A dear friend and native of the San Francisco Bay Area has recently been put in jail, and, after two and a half grueling years of legal battles, is facing a probable sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison for possession of psychedelics. When I first met Oshan Anand three years ago, before any of his legal battles, he was one of the rarest of men that I'd ever met. He was gentle, he had a very soft, kind, and compassionate energy, and his eyes glowed whenever you were in his presence. He always talked of the Tao, of Hafiz, of political justice, and of tea. His touch was gentle and oozed kindness. This man is not a felon, and it is an utter travesty that he should be put into federal prison surrounded by hardened criminals when he is the exact opposite.
Oshan has been building a community tea house called "Om Shan Tea" tea temple in the Mission District for the last several years. He has served probably thousands of people endless cups of puerh, oolong, and other varieties of Chinese teas. With a heart of gold, fueled by an almost bodhisattva-like quality of devotion to his passion and serving others, he has been a pillar in his community in San Francisco. Whenever I am in his presence, I see him spouting off memorized verse of Hafiz, or setting up another space at events and parties to pour cups of tea and provide a true refuge of rejuvenation and nourishment for others. The last time I saw him was six months ago, prior to his first jury trial, in front of a room packed to the gills with 40 beautiful people for a birthday party. I remember him reciting this poem:
"It is unanimous where I come from. Everyone agrees on one thing: It's no fun when God is not near… Hafiz encourages all art, for at its height, it brings Light near to us. The wise man learns what draws God near. It is the beauty of compassion in your heart." - Hafiz
Thus it has been mind blowing and utterly confounding that such a solid, good-hearted, down to earth, kind man such as Oshan should be found guilty of charges that are putting him in prison for perhaps ten years or more. His community, friends and supporters are all stunned and crying. The outpouring of love and shock on Facebook has been extreme. It's time to take his story to a larger audience and help bring him the support and momentum that his tragedy deserves.
I have never known a man more undeserving of a federal prison sentence. He used to organize people to donate books to prison. He has brought tea culture to countless people and countless events, including teenagers in Oakland. This loving and compassionate man is driven to service to others. Add to this the deeply flawed and misappropriated drug laws that are currently putting nonviolent people behind bars.
I ask you dear readers to please help him, as he has helped so many others.
Here is the letter that he just recently released after his first 10 days in jail:
Dear Family, Friends and Allies,
I am writing to let you know about my current situation. As many of you know, I have been fighting a legal case for two and a half year, accused of distributing psychedelics, with charges punishable by 10 years or more in federal prison.
The weight of having this hanging over my head for years has been an agonizing experience, causing extreme exhaustion , stress, and a deep depression. Despite this, I did the best I could to keep running my teahouse, my mobile tea services, teaching school kids about tea ceremony, hosting hundreds of spiritual dance, music and poetry events, throwing large intentional parties (Heartform, Tecompression) and striving to build community and contribute to the world as best I could. In the end I ran out of energy and my massive debts due to my legal fees caused me to close my teahouse down. I did this with great sadness and regret as poured so much money and years of my life into it. I hope that it had some lasting benefit to the bay are community and beyond. For more than 4 years, I haven't had more than 2 days break from my work and have longed for a vacation. I finally have it now, although tragically not on the beaches or in the forests as I had dreamed of.
Two and half years of fighting my case included a number of unsuccessful legal motions, relating to the impropriety of the DEA officers actions during my arrest and search. I believe these motions were denied due to a reactionary bias of the judge in my case also due to the outright lies and fabrications of the police officers. In July 2012 I underwent my first jury trial. Despite the fact that officers blatantly lied and contradicted each other while testifying and that dozens of government employees with unimaginable resources collaborated to try and convict me, multiple jurors decided that I was not guilty after hearing all the evidence against me. The prosecutors decided that they would waste more of our tax money by retrying my case at the end of October 2012. The trial proceeded like that last one, with officers lying and even admitting to lying during the previous trial. Sadly, after two days of deliberating, the jurors reached the verdict of guilty. I suspect that some of the jurors were pressured into coming to a decision so they would not have to come back after the weekend. After the verdict was announced, I immediately entered into custody and was transferred to Glen Dyer County Jail in downtown Oakland. I have been here for 10 days and will likely be here for another two and half months, after which I will be transferred into to a federal prison for a 10-15 year sentence.
Here at jail, I am confined to a 100 sq. ft cell more than 21 hours a day with my cellmate, who is a mexican gangster from the mission. In our cell is a bunk-bed, a small desk, and a toilet. There is also a small slit of a window which lets in minimal light, but has a cloudy film on it so I can't see out of it. The cell is so small that there is only one spot where I can stand in the middle and stretch out my arms in all directions without hitting a wall. The cell walls and floor are filthy and there is limited access to cleaning supplies. In our "pod" there is a TV on very loud everyday beginning around 8am and ending by 11pm at the earliest but some days until 2am or later. The TV is usually on a sports channel or sometimes a violent movie and I can always hear it blaring into my cell often making it difficult to sleep. We are let out of the cell 4 times a day for meals and "pod time". Breakfast is served around 6 am (although sometimes as early as 4 am) and lunch is served around 3:30 pm. The "meals" consist of the most disgusting and unhealthy food I have ever eaten in my life. I was raised eating organic, vegetarian food my whole life. I have many food allergies and the jail is supposed to accommodate my special diet but have failed despite numerous written and verbal requests, so I am forced to go without or eat food that violates my fundamental health and spiritual beliefs. We are only given about 5-10 minutes to eat these "meals" and then forced to go back in our cells. "Dinner" is delivered to out doors around 7pm and 90% of the time its baloney sandwich, an orange and two cookies.
"Pod time" consists of all 26 inmates in our pod being let into the 1000 sq ft communal space where we play inmates play chess, cards, socialize, watch TV and get in line for short phone calls or showers. Pod time happens twice a day for a total of 3 hours or less, in the morning from around 8-10 am and in the evening around 8-9 pm. These times are often shortened and occasionally canceled. All the schedules are constantly shifting so its hard to get into a routine. Due to the noise and schedule its hard to get more than 4 hours of solid sleep. There are minimal educational and religious activities and most have a long wait list that takes a month or more. State law mandates that inmates get 3 hours/week of outdoor "yard time" but inmates here tell me they have had about 1 hour of yard time in the past 6 weeks! Indeed the jail violates many of its own operating procedures as well as state and federal regulations and probably international human rights codes.
I cry almost every day that I am here, although I am careful not to do it around other inmates. I miss all my family and friends. I miss being able to hug and cuddle with friends. I long to eat healthy food, breather fresh air, see the sun and the sky, be in nature and be able to move freely and get proper exercise. I pray everyday for a miraculous release but I don't see how its possible. I am using this experience as an oppurtunity to grow and learn as much as I can. I am doing lots of reading, writing lots of letters and doing calisthenics and yoga as much as I can in this cramped cell. I am cultivating a strong spiritual practice of meditation and prayer.
On January 17th, 2013 I will be sentenced to 10-15 years in federal prison. It would be great to see all my friends there, so mark your calendars if you can come. It would be great to have good character reference letters to present to my judge. My lawyer said that quality is much more important than quantity, so its best if they are from people that actually know me and especially good if they are from people who would be considered respectable by my conservative judge.
After sentencing it will take 5-30 days for me to be transferred to prison probably in Oregon or southern California. Prison is much better than jail and there are a lot more activities, free movement and outdoor time. I am trying to see it as an extended meditation retreat. Even though I have so many friends out there, I have a fear that I will be forgotten about, lost in the prison system.
Due to the fundamental flaws in my case, I will be attempting multiple appeals in the higher court. This will cost a lot more money, so my family and friends well be continuing to raise funds and they could use any assistance anyone could offer. If you have any media or journalism connections who might want to cover my story, please get in touch.
Thank you for the tremendous amount of support and prayers, donations, and moral support I have received so far. It really touches my heart and makes this whole nightmare bearable. I urge everyone to do what they can to educate themselves and other about the cruel and corrupt criminal justice system, the horrors of the drug war and the prison industry. There is information on various organizations you can work with on TeaNotPrison.com. I also encourage people to explore concepts of judgement and punishment in our society.
Much Love and Gratitude!
For The Benefit of All Human Beings,
Oshan Anand ♥
To Learn More and Help, Visit: http://www.teanotprison.com