Thursday, March 31, 2005

Books With Love

When the Deputy walked toward my cell with an arm full of books, I couldn't wipe the grin off my face.

I received five books this morning:

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
The World According to Garp by John Irving
House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

My friend who sent me the books must have had ESP. I read the book review section from a discarded S.F. Chronicle and saw the advertisement for Murakami's book and a comment by Herman Hesse. I wanted to read Murakami's book.

Bamn! The books showed up today. I read Siddhartha in English and Chinese about 15 years ago. Since then, Herman Hesse's name stuck in my memory. I'll have to read Siddhartha again.

I'll be busy reading for awhile. Please do not send me anymore books. I will ask when I need more. Thanks.

I am fully clothed with books of love.

Monday, March 28, 2005

There's Always Hope

One of the detainees told me today that he thought I was a Chinese student who overstayed my visa to work and got caught by the immigration agents. He had no idea that I just spent 19 years in prison.

When the other detainees heard that I did 19 years and was still fighting against deportation, they said that it gave them hope and strength to keep fighting for theirs. For some of the detainees being locked up for two or three months seemed like an eternity.

I'm glad that I can give them a little hope during their struggles. However, they failed to realize that if I did't have the unconditional support from my family & friends, life would've been less bearable.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Quote of the Week (13)

"Very few people ever really are alive, and those that are never die, no matter if they are gone. No one you love is ever dead."

- Ernest Hemingway

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Media

This morning I received copies of all five Chinese newspapers that had covered my case. The reporters interviewed me after my first immigration hearing. All the articles were well writeen. I appreciate the media's interest in reporting my case.

However, in one article, the name of my victims and business were mentioned. According to the article, the reporter even asked the victim to comment on my case. The victim refused to comment.

Personally, I never mentioned the victim's name during all my interviews. I didn't want to victimize them again by exposing them. Though it's inevitable that some people will remember the crime I committed 19 years ago, I want to be senstive by minimizing the effect that media attention might cause the victims.

I want to apologize to the victims for any unintentional pain and inconvenience I may have caused them.

I implore the media to be more sensitive to my victims in future reporting.

Thank you!

Friday, March 25, 2005

In for the Long Haul

The ride to the City was more bearable this morning. Instead of the "dog pound" van, we traveled in a bigger and rommier van. The ICE agent put me in a cage with three female detainees because there was not enough room in the male cage. I guess I looked more respectable than the others. The radio blasted music from the '80s. That was a treat.

My hearing was scehduled for 9:30 with the new judge Anthony Murray. Judge Yamaguchi recused himself from my case. Because of the media attention and support generated for my case, the ICE agents were jumpy. The agent in charge made sure that I finished my proceeding quickly so he could get me out of the courtroom.

Like my previous hearing, my supporters packed the courtroom. I'm grateful for their presence. They took time off work to attend my hearing. Their presence encouraged me to stay strong. With support like that, I can't lose.

The agent in charge rushed me out of the ourtroom. Later on, he told me that he's aware that half of the world wants me out, but I'm costing too much of his agents' time. He restricted me to a one-hour visit with my attorney and friends, even though visiting hours were from 11am to 3pm. For that reason, I didn't get too see my family and a few other friends. I didn't like that, but I'm just an immigration detainee.

The ride back to Yuba was horrible. I'm glad that I don't have to travel like that for a while.

Until my next hearing, which is subject to change, I'll be detained in Yuba County Jail. Please don't come visit me. It's a long drive. However, you're always welcome to write:

Zheng Xiao Fei
111194
P.O. Box 1031
Marysville CA 95901

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Drug Free

I found out why I am not allowed to have stamps sent in. The jail is worried that people can lace the stamps with drugs. Apparently, such incidents have occurred that would cause such extreme measures. The ajil even cut off the stamps on incoming letters before they're delivered. How thoughtful!?

So, the jail commissary sells stamps and stamped envelopes. However, it doesn't sell blank envelopes. Instead, each stamped envelope is sold for 45 cents. 8 cents for a blank envelope? Something is wrong with that picture.

Please do not send me any stamps. I want to stay drug free.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Roof

The Roof is an area where the detainees can get some fresh air and daylight.

There's basketball rim bolted into the concrete wall, a workout station with pull-up and dip bars, a sink with a toilet, a telephone, and a camera monitoring the area. The top of the Roof is sealed with a metal grill with holes. It's where the sun, rain, wind and fog come in. Depending on the time of day, we get to go to the Roof and embrace the weather that comes in. The area is the size of two regular living rooms.

We may get to go to the Roof once of twice a week for an hour or two. It all depends on the rotation.

Tonight we were out on the Roof for an hour. I saw the round moon through the holes of the metal grill. I heard the sound of trains passing by. I smelt the fresh air after the rain. For a while, I wished I was on the outside.

It's all a matter of time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Worse Rides of My Life

The Deputy woke me up at 3am to get ready for transport to S.F. The Chinese World Journal Newspaper requested to interview me and was approved by ICE.

Me and ten other immigrant detainees were shackled, handcuffed with a chain around our waists, and squeezed into a van. The van was modified with cages and metal seats with seat belts. The back cage held eight people and the middle cage held two. Three guys were crammed into the middle cage. The metal cages prevented any view of the street, something that I looked forward to seeing.

After the van started moving, one guy threw up by the door. There was limited ventilation. For the two-hour ride, we had to smell the stench of the throw up. At the same time, the rattling of the cage constantly assaulted our ears.

We arrived at the Sansome Street ICE building at around six o'clock. I waiting until 1:20pm for the interview with the newspaper. Then I was informed that there was a second interview scheduled. When the reporter and cameraman showed up from the KTSF Channel 26, I was surprised. The interview went well.

On my ride back to the Yuba County Jail, me and seven guys were put in the same dog pound cages. Due to traffic, it took three hours to get back to Yuba. My butt and lower back hurt from sitting on the metal seat. It was the worse ride of my life.

Monday, March 21, 2005

No Smoking

One thing that I am grateful for is that I don't have to suffer from secondhand smoke. There is no smoking the Yuba County Jail.

When I was in Solano Prison, smoking was not allowed in the building, but people smoked anyways. When one's addicted to nicotine, he'll find a way to feed his habit.

In here, there are no sales of tobacco. The only way someone can get tobacco is from a Deputy or smuggle it in his "cavity" before coming to the jail.

The smell of smoke from cigarettes strangulates me. I'm healthier without any secondhand smoke.

For my friends who are being controlled by the drug of nicotine, I implore you to drop your addiction. Yoyur lungs and those who don't smoke will than you.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Quote of the Week (12)

"Organizing & Advocacy: Everyone must take a stand!
Deportation is a crisis, possibly the biggest one you've ever faced. But as soon as you start looking for help, doors close on you and powerful people act as though they are powerless to keep your family together."

- Deportation 101

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Yoga for Life

No matter where I go, yoga has been an exercise people are interested in learning. From solitary confinement in San Quentin to Solano's dorm to the pod in Yuba COunty Jail, I've been able to share my knowledge with people.

Today I taught two detainees how to do Yoga and Pilates. They're out of shape so some positions were difficult for them. However, they were able to breathe deeply for the first time in years and had a good sweat. They're looking forward to the next session.

As for me, I look forward to the day when I can do yoga and people of color Pilates on the outside.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Spaghetti and Meatballs

For the first time in my life, I ate spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. The spaghetti was cooked well. The sauce had chunks of tomatoes and sliced mushrooms. There were four ping pong-sized meatballs with plenty of flavor. I don't know if the chef is Italian, but the food was good.

The food is definitely better in Yuba County Jail than in prison. The quality of food has to do with the difference in population. A prison can hold about 6,000 people, but the jail has about 700. The fewer people to cook for, the better quality of food.

All the breakfast rolls and biscuits are freshly backed.

I'm still new here so every meal is a pleasant surprise.

The consensus among the detainees here is that spaghetti and meatballs is the best meal.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Naked Without Books

When I left prison, I left all my books to Marc, my bunky. I know I had brainwashed him by exposing him to the world of alternative books and media. I felt like I had left behind one of my most valuable possessions.

Now, I'm naked without books in Yuba County Jail. It's not a good feeling to be without books of knowledge.

Hopefully, I'll find out the policy to receive books so I can get some quality readings. If I have to be here for a few months, I must have me some books.

No KPFA here, no radio.

There is cable TV minus HBO, Showtime, Pay-per-view...

We go the TV back today after it was confiscated for a week because of a fight. I'd rather do without.

What book are you reading?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Panopticon

It seems like everywhere I go inside the jail, there's a camera pointing at me.

When I was in Sansome Street's ICE detention area, there were cameras everywhere. I remember walking down a corridor with a female ICE agent by ourselves. I jokingly asked her whether she was going to attack me. She pointed out to me that someone's watching us at all times.

In Yuba County Jail, I don't even have to be escorted when I go to visit or to medical. I just walk by myself.

Today, I go to medical for routine questioning. Every door is electronically controlled by a deputy. I walk into an elevator and the door closes. A camera is inside. I walk out of the elevator and a camera is pointing at me. A nurse with a walkie talkie waits for me by the door. After I sit down next to the nurse, I notice a camera pointed directly at my face.

The only place that doesn't have a camera is inside the cell. However, there's an intercom connected to the control booth. The deputy can listen in anytime he wants.

You never know who's watching you or listening in on your conversation.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Concept of Time

When I was in prison, there was a set schedule that I went by. Unless something out of the ordinary happened, I would know what to expect daily.

Being in Yuba County Jail, I lose that prison stability. I find myself always asking for the time. There is no clock or caldenar visible anywhere. I can only gauge time from the feeding and dayroom schedule. I know breakfast is between 6 and 7, lunch is between 11 and 12, and dinner is between 5 and 6. The dayroom program differs every day. Because there are two tiers in my pod and 40 people, the tiers rotate to come out for dayroom activities. Some days I get to stay out until 11pm, others I'm locked in at 7pm.

I have to remind myself that I'm not in prison anymore. Even though I'm still physically imprisoned, I'm under a different system.

Time passes by quickly. I just have to adjust to the new time zone.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Quote of the Week (11)

"From evidence sumbitted to me, it appears that Xiao Fei Zheng, AKA Zheng, Eddie; Zheng, Eddy, an alien who entered the United States at or near San Francisco, California, on November 7, 1982, is within the country on violation of the immigration laws and is therefore liable to being taken into custody as authorized by section 236 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the immigration laws of the United States and the regulations issued pursuant thereto, I command you to take the above-named alien into custody for proceedings in accordance with the applicable provisions of the immigration laws and regulations."

- INS official (Group Supervisor)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The First Shall Be Last

My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew come to visit me. On Saturday, I'm only allowed to visit for one hour (4-5pm). I make sure to tell my sister to get here 30 minutes earlier so she can get processed in on time so we can have the full hour visit.

She arrives at 3:15pm and is the first visitor signed in. However, the Deputy doesn't call me for a visit until 4:45. I end up visiting with them for 15 minutes. It took them 3.5 hours to drive from San Jose to visit me.

The other visitors who arrived last are able to get more visiting time than I did.

I speculate that the ICE agents are mad at me for having a high profile case. They don't like the fact that so many people support me and make them work harder, so they decide to make my time in detention more difficult. It's a speculation. Either way, the delay of my visit is unacceptable. I file a grievance to find out what happened. I hate to have my family and friends drive for hours to visit me and get treated badly. Fortunately, my sister's family is going to Reno, so they stop by to visit me. If they had come to visit me specifically, I would have reacted differently toward the delay.

Why can't the deputies just do their job professionally?
Why can't they treat themselves with respect?

Friday, March 11, 2005

My Name is Zheng Xiao Fei

My name is no longer Eddy as the ICE and Yuba County Jail only know me as Zheng Xiao Fei. I'm a citizen of China.

While I wait for my court hearing dealing with my immigration status, I am temporarily detained in Yuba County Jail. My address is

Zheng Xiao Fei
#111194
P.O. Box 1031
Marrysville, CA 95901

I am booked by the County Sheriff and put in a two-man cell. My new uniform consists of red pants, red sweater, pink t-shirt, pink boxer shorts, and purple socks.

I'm not allowed to have stamps sent in. The county jail sells everything that I'm allowed to have at a marked up price. For example, Top Ramen that costs 20 cents in prison will cost me 55 cents in here. It's all about the money.

I do get three hot meals a day.

The guys detained with me are all immigrants legal or illegal. They're either waiting for deportation, going to court fighting deportation, or waiting to get kicked out because their countries don't accept them.

This place is full of stories. I'll share them with you as I learn them.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

A Taste of Freedom

I sleep for 3.5 hours because I have to get ready for my release. The officer comes by at 5am to inform me that once the institutional count is cleared, I'll be leaving.

Due to yesterday's riot, the count is delayed. Someone says that my release throws off the balance of the order. During the wait, people keep coming by to check on me and say their last goodbye. They can't believe that I am actually leaving.

The count clears around 10 o'clock. A few minutes later a Lieutenant shows up to escort me to the releasing area. A few guys walk with me to the door and help carry my folders. As I walk across the dayroom people yell out my name and wish me luck. They are in a a half circle line waving and chanting my name. I wave back and keep on walking. I feel like I am walking on the red carpet going to a movie premiere.

The ICE agents wait for me. It takes an hour for the prison guards to process me and a Laotion prisoner. We are handcuffed to each other and put in the back of the ICE van. Finally, after 19 years, I am out of CDC custody.

We head to San Francisco on the freeway going 90mph.

It is a bumpy ride.

Once we get to San Francisco, I can't recognize the freeway exit. As the van moves toward Sansome Street, I am immediately captured by the streets. It's the first time in 19 years that I have seen so many free people on the street. It is lunch time so people are sitting on benches eating and overlooking the ocean. Everything I see is beautiful. People are walking, sitting, talking on cell phones, waiting for the bus, eating at outdoor restaurants, and driving. I am soaking in the scenery.

Afer I finish the process with the ICE agents, I am led to a visiting room. My friends are waiting to visit me. Victor, Reverend Fong, Anne, Momo, and Perry are in the room. I am happy to see them. We have to talk through the telephone because the plexiglass separates us. Everyone congratulates me for getting out of prison. Later on, Shelly, Alice, and my attorney Zach show up. It is awesome to see everyone. Anmol is on the phone checking in with everyone.

I don't know where I will go after I am processed. There is a 50/50 chance between Arizona and Yuba County. After some last minute manuver, it is decided that I will go to Yuba County Jail. I was extremely close to flying to Arizona.

The drive to Yuba County Jail is long, but it has its fine moments. Before I get on the van, I am able to stand on the streets of San Frnacisco for about 10 seconds. I am in handcuffs and shackles. The aroma of food from the nearby restaurants brings a huge smile to my face. I close my eyes and inhale deeply this brief moment of freedom.

There are 11 men and 4 women on the van. I am surprised to see the women there. The van is holding a mini-United Nations. There are people from CHina, Vietnam, Phillipines, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, Jordan, Ethiopia, and Mongolia.

There is traffic as we head toward the freeway. I have a window seat and my eyes are glued to the streets. It is around 6 o'clock. I see people waiting to go eat in a restaurant, women in jogging shorts, riding their bike, some guys skateboarding, and people walking. It's like I am watching a movie. I kick the van with my foot and wish that I was on the street with the people. The people in the van know that it is my first time in 19 years seeing the street scenery. They are all happy for me and tell me that I'll be out soon. I want a camera to record my emotions and what I see.

Being able to see the streets makes me cherish freedom even more. I'm determined to fight against my deportation.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Day Before My Release

I get up at 5 to do Pilates and meditate as usual. After I get to work the release department confirms that I will be released from state prison custody tomorrow. Because I have an immigration hold, the Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents under Homeland Security will take me into federal custody.

My supervisor unassigns me from my job position. He gives me a ducat that notifies my parole. That is a ducat every prisoner wants to have. I receive a book From Ike to Mao, a memoir by Bob Avakian. Dolly Veale sent it to me. I don't know whether I'll be able to read it.

The seven hours at work fly by.

My friends plan to cook some food so we can celebrate my release. However, about 2:30 in the afternoon, a riot jumps off on the higher security part of the prison. Rumor is that 200 Blacks and Northern Mexicans get into a melee. The prison is on lockdown briefly. It ruins our plans to celebrate.

My bunky Marc cooks Chinese sausage, curry mackerel fish, and spicy mackerel fish for dinner. The meal is delicious.

I clean out my property. I make sure that I have paper, pens, stamps, envelopes, cosmetic items, and the necessary paperwork to take with me. Of course, I have to have my phonebook.

I leave all my books to Marc so he can read them and share them with others.

After I shower, I go around each dorm to say goodbye to everyone I know. Everyone I talk to is happy for me. Some of the life prisoners tell me that I give them hope. They express that they feel like they are going home. Some ask me not to forget those I will have left behind. I promise them that I will get in touch after I'm settled. It takes me an hour and fifteen minutes to finish saying goodbye.

I write a few letters to people to let them know it is my last day in prison.

The last thing I do before I go to sleep is write in my journal.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Today is MY DAY - International Women's Day

"On March 7, 2005, a fax was received from the Governor's office notifying you that in accordance with Penal Code Section 3041.2, he has declined to review the Board's decision to grant parole in your case. You are therefore eligible for release. On this date, March 8, 2005, I personally issued you a written copy of this notification."

- Classification & Parole Representative (CSP - Solano)


"Dear Mr. Zheng:

Penal Code Section 3041.1 authorizes the Governor to review parole decisions of the Board of Prison Terms (Board).

The Governor has declined to review the Board's decision to grant parole in your case.

A copy of this letter is being provided to you via facsimile, and the signed original is being sent by mail. Additionally, we are transmitting a copy of this letter to the chairperson of the Board of Prison Terms."

- Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary (Office of the Governor)

I hit the lottery of freedom for the second time. This time I'm able to collect my winnings.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Eddy Zheng was notified around 9:30am today that the Governor has approved his parole recommendation! Instead of being released, though, he will likely be transferred to immigration detention on Thursday 3/10 and will face deportation.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Mail Out

Today I decided to send all my legal paperwork and some personal items home. I know that I can't take them with me when immigration agents come pick me up after I'm released from state custody.

I used a cart to transport my boxes. When I was pulling the cart across the yard, people thought that I was leaving. At least 10 people came up to me at different times to ask whether I was going home. I had to explain that I was only mailing my legal paperwork home.

I ended up mailing 5 boxes home through UPS. All the paper added up to 145 lbs., which cost me $41.80. It's a small price to pay for preserving a part of my history.

Aside from some personal clothes and cosmetic items, I don't have anything left. I'm ready to go. If things don't work out with my parole, I live frugally so there'll be no problem.

My bed area looks empty. I'm glad to get rid of my paperwork.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Quote of the Week (10)

"True giving is a thoroughly joyous thing to do. We experience happiness when we form the intention to give, in actual act of giving, and in the recollection of the fact that we have given. Generosity is a celebration. When we give something to someone we feel connected to them, and our commitment to the path of peace and awareness deepens."

- Sharon Salzberg

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Sexual Harrassment

The shower on the first tier is located in the middle of the building directly in front of the guards' station. There are two waist-high concrete partitions on either sides of the entrance.

Two female guards watch the prisoners taking showers and giggle. They can see everything. It's like being in a nude show or watching a live shower scene. The only difference is that they get paid to watch all the naked ment they want.

I wonder what goes through their mind as they watch naked men all day long?

A female guard walked into the restroom while the men were sitting on the toilet and urinating. She looked around and walked out.

What motivated her to do that?

Friday, March 04, 2005

A Boost of Spirit

Do you have someone in your life who can lift your spirit when you talk to him or her?

I have many of these people in my life. They lift up my spirit at different times of my life. Tonight, the people who gave me a boost of spirit were my guardian angel Anmol and the superdiva Ishle.

I've been anxious to find out the outcome of the governor's decision on my parole as the March 10 deadline is near. I just want to move on. Being able to talk to my friends alleviated some of my anxieties.

It's an awesome feeling to know that no matter where Anmol may be in the world, I can always count on him. That is the most precious friendship anyone can hope for.

Can you understand why my life is so rich?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Why Ask Why?

I was walking around the yard with an acquaintance this afternoon, just enjoying the sunshine. All of a suddent, I thought I saw the face of the Monkey King from the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West. The only difference was that this Monkey King was a white skinhead.

It's not a good policy to stare at someone in prison, but I couldn't help it. The white dude's face was tattooed as if he was wearing a mask of a cartoon character.

I commented to my walking partner that he looked like a dog. My partner said a dog looked better than him. I agreed.

Whatever motivates that guy to have his face tattooed, only he knows. If it's attention that he's seeking, he did a great job because all eyes are on him no matter where he goes.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Ooops...

The California State Prison of Solano has two different structures in housing prisoners. In the level three side, prisoners who are high security level are housed in two-men cells. In the level two side, prisoners with lower security needs are housed in dorms.

The cell doors on the level three side are controlled electronically by a prison guard from the control booth.

Currently, the white and northern Mexican prisoners are on lockdown because they're at war. During lockdown, the two groups of prisoners are released from their cells separately for programs to avoid confrontations.

Yesterday, a female guard at the control booth accidentally pushed the wrong button while releasing the white prisoners. The door of two northern Mexicans housed on the second tier was opened.

A couple of white prisoners grabbed a northern Mexican and threw him off the second tier. He was not hurt too badly, but the two whites will be charged with attempted murder.

The female guard was shook up because of her mistake. She may take a few days off with pay.

I sure hope she's doing all right.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Nine Days & a Wake Up

I was found suitable for parole on November 10, 2004. Accordingly, the Board of Prison Terms has 90 days to finalize my parole and the governor has 30 days to approve it or reject it. That would make the process amount to 120 days.

My attorney confirmed that the parole board's decision must be final by March 10, which is 120 days from my November 10th hearing. After that date, the governor cannot force the Board to review it, so his deadline is the same date.

That means on March 10th, I should get news from the prison whether my parole was approved or not. If I'm approved, I shall be released from state custody within a day or two. However, I will not be going home. Instead, Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents will pick me up and detain me in its prison. Because I'm not a citizen, it's likely that I will get deported.

I do feel that I'm closer to home, wherever it may be. I just want to get out of prison. I'm excited.