Saturday, April 30, 2005

Update on Muhammad

Muhammad is actually in solitary confinement because he is locked in a cell by himself and only allowed to come out once a day for an hour.

He did not do anything wrong, nor did he ask to be housed by himself. The Deputy put him in a single cell because of his mental condition. However, he's not provided with any medical or psychological help.

Muhammad has been urinating on the floor in his cell. When confronted by other detainees about the staggering smell, he says it's his cell and he does what he pleases.

Two deputies brought in a set of clean bedding and escorted Muhammad to another holding cell so two detainees could clean his cell.

Muhammad showers every day. Most of the time he gets what he wants from other detainees when he tells them that he'll behave himself.

Just how mental is Muhammad?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Sa-I-Gu

If I'm not mistaken, today is the 14th anniversary of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.

Somehow, I remember vividly the images showed on TV where Reginald Denny was pulled out of his truck and beaten and the Korean merchants held guns to protect their businesses.

When I wrote down the date, I thought about Ishle Park's poem "Sa-I-Gu" that depicted the tragic event.

I wonder what relations are like between the Korean Americans and African Americans. Have they overcome their differences? How have the United States changed since the riots?

Let's always remember Sa-I-Gu.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Random Facts

In 1945,
a movie was 10 cents,
sugar cost 2 cents a pound,
gas was under 20 cents a gallon, and
a hamburger, fries, and soft drink cost 12 cents.

A collect call from Yuba County Jail...
to New York costs $4.83 for the first minutes and 74 cents for each additional minute...
(locally) is $3.30 for the first minutes and 30 cents for each additional minute.

Each call is limited to 15 minutes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Awareness Campaign

As I await my fate of deportation, I learn more about the effects of post 9/11 on immigrants. Most of the time we don't go out of our way to learn about issues that do not have a direct impact on our lives. Therefore, sufferings and injustices occur rampantly to immigrants without mainstream opposition.

It's no wonder that two ICE agents could kidnap a 16-year-old Bangladeshi girl and detain her under false pretense. The agents searched and confiscated items from the girl's home without any warrant or consent.

I implore everyone to learn more about issues dealing with deportation and post-9/11 laws targeting immigrants. One of your family memebers or friends could be the next victim.

For details of the 16-year-old girl, go to
this link.

For more information, please email Adam Carroll at iamourhaj@aol.com.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Law

In the April 21st Sacramento Bee Newspaper, Carole Blalock, the chairwoman of the Northern California Coalition for Immigration was quoted: "If we don't start adhering to our laws in America, we will not have laws." She believes the draconian "immigration laws must be enforced, regardless of circumstances in individual cases."

In other words, she believes in punishment, not rehabilitation; an eye for an eye; if you kill, then you shall be killed; if you steal a piece of candy, you'll always be a thief.

She does not believe in forgiveness, second chances, redemption, transformation, or compassion.

Whenever I hear or read about people using The Law to judge others and justify their positions, Anatole France's quote immediately comes to mind: "The law in all its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor, to beg on the streets, sleep under bridges, and steal bread."

Where is the law of compassion?

Monday, April 25, 2005

My Fear

My dad was in a car accident recently. Someone rammed into his car and totaled the front of it. Luckily, he wasn't hurt.

When I talked to my dad on the phone, he didn't mention the accident. Instead, he told me everything was going well with the family.

My mom told me about it the following week when Dad wasn't around. He didn't want her to tell me so I wouldn't worry.

Of course I worried. I love my dad. It's moments like this that reinforce my fear of losing one of my parents while I'm locked up.

I must win my stay.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Quote of the Week (17)

"When all thoughts
Are exhausted
I slip into the woods
And gather
A pile of sheperd's purse.

Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly,
Turn clear and transparent."

- Ryokan

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Walking Meditation

Every time the dayroom is open, I'm out there. I get six hours each day to be outside of my cell. I don't want to miss a minute of it.

During the morning, other detainees like to sleep in. I enjoy those moments of quietly sitting in the dayroom.

A couple of guys were up this morning. They were speedwalking around the dayroom. Somehow, I decided to do walking meditation.

I walked across the dayroom back and forth mindfully. Each time I lifted my foot, I breathed in deeply. When I planted my foot, I exhaled fully, making sure I felt the concrete floor that sustained me. I have nowhere to go and nothing to do. My focus was on my breath, feet, and concrete floor. There was only now.

It's been awhile since I have walked mindfully. Now, if I can hug a tree, I'll be all good.

Friday, April 22, 2005

GED Class

The Deputy calls for GED class this morning. I decide to go check it out. The jail offers a GED class for its residents. The class has no consistency; whenever the teacher shows up, the Deputy calls for it.

The teacher is a white man in his seventies. He first asks me how many wives I have, then how many kids I have. This is his ice breaker.

He asks what I see myself doing five years from now. I tell him my plans to start a non-profit organization to help Asian youth in the Bay Area. He immediately tells me that there is a need for such an organization in Sacramento & Yuba County. There is a big population of Asians in all the small counties. This makes me think about the geographic aspect of my potential organization. I want to be where I can make the most impact to help the youth and community.

The teacher is a history fanatic. We get along like old buddies. I'm always open to dialogue and ideas.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Pope and I

Would you believe me if I told you that the new Pope Benedict XVI and I had a connection?

Well, we do.

A Sacramento Bee reporter interviewed me about my immigration situation and weblog. She told me that my story would be published yesterday. I was looking forward for my friends to read the article.

Yesterday, my attorney told me that the newly elected Pope beat me to the story. I'd have to wait another day.

Could you believe it? The Pope and I were vying for publicity. Of course, there was no competition.

I just wanted to share this historical moment with you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A Trip to the Dentist

For the past month, the gums of my bottom right molar has been infected. I couldn't chew any food with my right teeth without pain. I put in a request to see the dentist about three weeks ago and finally went to my appointment.

The dentist was a white man in his late sixties. He had on a gigantic pair of headphones. I thought it was doing some transcribing. However, after I sat down in the chair I realized that the dentist had a hearing problem. The headphones attached to a mini-speaking pack was used to communicate with people. From my observations, he walked around the office wearing the hearing equipment. The nurse had to yell when relating information to him.

He seemed to know what he was doing. He took an x-ray, dug into my infection after a shot of anesthesia, put some antibiotic on my gun, gave me two antibiotic pills and three ibuprofen, and that was a wrap. He said if the antibiotic didn't cure the infection, I would lose my tooth.

I regret not taking care of my teeth when I was kid. So, my friends, if you don't want to see the dentist, please floss and brush daily!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Unknown Stories from the ICE

I hate riding in the "Dog Pound" van that ICE uses to transport its detainees. I had two media interviews in San Francisco this morning, so I had to compromise.

On the way and back from San Francisco, I met two Asian detainees. Here are their brief stories:

#1: He was a 22-year-old only child from China, from the province of Fujian. His parents arranged for him to fly from Shanghai to Oakland. ICE detained him at the airport, transported him to the Oakland detention center, then to San Francisco for processing and housing in Yuba.

He asked for political asylum out of fear that the CHinese government would prosecute him. After a month, he would be released pending approval of asylum. He would flying to New York because he has relatives there.

He said that he couldn't get used to the dirt in jail. He was always hungry. He slept during the day, waiting for the call for court. He wanted to cry all the time because he misses his parents. He thought about them whenever he's away. He was tired of being handcuffed, chained, and shackled.

He wore a brand new pair of white Nikes Air Shock Resistance and baby blue sweatshirt. His hair was dyed brownish. He was about 6'2" and weighed 160 lbs. He didn't speak any English. If he didn't speak, he'd look like any Asian American college student.

#2: She was in her mid-thirties with short black hair. She was from the Philippines. She did eight months in Chowchilla State Prison for Women for a white collar crime. She was detained by ICE immediately after her release. She had been in detention for about three weeks. She signed her deportation paper today. She wanted to go back to her country because she didn't want to stay locked up.

She didn't understand why she was being punished twice. She said that she committed a white collar crime and did her time. Now she was being deported. She had not legal representation. She said that she had sp many stories from ICE detention that she could write a book. She intends to share her story. She understands English fluently.

There are plenty of horror stories in ICE, give me some time.

Monday, April 18, 2005

From Ike to Mao and Beyond

I finished reading Brave New World by Huxley. The book started out slow with all the technical explanations. Then it got interesting. At the end, I concolded that there is no perfect or Utopian world. We just have to work to better the one we live in.

I started to read Bob Avakian's From Ike to Mao and Beyond. A friend sent it to me for the second time. The other copy is in my backpack in San Francisco.

Bob Avakian is the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The memoir depicts "[his] journey from mainstream American to revolutionary Communist."

When my friend felt compelled to send me the second copy of this book, I had to find out exactly who Bob Avakian was. After all, Cornel West suggested Bob Avakiam to write about his life.

We'll see

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Quote of the Week (16)

"Prosecutorial Discretion:
The authority invested in the Department of Justice and Homeland Security to suspend or even terminate a deportation proceeding; postpone a deportation; release someone from detention; or deprioritize the enforcement of immigration laws against an individual because it does not serve enforcement interests."

- Deportation 101 - Families for Freedom

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Lockdown - Collective Punishment

The Muslim detainee Muhammad has a mental condition. Everyone knows. I asked the Deputy whether Muhammad is on medication. He said no because Muhammad hasn't seen the doctor yet.

Tonight, Muhammad told the Deputy that someone poured hot water at him and burnt his arm. The Deputy advised his supervisor and decided to lock the pod down.

The punishment includes: the pod must be on lockdown status for three days; there'll be no TV or hot water until May 1st; during the lockdown each cell gets to come out to the dayroom for 30 minutes. There will be no visits, Roof, or Commissary.

The Deputy made up the punishment without conducting an investigation on the alleged incident. Instead of finding the alleged perpetrator and dealing with him accordingly, everyone gets punished.

Somehow, this collective punishment method is universal in prisons and jails.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Comments

For those who don't know I don't have access to a computer or the Internet. I write my blog entries and send them to a friend. That friend laboriously types my entries for me.

However, I do love to read your comments. My friend can print them out for me. I'll respond to the comments where they are necessary.

Here's a response to Kenji: I had the opportunity to read Mark Dow's American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons before I was detained by ICE. Anmol wanted to prepare me for my detention. That brother is on top of every little thing. I read Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish in 1997 when I was in San Quentin. Loved it. The Little Book of Letting Go sounds like Buddhism. Hope you're applying some of the techniques. Thanks for checking in on my blog. Happy reading.

Feel free to comment on the my blog.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Cold Hearted

"Shut your mouth and put something in it!" The Deputy yells.

"I'll give a soup to someone who kills him," a detainee offers.

"Shut up, Bin Laden!" Another detainee screams.

"Shut your Arab ass up!" Another detainee cries out.

I walk by Muhammad's cell during my morning walk in the day room. He grabs my hand through the tray slot of his cell. With tears in his eyes, he asks, "Why are they so cold hearted?" His grip is strong as I hold onto his hand. I look him in the eye and tell him, "Those people are ignorant. They don't understand who you are. You're a miracle. Please take care of your heart. It's okay to talk to your people. Allah will take care of you.," Muhammad smiles with tears rolling down his cheek and pats me on the heart with his other hand. "You're a good man. Thank you."

Muhammad is a Muslim detainee from Yemen. He lives in a signle cell because he has mental problems. He talks to himself and has conversations with the wall. At times, it's like there are 30 people in his cell when he speaks nonstop Arabic. He talks loud all the way into morning hours. It interrupts people's sleep. He can't help it. It's a mental condition. When he's calm, he understands everything and speaks English well.

Some detainees automatically mimic him, curse him, and condemn him. They're supposed to be the ones without mental conditions.

Who's crazy? How many more Muhammads are in ICE custody?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Gate Money

In California, when a prisoner paroles, he or she is given $200 gate money. S/he is then expected to report to his/her parole officer the next day. If the parolee is on high control parole, the parole officer will pick him up and drop him off to his place of residence.

I don't know when the gate money program started, but it has been in place since the 19 years I've been in prison. I'm positive that it has been longer than that. Yet, as the cost of living has increased, departing parolees still get only $200. It's one thing when parolees have homes and families to return to. For many parolees who have nowhere to go, $200 is all they have.

Without self-help or vocational programs to rehabilitate prisoners before they re-enter society, is it any wonder that the warehousing of prisoners soared more than 500% from 1980 to 2000 with a 60% recidivism rate?

Punishment, who does it hurt? Cui bono?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Korematsu Lives

The first time I read about Fred Korematsu was from Bill Wang's book Yellow Journalism. I learned the history of his courage to stand up against the racist Executive Order 9066 that imprisoned 120,000 Japanese and Japnese Americans in concentration camps during World War I.

I remember telling some friends that we don't have any role models in the Asian American community and in history books.

Mr. Korematsu's herculean determination to fight for his constitutional rights as a Japanese American and his exoneration is an inspiration to me. I almost cry when I read about the reaction in the courtroom after U.S. District Judge Patel vacated Mr. Korematsu's conviction.

It's said that if you forget history, it may repeat itself. That's why it's imperative that we remember Mr. Korematsu's courageous act of fighting for the rights of all Americans.

We cannot forget the imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans. As it is, the same history is plaguing the Afghan and Middle Eastern prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Fred Korematsu lives!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Working Hard

If you ask a correctional officer about his or her job, he or she may give you a different answer. However, the more likely answer would be "They walk the toughest beat in the state and their lives are at risk every day."

I agree. Prison is a dangerous place to work in, but so are the sweatshops around the world.

I look into the Control Booth - aka "the bubble" - and the Deputy is playing solitaire on the computer. That reminds me of a common occurence I'd witness in prison: guards playing Play Station video games, reading magazines and newspapers, playing card games, checking their stocks on the Palm Pilot, making football polls, and shooting the breeze.

Are they working hard or hardly working? Boy, how I wish I had a camcorder!!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Quote of the Week (15)

How much does a man live, after all?
Does he live a thousand days, or one only?
For a week, or for several centuries?
How long does a man spend dying?
What does it mean to say "for ever"?

- Pablo Neruda

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Wrong Carrot

"If you guys clean the screen dorrs of your cells, I'll bring in the Blue Collar Comedy DVD for you. It's funny. Redneck comedy at its best." The Deputy lures the detainees with a grin.

Wow! What a motivating incentive. Let me see. The majority of detainees barely speak English. The only grass they know is probably marijuana. There is no white guy in our pod. What's wrong with this picture?

Did all the cell doors get cleaned? You do the math.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sunshine

Since the majority of my time is spent indoor, I don't have get to bathe in natural light much.

When the Deputy dropped off a stack of mail to me in the morning, I was a happy camper. I received two books: Sound and Fury by William Faulkner and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I also received four California Lawyers magazines and four letters.

Holding the stack of mail in my hands is like bathing in sunshine. Instead of feeling the warmth on my skin, I feel toasty in my heart

Thank you, Sunshine. Keep on shining.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

OG Freedom Fighters

I received two missives from two OG Freedom Fighters today, Nellie Wong and Dolly Veale. I call them Freedom Fighters because of their compassion for the suffering of people around the world. I call them OGs because their selfless actions and accumulated wisdom to fight against all forms of injustice defy age limit. I want to follow their examples as I am growing up.

It's a blessing to be able to correspond with the OGs. They're always teaching me through their poetry, writings, literature, and sharings. The best thing is, I don't have to pay any tuition.

Thank you, my OG friends. Please stay healthy.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Where's the Clock?

There is no clock in the pod that we live in. When someone needs to know the time, he has to ask the deputy in the control booth. Throughout the day, someone is always asking for the time.

Some detainees don't like to know the time or the day of the week. They just want to sleep the time away. They gauge their time through the three daily meals.

For me, I like to know the day and time because I have too much to do. 24 hours are not enought for me to do all the things I want to do. That seems to be the same issue I have been experiencing over the past 10 years. The reality is that I don't think it'll change any time soon. I just have to flow with time.

The clock is ticking whether it's visible or not.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Quote of the Week (14)

The birds have vanished,
and now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
Until only the mountain remains.

Li Po

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra

Many years ago a friend sent me a book of sutras in Chinese and asked me to chant them. She said it would protect me. I didn't understand many of the Chinese words in the sutras so I couldn't chant them.

When I was a particpant in the San Quentin Buddha dahrma sangha group, I chanted different sutras in English. It wasn't until I was in solitary confinement that I committed myself to memorize the "Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra."

This morning after I did yoga, meditated, and chanted the sutra, a Chinese guy started to talk about a sutra he's been chanting in Chinese. As he was reciting and explaining the sutra to me, it dawned on me that he was talking about the "Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra."

Then I remembered that one of the sutras in that book of Chinese sutras was the "Heart of the Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra."

Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhisavhva.

Friday, April 01, 2005

April Fools...Not

"Shut your mouth before I write you up again!" the Deputy yells at the Cuban detainee in the cell.

"I want to see the Lieutenant," the Cuban demands.

"He's not here." The Deputy leaves the Pod.

A few minutes later...

Bamm!! "Fuck that shit!" The Vietnamese detainee bangs on the table in the dayroom.

He paces around with anger showing through his beet red face.

I ask him what's going on. He tells me that the Deputy searched his cell and took away some extra clothing and plastic containers. He says that he's stressed out dealing with the immigration detention and doesn't need to be harrassed by the Deputy.

The same thing happens to the Cuban. When he complains, the Deputy exerts authority.

The majority of the immigration detainees have never been in prison. They're not criminals. Therefore, they're not used to being locked up in a cell for a lengthy period. One week is like a year to some people.

The reality is immigration detention centers are prisons.

Check out American Gulag: America's Immigration Prisons by Mark Dow.