Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Forced Imprisonment

The month of August is coming to an end. I still don't know the exact date of my parole hearing. I should be going to my hearing in October because the Board of Prison Terms denied my parole for one year in October 2003.

I called my counselor to inquire about the date of my hearing. He checked with the people in charge of scheduling parole hearings in the prison and told me that I was not scheduled for this year's calendar. He said that the BPT has been running behind in conducting hearings. Therefore, it caused long delays. Even though this is not the first time that happened, I was shocked and outraged.

The BPT is violating the rights of all life prisoners by delaying their hearings. For example, after a prisoner gets denied parole for one year or two years, he or she should go back to another hearing a year or two from the year of denial. If the delay is six months or a year, that means that the prisoner ended up with a year and six months or two years denial. The delay causes an extention of imprisonment for the prisoner which because false imprisonment because the prisoner can be granted parole when he or she goes to the parole hearing without delay.

I'm asking my attorney to check with the BPT concerning my status on the hearing date. Depending on the BPT's answer, we may have to seek relief from the courts. For me, I'm fortunate to have an attorney helping me. For many others, their rights continue to get trampled on without resolve.

The struggle for freedom continues.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Competent Testing

I was sitting in my office when a correctional sergeant walked in and asked which one was my girlfriend. I turned around and recognized my ex-supervisor. He was referring to the female pictures that were posted on the bulletin board. My coworker had pinned up some pictures cut from magazines. The only thing I had up was the flyer of Jane Kim for School Board. So I shoved the flyer to the sergeant and asked him to donate some money to her campaign.

After he finished reading the ABCs of Jane's campaign, he said she didn't talk about mandatory testing for teachers to ensure that kids to get a quality education. He referred to how incompetent the teachers teaching in the prison education programs are. He felt that all teachers should be tested preiodically. He said that if Jane pushes for mandatory testing, she'll get some opposition.

I agreed with him that our teachers should be qualified to teach and that all children should receive the same education equally. I asked the sergeant how can children get the same quality education when more money is spent in the prison system than the schools? The incompetent teachers he mentioned are only here for the good benefits and decent money. The same is true with the dentists and doctors who work in the prisons. Many of them are retired and some of them couldn't make it in their practices. Working for the prison is easy money with good benefits. They don't pride themselves for their quality of work. The sergeant agreed with me. I told him I'll mention his concern to my friend.

Sunday, August 29, 2004


In prison the Asian Pacific Islander population is known to throw some good spreads. Word often travels through the grapevine about which prison throws the most bomb spread. Having a spread is about community and demonstrates solidarity.

Around noon, I gathered up my plastic bowl and spoon and went to the yard for the spread. There were about 40 people sitting around the concrete tables and benches. Plastic bowls of different size were scattered on the tables. I went around to say hi to everyone by shaking their hands. Then I chatted with a couple of guys as I did a mental head count of the different API faces. There were people from different parts of the world gathered in one area: Loas, Cambodia,, India, Hmong, China, Japan, Philippines, Palestine, America Samoa, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Korea, and Tonga. Their ages ranged from early twenties to late fifties. A few minutes later some guys started to bring containers of food items to the table. They finished cooking in the building.

The food items consisted of minute-rice, Top Ramen Noodles, chili beans mixed with salami and summer sausage, mackerel salad, fried mackerel and sodas. After the food was lined up, an elder gathered everyone around and welcomed them to the spread. He expressed that the spread has been a tradition for many years. The purpose was to get all the Asian brothers together to enjoy food and have fun. He emphasized that everyone was equal and no one called the shots. Then everyone got in line with their bowls to pick up their food. There were a few volunteers serving the food. Those APIs who're working and couldn't make it to the spread had food delivered to them. Everyone ate and got full.

So a spread is like a picnic, feast, or potluck. Everyone chips in with whatever they can afford. Those who don't have any money are welcomed. Each building designates people to cook the food. As I said, it's about community. It's about male bonding without drugs and alcohol - not by choice.

The next spread will be some time in Ocotber.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Random Thoughts

A Jewish life prisoner was granted parole after being in prison for 23 years. He will be going back to Israel after the Governor approves the Board of Prison Terms' decision.

U.S. women's soccer team - awesome!

Tears lubricated my eyes when I received an autographed copy of Ishle's book and saw my name in the acknowledgement section, right next to Yuri's.

My heart felt toasty warm when I read the letter from the good Reverend of Chinatown Community Development Center and signed by its staff workers.

The good Reverend asked me to "promise after your release you will do good things for society and teach others to avoid making bad decisions in their youth..."

I have been doing good things for society in the last ten years and teaching others to avoid making bad decisions in their youth and adulthood.

I can't imagine myself doing harm to anyone or any society. I promise that I will continue to let my actions speak for themselves.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Not Your Average Jane

I heard about Jane Kim through my Guardian Angel. Jane was generating support for me when I was preparing for my parole last year. She works for the Chinatown Community Development Center in San Francisco.

In May of this year I had the pleasure of meeting Jane when she took time from her hectic schedule to visit me. Aside from being stunningly beautiful and smart, Jane was down to earth and pleasant to be around. We kicked it like old friends.

Jane told me about the Adopt an Alleyway Youth Project (AAA) that she's involved in where youth clean up the alleys of Chinatown. The AAA members are involved in monitoring Chinatown's alleyways, organizing monthly community clean-ups and beautification projects, serving low-income senior tenants, community advocacy, and focusing on education. I was intrigued by those concepts because that's what I want to do after I get out of prison. Life would be different for me if there were afterschool projects like the AAA 18 years ago.

Then Jane told me she's thinking about running for San Francisco School Board. It was then that I fell in love with her. Just kidding. She said that she knew how many sacrifices she has to make to hold such an important position. However, she felt that the experience of running for the school board and the opportunity to serve the community is worth all the sacrifices and challenges. I told her if she decides to run, I would do my best to support her.

I believe Jane will make an excellent addition to the San Francisco School Board because she has the passion and commitment to help the youth get the best education that they deserve. I know she will work tirelessly with other School Board members, legislators, teachers, parents, and youth to improve the quality of education for all the youth of San Francisco.

I'll borrow a line from the movie Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come." If you vote for Jane Kim for School Board, positive changes will come!

How many people do you know are in their mid-twenties and running for office, especially a woman?

So, my friends, if you live in San Francisco, please vote for Jane on election day. If you can afford to, please donate money to her campaign.

On a side note, did you know that Jane is a musician?

To know more about this not-so-average Jane, please log onto www.janekim.org.

Spread the word, exercise your electoral rights and pass it on.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Love Always Supercedes Money

Every Tuesday afternoon I have a date with my mom on the telephone. She will not go out of the house of take a nap until she talks to me. If I can't get on the phone until the evening, she will worry and wonder what might have happened to me. I can never convince her otherwise. Mom loves me.

Mom told me that she went with Dad and my Guardian Angel to San Francisco to meet with an editor of a Chinese newspaper. They were seeking ways to help me get out of prison. The editor was familiar with the crimes I had committed 18 years ago. He asked Mom to give him reasons for him to support my parole. Mom said I was young when I committed those crimes; I served my time; I have been a model prisoner; I've expressed remorse and am a changed man; I'll be going to school and working with youth after I get out; and, most importantly, the family is financially secure that I don't have to worry about money. Mom emphasized that financial security is very important.

That's what I thought when I was a kid and what the capitalist system teaches that money is everything. As a socially conscious adult, I have to disagree with that wholeheartedly. Love is everything! To love to be loved is everything. Being in love is everything!

One of the biggest reasons anyone who wants to support me should be that Eddy Zheng knows who he is. I am a compassionate and intelligent adult. I believe that I am one of the wealthiest human beings on this earth because I have a loving family, over a hundred friends who are compassionate, a healthy body, and a free mind.

It is the actions of unconditional love from my family and friends that made me into who I am.

Love is everything!

Monday, August 23, 2004

Passing It On

I received a support letter from Yuri for my upcoming parole hearing in October. She wondered whether the support letter will help since so few prisoners have gotten parole. She told me political prisoners Hugo Pinell has been in prison for 40 years, Chip Fitzgerald has done over 30 years and Ruchell McGee has done 45 years. I'm humbled by those brother's perserverance. Giving up hope is never an option.

For the third time, Yuri asked me, "Did you get my memoir Passing It On?" Someone must be sending me one, but I haven't gotten it. I definitely want an autographed copy of Yuri's book. Hint.

A friend told me about a hundred people showed up for Yuri's book reception. Yuri, as humble warrior that she is, was surprised so many dropped by for the event. I was a little disappointed that it was such a low turnout. There should be at least 500 people there to support Yuri, if not a thousand. How can people not take advantage of the opportuniy to be in the presence of such Greatness?! Yuri is a national treasure and should be cherished as such. I'm surprised that Yuri's face is not on a postage stamp. Hint.

For those who don't know who Yuri Kochiyama is, please go buy her memoir. It will change your life.

Pass it on.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Just a Little Loving Kindness

On Thursday, August 26th, my friend Rico is going to his parole hearing in Solano Prison. Please pray for him, think of him, send him good vibes or whatever methods you feel comfortable. After being in prison for almost a quarter century, he was granted parole twice by the Board of Prison Terms but was rejected by the governor. It's time for Rico to go home. You may not know who Rico is, but a little prayer will do all of our souls some good.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Love and Patience

Is love an emotion? When my friend asked me what has been my constant emotion lately during our visit, I had to think for a couple of minutes before answering her. I told her love, as a verb, has been my constant emotion. I feel love from hundreds of people and I express my love to them directly or indirectly. How can I not feel the constancy of love when I had received 112 letters in the last two months?!

Two beautiful women visited me today. The first one waited 3 hours before she made it in to see me. The second one waited an hour and a half. If you need to practice having more patience in your life, please come visit me. I guaratee that you'll be able to learn the value of having more patience in your life.

Friday, August 20, 2004

What's in a Name?

How many of you got to choose your own first name? I did. After I came to America at the age of twelve, I was able to choose my own name. I remember that day vivdly. I was in the living room of my grandfather's two-bedroom apartment. Ah Gung ("Grandpa" in Cantonese) told me that I need an English name now that I'm in America. He asked me to choose a name that I liked as he named off a bunch of first names. He gave me a couple of suggestions, but I didn't like the sound of them. I could only go by sound since I had no idea what Ah Gung was saying. About fifteen or so names later I heard the name "Eddy" and stopped him. I asked him what it meant. Ah Gung looked it up in the dictionary and said something about moving and fast. That was good enough for me. "Eddy" became my first official indoctrination into American culture.

Recently, a friend asked why I signed my name "Eddy" instead of "Eddie" because she saw "Eddie" being used in so many of my documents and writings. The fact is the prison officials changed the spelling of my name during the early stage of incarceration. When I told them my name is "Eddy" they automatically assumed it was spelled as "Eddie." For a non-English speaking prisoner, I didn't know that difference between "y" and "ie." Therefore, "Eddie" became my name in most of my documents. For convenient purpose I didn't dispute the mistake and continued to allow the prison to use the spelling "Eddie." Personally, I always sign my name "Eddy."

So whichever why you choose to spell my name it's cool with me. After all, as Shakespeare writes, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.'

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Did You Know?

Did you know that the North Koreans are on average only consuming half the calories they need daily? Did you know the Korean War is referred to as a "war for the liberation of the motherland," not a civil war as Americans and most South Koreans view it? Did you know that one of the most famous mountains in Korea is called "Baekdusahn"? And did you know that during 1998-2000, 50,000 youth volunteers used manual tools and removed soil by carrying it on their back to build the "Youth Hero's Road" that stretched from Pyongyang to the western port of Nampo in 700 days?

My friend Sun shared those facts with me after she returned from her 12-day trip to North Korea with a peace delegation. We know so little about the culture of North Korea and its struggles because U.S. mainstream media only report bad news. If North Korea is the axis of evil, as Bush called it, how come it doesn't have military bases occupying American soil? How come the U.S. government continues to interfere with the reunification and reconciliation between the Korean people who live on either side of the 38 parallel?

Let's learn about the beauties of North Korea! Let's stop the war and promote peace! Let's stop the hate and spread the love!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Life and Death

Happy birthday, Carol! Carol is only a year younger than I am. Somehow I don't think of her as being 34 and a mother of two beautiful dragon and phoenix twins (a Chinese way of saying boy and girl twins). Maybe it's because I always remembered her as this beautiful 15-year-old girl who didn't have a care in the world except for having fun. Yes, the age of innocence.

An African American man died today. He was in his late sixties. I don't know him, but he's about the same age as my father. I wonder if he had a family or not. I always believe that you can't judge whether someone has lived a successful life until she's on her deathbed or after she dies. I wonder if he had a successful life. I definitely doesn't want to die in prison. Rest in peace, Brother.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Alternative Media

As a gift from Nellie Wong, I get a subscription of Freedom Socialist Newspaper from Seattle, Washington. I'm always seeking alternative media. There's an article by Yuisa Gimeno on the comic fantasy film A Day Without a Mexican directed by Sergio Arau. Here's an excerpt from the article: "A Day Without a Mexican doesn't pretend to give all the answers. Instead, it uses satire to show how immigrants and Mexicans and all Latinos in the United States are human beings who built and continue to build this nation. And it is high time that society learned to value their contributions." Can you imagine this country without any Mexican or other minorities? For more information on the film and other mind-awakening alternative media, go to www.socialism.com.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Celebrating Life

I received a letter from my friend Alice Waco. She lost her soulmate of 30 years in February. Bill McGee was killed on his morning bike ride. He lived for 79 years as a servant to God and people. I never had the pleasure of meeting Bill, but we knew about each other through Alice. Is there such a thing or concept as forever? Live on, Alice, and celebrate Bill's life.

Besides me, I wonder how many people has Ishle Yi Park's CD Work is Love in prison? Marc dropped off Ishle's CD and zine Girl Fish he had borrowed from me. He said listening to the CD inspired him to write. I asked him why. He said the way Ishle made poetry so simple - talking about details of her life - he felt that he could write like that. He especially likes the poem about David. Marc said, "It's amazing what she's doing." He called his mother and ordered Ishle's book of poetry The Temperature of this Water. Ishle rocks! Check her out: www.ishle.com

Japanese men's gymnastic team - Goooooooold!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Prison Dinner

Sunday night's dinner menu:
- mixed green salad (4 oz)
- individual dressing (2 each)
- baked chicken (1 each, 5 oz)
- mashed potatoes (5 oz)
- chicken gravy (2 oz)
- seasoned broccoli (4 oz)
- bread, wheat (2 slices)
- sherbet, orange (3 oz)
- chilled punch (8 oz)

Sounds delicious? I give it a B+. The salad turned color and the broccoli was mushy from overcooking. "Chicken on the bone," as prisoners call it, is the most popular meat in the entire California prison system, excluding those who don't eat meat.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Nellie Wong

The weather cooled down a bit. I decided to organize my letters so that I can send them home. I treasure every letter my family and friends send me so I save them. As I was leafing through the letters, I came across a letter from Nellie Wong. In it, she promised me that after I get out of prison she'll make her famous Chinese chicken salad and cook a full Cantonese dinner for me. She also told me that I'm a poet. How lucky can I be?!

The Chinese women volleyball team smashed the American team.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Recommended Books

My friend returned How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office to me and asked for another book to read. I gave him Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Ever since my Guardian Angel photocopied the book and sent it to me, it has passed through six Asians and one African American reader. I'm definitely a Murakami fan.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Organic Farming in Prisons

Organic farming in prison? Now that's an idea. I read an article from where that this lady named Catherine Sneed started an organic farming project in San Bruno jails. The prisoners were able to grow different produces and give them to the community or sell them. The project allowed some prisoners to learn farming skills, gave them a sense of accomplishment and productivity, and helped the community. Such a worthy project should be sprouting in every prison, especially those located in rural areas. Every prison has vacant land to accomodate an organic garden. With the lack of jobs in every overpopulated prison, more than half of the warehoused prisoners have nothing to do. Creating space for organic gardens sounds like a winner to me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Missing: Alicia Yang

I'm looking for my friend Alicia Yang. The last time I saw her was when she came to visit me in San Quentin's Deathrow visiting. She always shows up when I'm least expecting it and then disappears. She's constantly moving and searching. I wonder what she's looking for. I worry about her and think of her often. She's a beautiful, intelligent, and compassionate woman. If anyone knows the whereabouts of Alicia, please let her know that she is missed and loved by many of her friends, especially me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


My co-worker handed me something he wrote and asked for feedback. The title of the short paragraph is "A Convict's Introduction." It's more like a self-promoting ad seeking female companionship. He's been in prison for nine and a half years on a 13-year attempted murder sentence. He got locked up when he was 18 and never had a meaningful relationship with a female. He had asked his friends over the years to hook him up with a friend, but they never came through for him. With two years left before he paroles, he decided to seek for a female pen pal on his own.

Female companionship is something prisoners all long for. They don't want to be lonely. Sometimes people are able to develop meaningful relationship because love does not stop at the prison gates. Of course, the chance of a female writing a stranger in prison just from reading his ad is slim, but not impossible. Nothing is impossible in this world. There is a lesson learned through all our connections with people. I wish my co-worker luck.

In the afternoon, I stepped out of the shower and heard someone call my name. It's Gremlin (his nickname), a 25-year-old African American. He asked me, "Is he finished?"
"Who?" I didn't understand his question.
"That dude in the shower," he whispered.
Then it dawned on me. He was referring to the African American homosexual who was showering. Gremlin is homophobic. So I said, "Oh, you mean that human being, the brother, fellow prisoner who's in the shower?"
He said, "Yeah. I want to shower before all the workers come back."
"There're two open shower heads in there," I responded.
"I don't want to go in there with him. I don't get down like that."
"You see, that's the same way some people in society look at prisoners. Oh, they're prisoners. They're no good. Lock them up and throw away the key. What is he going to do to you?"
"If he touches me, I'll beat the shit out of him."
"Why would he touch you? He's only taking a shower."
I walked away. Gremlin waited outside the shower until the homosexual got out.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Prison Mail System

I received six letters today. They're postmarked between July 19 and July 26. I believe the term "snail mail" originated in prison. A week after my friend Kei visited me, I got her letter saying she was coming to see me. Why is incoming mail so far behind when outgoing mail is normal? That's because there's a shortage of staff in the prison mailroom. There are approximately 6,000 prisoners in Solano Prison. There are only four people processing all incoming mail. Every letter must be opened and inspected before its delivery to the prisoner. Granted not everyone out of the 6,000 gets a letter, but you can imagine the volume of mail the mailroom has to process each day. Sometimes one or two out of the four staff call in sick, then everything gets backed up. There used to be eight staff working in the mailroom, but due to the administration's failure to hire people to fill the vacancies, the job positions were eliminated. The last time i checked it's a violation of federal law to delay the delivery of mail more than five working days. A couple of years ago, the Postmaster General ordered the prison to process the mail on time. It got better for a couple of weeks. Then it's back to the normal program. During the holiday seasons it's not uncommon for someone to receive a greeting card two or three months late.

The reason the process of outgoing mail is normal is because the prison guards who work on First Watch take care of it. First Watch guards work from 2200 hour to 0600 hour. Since they only sit around and count three times during the night, part of their job is to process outgoing mail for the building they work in. THey inspect each letter before sealing it and putting it in a mail bag.

Well, at least the mail going out is on time.

Sunday, August 08, 2004


I stayed indoor to escape the blazing sun. I propped my rolled-up cotton blanket and pillow against the wall on my bed and kicked out seven letters. Sunday is a good day to catch up on responding to the many letters I receive during the weekday.

I also did my laundry. I washed two blue shirts. I’ll have to pay someone to iron them for me. after being in prison for 18 years, you would think I’d learned how to iron. I didn’t. there was no need for me to learn how to iron because I can always pay someone to do it. Ah, the power of having money. The going rate for ironing a shirt is two Top Ramens, the equivalent of 40¢. There are plenty of guys who had mastered the trade of ironing to make a hassle. There are many people who don’t have family friends to support them. They have to find a creative means to survive while in prison. I don’t mind paying someone a dollar to iron a couple of shirts. It’s a fair trade.

I’m sweating. It must be 90° inside the building. There is no air conditioning.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Introducing Eddy Zheng

It’s Saturday. The sun is beaming and warming up as expected for any normal summer day. What do the average people do on a gorgeous day? BBQ, picnic, shopping, hiking, go to the beach, do yard work, or just chilling. For my sister, brother-in-law, and guardian angel, they visited me in prison. They were surprised at how smoothly they got processed to see me this time. It only took them an hour instead of two.

The first thing that came out of my sister’s mouth was “How come you’re skinny?” Somehow I keep in hearing the same questions whenever my parents or sister see me. They came to the conclusion that I’m skinny based on my appearance: a sharp face and small forearms. My answer has always been “I’m not skinny. I’m healthy.” They just don’t know. How I wish I could just peel off on them so that they can see what I’m working with under my clothes! If they could only see me through the admiring eyes of my peers who have seen me without my clothes. They would ooh and ah with envy and admiration just like them. At 5’8” and 157lbs, I’m sporting an 8 pack of chiseled abdominals, two softball-sized knots called biceps, striation line my deltoids, chest, and back like the characters in a Chinese kungfu comic book. My flaring lats and 30” waist form a V-shape that any designer suit would be happy to hang on. On a windy day, I feel like I could extend my wings and fly. My legs, though strong, can use some work. Believe me when I say I’m not skinny.

I enjoyed hours of quality time with my loved ones in a visiting room.

Hello world, here I am! Get ready for Eddy Z.