Arrested at the age of fifteen, and interrogated without an attorney present, Prakash Churaman spent six years locked up, four of them while waiting to be tried. Prosecutors argued that he orchestrated a fatal attempted armed robbery at a friend’s home in Queens in 2014. A New York State appeals court overturned his conviction in June 2020, ordering a new trial, and bail was granted six months later. For the past year, he’s been on house arrest, monitored through an ankle bracelet.
Even as he prepares for his new trial, expected to take place this spring, he’s been campaigning for the charges against him to be dropped. Single-minded in his pursuit of that goal, his determination a magnet, he has attracted a diverse coalition of supporters and activists, from socialist party members to fellow Indo-Caribbean immigrants.
Here’s my long-form profile of him in two parts, published in The Margins, the literary magazine of The Asian American Writers Workshop. It’s about race and criminal justice, the long arc of Caribbean indenture and the political education of a working-class immigrant kid from Queens.
Part One: Raised by the System
“Suddenly bearing down, in the precinct room with Prakash, was the piled weight of his father, of the detectives, of both systems with centuries-long afterlives that have scarred him.”
Part Two: Fighting for His Freedom
“The persistent low boom from planes departing from an airport nearby mock his own inability to take off. Underscoring the irony, the sheriff’s office called to warn that he was in danger of violating bond whenever his ride home from the doctor’s office or courthouse approached exits to the airport.”