the best idea. It’ll take a long time dealing with appeals by the board even if I win in the court. If I get a date from BPT, I would get out sooner. However, I pointed out to him that if I don’t get a date the process will take just as long, 8 months to a year and a half. He agreed. He also suggested that either I filed a write pro per and ask him to be appointed or wait til the end of October when he’s free and file the writ. I said I’ll get back to him. he apologized for his lack of communication. He said if I wanted someone to represent me, that would be fine. I just might do that if that’s the case. he seemed like he had changed his demeanor with me. I expressed my dissatisfaction with him. He assured me that he’s on board with me. He wants to help me all the way. I’ll hold him to that. I still have to get my feedback from the lawyer first. I wrote KW to say thank you.

I received a letter from Yuri. She loved my poem and wanted to put it in her memoir. I said hell yeah! She met S and wanted to start a San Quentin 3 committee to help me and the guys. It’s a great idea. Yuri’s for it and will help publicize our plight and Ethnic Studies. She’s interested in the fight for Ethnic Studies. I wrote her back and gave her some details. She said that I should get my writings published so colleges can use it to teach Asian Americans about prison. I agreed, but I don’t know how to do that yet. I was pumped by her letter as usual. I shared it with Mike. He liked it. I’m sure he’s excited.

I wrote to K and told her what happened today. I have been busy all day. I got my canteen, only junk food. I gave Blue Eyes 10 stamps for drawing the praying hand to Rico. He’s happy I was so generous.

I called Mom again, but no one was home so I left a brief message. She’s probably in Oakland while Sis is on vacation.

I did some fishing. I got my two appeals back. I have to send them to the lawyer to process. It’s a lot of work. He told me he filed my write already. That was quick. I appreciate it.

I saw a few guys on the way back from visit. Hopefully I’ll be back on the line soon so I can work on going home. God willing. I pray that all is well with family and friends.



Sep 12, 2011
» Reflections

I can never get enough of encouragement from friends and family. Yuri wrote and sent me a reading by a congresswoman. She expressed her concerns about my Ad Seg situation. She encouraged me to write. She sent another visiting form for approval. I wrote her back and explained my situation.

Mom wrote. She had a great trip. She worried about me as usual. I wrote her a brief letter telling her what’s new with me. I’ll write again on Sunday.

A wrote. That was a pleasant surprise. She offered to do the website for me. I’ll take up her offer.

I sent five letters to politicians. Hopefully I’ll get some response. I wrote to Polanco, Pelosi, Feinstein, Boxer, and Nation. I finished reading Zami and started reading All That’s Solid Melts Into Air and Chinamen.

Rico gave me some soups and so did Mike.

The day was productive. I went to the law library and made copies and did research. I wrote my statement for the ICC, just in case. I heard from the lawyer. He did the best to help me. I got a note fro the ERO concerning my citizen’s complaint.

I did a light workout in the morning before shower. I feel better receiving letters from family and friends.

The future is unknown, but I’m ready. All is well at the end. I have to have fate.


Aug 14, 2011
» Reflections

I have been sitting most of the day. After taking a nap I started reviewing the Title 15 to get familiarize with the necessary sections. I want to be prepared. I didn’t sleep well last night because some people were talking loud two o’clock in the morning.

J was transferred to Avenal. CC visited all of us today to give an update on our individual and group situation. The warden sent him a letter stating that the investigation’s over and Mike and I will be charged. Now we just have to wait and see what rule violation we’ll be charged with. My lawyer told me to send the Denial out. It’s ready. I spoke to CC about my parole situation. He asked me to write to KW from PLO (Prison Law Office) to see what he’s going to do before we talk again. I’m will to have him represent me. CC Talked briefly about his philosophy in his dealing with life. I appreciate his sharing. I sent him a letter on my Ad Set placement facts. He’ll write to the prison to mess with them for violating my due process. I wrote KW an official letter requesting to see him and discuss my parole situation.

I received a letter form J. she sent me a prose in Chinese from her friend. She should be back in China by now. KM wrote me a letter. She got married a few days ago. She shared what she likes to read the other personal stuff with me. I’m glad that she’s willing to share. And she’s pregnant.

I wrote to Lucky, but I’ll have to send it out tomorrow.

I received the Fire Inside newsletter and I saw Yuri’s picture in it. She was protesting in CIW (California Institution for Women) back in April. She’s everywhere. I felt encouraged by her.

Well, I might be here for a while. I hope I can beat whatever they’re charging me with. Somebody, something got to be on my side looking out for me. Mother Earth?

Autobiography @ 33

Mar 07, 2011
» Poetry

I am 33 years old and breathin’

it’s a good year to die

to myself

I never felt such extreme peace

despite being mired in constant ear-deafening screams

from the caged occupants – triple CMS1, PCs2, gang validated,
drop-outs, parole violators, lifers,
drug casualties, three strikers,
human beings

in San Quentin’s 150 year old solitary confinement

I don’t want to start things over


@ 33

I am very proud of being who I am

I wrote a letter to a stranger who said
“You deserve to lose at least your youth,
not returning to society until well into middle age…”

after reading an article about me in San Francisco Weekly

I told him
“A hundred years from now when we no longer exist on this earth of humankind the seriousness of my crime will not be changed or lessened. I can never pay my debt to the victims because I cannot turn back the hands of time…I will not judge you.”

whenever I think about my crime I feel ashamed

I’ve lost my youth and more

I’ve learned that the more I suffer the stronger I become

I am blessed with great friends

I talk better than I write
because the police can’t hear my conversation

the prison officials labeled me a trouble maker

I dared to challenge the administration
for its civil rights violation

I fought for Ethnic Studies in the prison college program

I’ve been a slave for 16 years under the 13th Amendment

I know separation and disappointment intimately

I memorized the United Front Points of Unity

I love my family and friends

my shero Yuri Kochiyama and a young sister named Monica

who is pretty wanted to come visit me

somehow I have more female friends than male friends

I never made love to a woman

sometimes I feel like 16

but my body disagrees

some people called me a square

because I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs

I am a procrastinator but I get things done

I’ve never been back to my motherland

I started to learn Spanish

escribió una poema en español

at times I can be very selfish and vice versa

I’ve never been to a prom, concert, opera, sporting event

or my parents’ house

I don’t remember the last time I cried

I’ve sweat with the Native Americans, attended mass with the

Catholics, went to service with the Protestants, sat and chanted

with the Buddhists

my mind is my church

I am spoiled

in 2001 a young lady I love stopped loving me

it felt worse than losing my freedom

I was denied parole for the ninth time

I assured Mom that I will be home one day

after she pleaded me to answer her question truthfully
“Are you ever going to get out of prison?”

the Prison Industrial Complex and its masters attempted to control my mind

it didn’t work

they didn’t know I’ve been introduced to Che, Yuri Kochiyama, Paulo Freire, Howard Zinn, Frederick Douglass, Assata Shakur, bell hooks, Maurice Cornforth, Malcolm X, Gandhi, George Jackson, Mumia, Buddha,

and many others…

I had about a hundred books in my cell

I was internalizing my politics

In 2000 I organized the first poetry slam in San Quentin

I earned my associate of art degree

something that I never thought possible

I’ve self-published a zine

I was the poster boy for San Quentin

some time in the ‘90s my grandparents died

without knowing that I was in prison


@ 30

I kissed Dad on the cheek and told him that I love him
for the first time

I’ve written my first poem

I called myself a poet to motivate me to write

because I knew poets would set us free

in 1998 I was granted parole
then it was taken away

the governor’s political career superseded my life

some time in the 90s
I participated in most of the self-help programs

in 1996 I really learned how to read and write

I read my first history book “A People’s History
of the United States”

my social conscious mind was awakened

in 1992 I passed my GED in Solano Prison

I learned how to take care of my body from ’89 to ‘93

in 1987 I turned 18 and went to the Pen from youth authority

the youngest prisoner in San Quentin’s
Maximum Security Prison

I was lucky people thought I knew kung fu


@ 16

I violated an innocent family of four and scarred them for life

money superseded human suffering

I was charged as an adult and sentenced to life
with a possibility

no hablo ingles

I wish I could start things over

I was completely lost


@ 12

I left Communist China to Capitalist America

no hablo ingles

I was spoiled

in 1976 I went to demonstrations against the Gang of Four

life was a blur from 1 to 6

on 5/29/69

I inhaled my first breath.


1 Correctional Clinical Case Management System Mental health condition of prisoners
2 Protective Custody of Prisoners

2009 Reflections

Jan 02, 2010
» Reflections

Dearest family, friends and supporters:

Happy new breath! Happy New Year! Happy new decade!

I remember standing in the 49er’s Linebacker room sharing a message with about twenty NFL football players, “You’re one bad decision away from being locked up in prison or six feet under.” We all have to be accountable to our actions. There is no exception.

I remember an immigrant youth lying on a gurney in the hospital emergency room pleading with me, “Can I leave the hospital? I don’t want to be here. My family doesn’t have money.” He didn’t think of that when he decided to engage in a group fight. There is a consequence to every action.

I remember the day an African American man robbed and dragged my 74 year old mother on the concrete ground in board daylight. As she lies in the emergency room in the hospital, I reasoned with myself, “Here I am advocating for the rights of the African Americans, Latinos and APIs in the community, why does it has to be an African American who hurts my Mom? Then again, I did not think about my victims’ feelings when I committed my crime. Who am I to judge others?” There’re many reasons why people do what they do. It’s what I am going to do, that matters. Forgiveness is not easy, but it is necessary.

I remember standing on the stage in the Laney College auditorium with my poet friend SKIM performing our collaboration of “Breath is Life” to celebrate my birthday with friends and community members. I’m reminded that community is how we include and embrace each other. (more…)