Because of his circumstance, it was impossible for him to ‘pick himself up by the bootstraps’ and be ‘successful.’
But despite his incarceration, he has always been there for me, even if we only see each other through a window or speak on the phone during visits. This tall, quiet, soft spoken, funny man is the person I most admire. His piercing blue eyes that reflect the sadness in his soul from all the trauma he endured.
My dad is my role model because he holds on to hope that we will be reunited one day. Because he is determined to love me when he was never loved. And because, even though he has been through so much, he is willing to help others.
Everyday my dad is in that jail, I fear he may die because of harsh treatment prisoners are subjected to. This month inmates in prisons around the country, including where my dad is incarcerated, went on a hunger strike to protest the cruel treatment they receive. I wanted to go on hunger strike too, but my mom says that I am too young. She has joined the strike for me and has not eaten since September 9th.
“In the API community, specifically, there is a lot of stigma against having a criminal background,” says Michael Maiko, a case manager at Long Beach’s Asian Pacific Counseling Services. “Your family’s unhappy with you, your parents, your elders … It creates anxiety and repression.”
Feeding into that stigma, community advocates say, are the stereotypes surrounding APIs as the “model minority,” creating pressure to maintain an image of success even when the reality may be far from it.
“I really felt the stigma of being a convicted felon,” said Hernandez as he reminisced about his experience. “You are told that once you do your time, you can live free, but in reality the second part of your sentence begins when you are released.”
According to a new study by the San Francisco-based Young Minds Advocacy Project (YMAP), as many as 70 percent of the kids in California’s juvenile detention centers are in need of mental health care, and most of them are not getting it. Patrick Gardner, YMAP’s founder and one of the report’s authors, says many of these youth would not be in detention in the first place if there were more home and community-based mental health services available.