October 22, 2009
Asian-American Prisoners Have Their Say
Other: An Asian & Pacific Islander Prisoners’ Anthology (AK Press) is an impressive book featuring writing and art by 22 people imprisoned in the U.S. The publisher, the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, writes that it “works with API (Asian and Pacific Islander) prisoners to educate the broader community about the growing number of APIs in the U.S. being imprisoned, detained and deported.”
Other contributes significantly to both prison-abolitionist and ethnic-studies literature, each of which has badly neglected this issue. In the preface, journalist Helen Zia argues that the resulting invisibility of API prisoners extends to the “mainstream media and ethnic media alike,” where they essentially “do not exist.” While the arrest rate among API youth is increasing, APIs still do have a lower arrest and incarceration rate than other racial groups; however, in 2004, the Services and Advocacy for Asian Youth Consortium in San Francisco reported that the API conviction rate is 28 percent higher than other racial groups.
The plight of API prisoners who were legal residents with green cards at the time of their arrest is illustrated by the story of coeditor Eddy Zheng. When granted parole in March 2005, Zheng was ordered deported and was immediately transferred to immigration detention. He promptly appealed the deportation order but was held in detention until February 2007, when he was released after an outpouring of public support. As of this writing, his deportation appeal was pending at the Ninth Circuit Court.