76% of released prisoners are rearrested within five years.
You can help break this cycle.
Help us reach our goal of $40,000 by December 31st and your gift will be MATCHED. When you contribute today, you open the door to new possibilities for prisoners like Nghiep Ke Lam. Read his story to learn how…
Do you remember when you were six years old? Nghiep Ke Lam remembers arriving in an unfamiliar country where he couldn’t understand the language, had no friends, and his parents worked multiple jobs to make ends meet.
Ke Lam’s family fled Vietnam when he was two years old. They were stranded at sea for six months. The fisherman who “rescued” them robbed them of everything they owned. They spent two years in a Hong Kong detention center before finally arriving in the United States.
As a child in the United States, Ke Lam was tormented for being different. Neighborhood kids threw bottles at him and let their dogs chase him. At eight years old, he was surrounded by a group of boys who told him to pick someone to fight or be beaten up. He learned that violence was not only acceptable but encouraged.
In this hostile environment of cultural isolation, Ke Lam found safety and acceptance by joining an Asian-American gang. At 17, caught up in the only role he knew how to play, he stabbed a rival gang member. He was arrested, convicted of murder, and sentenced to 27 years to life.
While in prison Ke Lam was transferred multiple times, eventually arriving at San Quentin State Prison where James Fox and Prison Yoga Project have been teaching yoga and mindfulness since 2002. At the urging of other “lifers,” he started attending yoga classes.
Like many incarcerated men, Ke Lam thought “yoga was for girls, that it was easy, only about stretching.” But over a short period of time, he overcame his resistance and became a dedicated student, almost never missing a class.
The biggest challenge Ke Lam faced in prison was “opening up to anyone, trusting, being transparent” about who he was and the struggles he faced. He believed that to be considered strong, to be a man, he couldn’t show emotions. Supported by Prison Yoga Project’s weekly class, Ke Lam became increasingly self-aware and better able to understand the harm he caused himself and others through his behavior and actions. He grew to believe that he could be a better person and began connecting with others from a space of trust, rather than fear.
Like the other students in the class, he began to develop the ability to respond — rather than react — to the stressful situations that prisoners continuously face. He emerged a leader and started to advocate for others who were struggling within the system. This personal growth and selfless work led to his release after 23 years in prison, and Ke Lam has since dedicated his life to supporting other formerly incarcerated men and women through his employment with the Asian Prisoner Support Committee.
More than 90% of those in prison will be released, and the vision of
We hope to double the number of classes offered by our network of teachers by 2020, but we can’t do it without your help. When you join our campaign to raise $40,000 by December 31st, your gift will be matched by a generous donor – resulting in twice the impact. Please don’t wait, make your gift today. Thank you.