Eddy and his family
immigrated to Oakland from China when he was 12 years old in 1982.
As immigrants with no English skills, his parents took low-wage
jobs to support their family; his father at the local Burger King,
his mother as a live-in babysitter for another family. When he was
16, Eddy and his friends participated in a home invasion robbery
that led to kidnapping; he was arrested and pled guilty to all
counts. Charged as an adult, Eddy was sentenced to seven years to
life with a possibility of parole.
Eddy could barely speak English when he was sentenced. In prison,
he learned to speak, read, and write English fluently. He earned
his GED and is one the few prisoners in California to have
graduated from college while in prison, by earning his Associate’s
Degree in the San Quentin College Program through Patten College
Eddy worked with at-risk youth in crime prevention programs at the
prison, has written an entire curriculum for working with at-risk
youth, and has received several job offers at youth organizations.
He facilitated alternatives to violence workshops to other
prisoners. He has written and published articles on his experience
as an Asian American prisoner, the importance of Ethnic Studies
classes and Buddhism. He has also published his poems, and he even
organized the first poetry slam at San Quentin.
Even though he was sentenced to seven years to life, Eddy Zheng
served more than 19 years as a model prisoner before he was
finally granted parole in March 2005, at the age of 35. However,
Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) under the Department of
Homeland Security immediately detained Eddy for deportation due to
the 1996 Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act. At
the age of 37, after being locked up for 21 years, Eddy was
finally released in February 2007.
Today, the Department of Homeland Security is trying to deport
Eddy for his convictions from 1986, even though Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger has indicated that he poses no threat to society.
All of his family members are U.S. citizens.
Eddy currently works for the Community Youth Center in San
Francisco as a Project Manager. He visits schools and universities
to share his experience with young people about the importance of
education, self-respect, individual responsibility, and community
awareness. He is a member of the Mayor appointed San Francisco
Reentry Council. He is a national advisory board member of the
Asian American Law Journal, a member of San Francisco’s Post
Release Wellness Project – Community Advisory Board and a member
of the Asian Prisoners Support Committee based in Oakland. Eddy is
the recipient of the 2007 Chinese World Journal Newspaper
Community Hero Award and 2008 Bay Area Asian Pacific American Law
Students Association’s Outstanding Leadership Award. Eddy led a
book project which culminated in the publication of “Other: An
Asian and Pacific Islander Prisoners’ Anthology,” which documents
the experience of Asian American and Pacific Islander prisoners.