My story starts with the first day I got arrested.
Two police officers in uniform escorted me into San Diego Central Jail, a massive building that looked like an apartment building from the outside but was actually a high-rise jail in the center of the city.
I pulled into the sallyport, and there were police cars all the way along the carpark. As I entered the sheriff’s car, I thought to myself, how did I end up in this position? I came to America for a better life, yet I somehow ended up locked up.
When the car pulled in and stopped, two deputies got out and opened the back door. I was still in handcuffs at the time, just wearing my boxing tradepants and Puma sweater with a Nike track and field singlet underneath. As I got out of the back of the cop car, the officers jerked me out and pulled me toward an electric sliding door in the central jail.
As soon as I arrived, I could smell rotten leftover turkey ham from the sandwiches they give for lunch. They had been sitting in the cells for days going putrid. They led me into a side room, where I was processed by a Chinese lady, who was brutal with her questions.
She asked me where I had been, if I was intending to harm myself, if I had been to prison before, if I had gang affiliations. I answered, “No,” to most of them. They then gave me a suicide gown and put me in a glass observation room with nothing but my Nike singlet.
It felt like I was waiting for hours. Then someone finally came and put me in a room with nothing in it but a shithole in the middle. The walls were all padded.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.