Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

AAPIs Behind Bars: Exposing the School to Prison to Deportation Pipeline

During a Congressional briefing at the Cannon House Office Building on December 2, a coalition of national Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) advocacy organizations, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) shared “AAPIs Behind Bars: Exposing the School to Prison to Deportation Pipeline,” a groundbreaking policy report on the impact of mass incarceration on the AAPI community.

The policy report was created after a historic convening held this past summer at San Quentin State Prison in Northern California, that connected incarcerated AAPI prisoners with more than 100 leaders, including activists, funders, lawmakers, policy experts, and community members. 
Officially categorized as "Others" throughout much of the prison system, AAPIs represent a population that is often overlooked. In 2013, there were 118,100 "Others" in the state and federal prison system, comprising 9% of the state and federal prison system. During the prison boom of the 1990s, the AAPI prisoner population grew by 250%, while disaggregated data shows that certain Asian subgroups, such as Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, have significantly high rates of arrest and incarceration. Closely tied to the rise of mass incarceration is the growth of immigration detention and deportation, which has increased for AAPIs overall, and Southeast Asian Americans in particular. In fact, Southeast Asian American communities are three to four times more likely to be deported for old convictions, compared to other immigrant communities. Incarcerated AAPIs also experience unique challenges, including cultural stigmas, lack of community awareness, and disownment from their families.

Written in collaboration with prisoners enrolled in a transformation and racial healing program called Restoring Our Original True Selves (ROOTS), the “AAPIs Behind Bars" report offers a number of policy recommendations that would better serve the incarcerated AAPI community, including the implementation of culturally competent programs, reformation of sentencing laws, reinstitution of Pell grants to fund prisoners’ college educations, repeal of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, and the creation of a prison-to-jobs pipeline.


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