The Case of ***** ***** (Name Withheld)

This is the actual handwritten letter

My name is ***** ***** ***** [he wrote last, first and middle above his name]. I was saveral hear sound low  broke hear become some fit hearing aid I was not all skill b.heat- hearing some half all. I was make behalf. I was settement to prison some other inmate hit me hearing aid hard skull. that person black man was young view person.

I was transfer to ***** correction institution would was in 1997 I was into building area first place because They notice behind me back turn my face after morning black muscle notice my cell open broke into they strong force to me language sharpe strange I was doing wrong open but they open to me first force me I was thin first time. I was started first black man sex to me gay. It was think me faggot. He forget after reduce mucle – first meet him failed.
I was nervous tell her I was moved to lock protection to black man. I knew that Bad luck news but lucky boy- before happened story.
                                                                    thank you
                                                                    ***** *****
Above is the unaltered transcript of the letter, as written.
This is the back page, written separately.

And the text:

1998 I was ate sometime all good look fat flat but sometime all transfer last one ***** institution black man tall strong wrastle like muscle challenge to me but other white inmate fell send one boy fat name ***** ***** strongest than me when he squeeze me pressure to me they around pressure home force to me deep and around transfer gone now 2012 today final ah wait 2010 they played playhouse around me then 2012 they are gone now today quiet comfortable deaf person friend new person, anyone offer me they are wape me

Below, in block quote is a letter from another inmate that accompanied the one above. It serves to explain some of the communications problems suffered by this individual.

Along with this letter you will find a statement from *****. He did the  best he could but what he is trying to say is in 1997 at ***** several black men broke into his cell and forced themselves on him (rape) and stole his stuff. Then in 2010 he was raped again here but the officers did nothing. Then he was raped again by somebody named ***** and nobody helped him, they laughed at him. He says he comfortable now that deaf are here but scared they might leave and the rpages[sic] start again. I asked him why he did not report it and he said the people up front threatened to lock him up if he said anything. It’s so sad but common for deaf people in prison.

[I am amazed that ***** is as good at spelling as he is. In fact, in a chapel bible study,  the interpreter chaplain asked questions and ***** answered every one correctly. Somewhere in *****'s mind there is intelligence, but the thinking out process isn't there. He's not only deaf but blind in one eye and only stands 4' 9". PB]

ed: One of the arguments against improving conditions for deaf inmates, is that they can communicate through writing. The above case illustrates where that may be problematic.

Dementia Behind Bars – a New York Times Video

How about a program like this for the Deaf?

Video Link

Here’s the link to the related text format article.

Article Link

Our Contributors’ Gravatars

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Since these are photographs, I felt the need to cite them here.

Joanne Greenberg’s photo is courtesy of a book, “Whoops” by Hulton Getty, Giftbook from Hallmark. BOK2020-1501269137.

Pat Bliss’s photo is courtesy of http://itstiffytime.blogspot.com/2011/11/not-leaving-on-jet-plane.html.

And BitcoDavid’s Gravatar is Jack – the Internet Rock Star. No citation is necessary, as I own the photo, and I own the dog. Or rather, he owns me.

***

Our logo consists of an overlay of myself doing the ASL sign for Deafness, behind prison bars from http://www.officialpsds.com/JAIL-BARS–I-TRIED-TO-CREATE–PSD24339.html

Supporting Deaf Individuals with Mental Health Challenges

Mental health issues in the deaf community present unique problems and opportunities. The problems are obvious. As a minority within a minority, deaf individuals who struggle with mental illness are more likely to be overlooked in schools and sidelined in the work-world than their hearing counterparts. When noticed, they are often incorrectly diagnosed.

It’s difficult to differentiate the normal frustration of a deaf person’s sometimes inadequate cross-cultural communication from the chronic, defensive loneliness and despair of a person with psychiatric problems. Most recent psychiatry has become rigid and with an overemphasis on chemical fixes and a set of diagnoses tailored to inform insurance companies. We wait for government programs that have not come and will not come.

All of us have a catalog of examples of misinterpretation between deaf and hearing people with differences in style and moves. Even so basic a deal cultural signal as eye contact or touch may lead to misunderstanding.

The majority of deaf individuals struggling with mental illness have never been seen by a professional who understands deafness or the deaf subculture, although many of the schools, colleges, prisons, etc. may know or intuit that someone is disturbed. This lack of experience precludes long term visitation of special therapy for the deaf. Now and then interpreters may be provided for special needs, but it has been in nobody’s interest inside these institutions to see to the psychological needs of the deaf people in their care.

Those of us who praise ASL, as I do, must also realize that for most of us, ASL is a daunting language to learn and requires a long and difficult course of study. It’s lack can create major barriers between parents and children. If the adolescent or adult deaf son or daughter is mentally ill and in the home, how is real communication to be carried out?

For a deaf mentally ill person, therapy may be available, but most of it involves interpreters. Now, I’m imagining myself sitting in a clinician’s office. I am speaking my anguish to an interpreter who will give a literal translation of my words. Many psychiatric and psychological concepts aren’t readily available from English to ASL, as many ideas are a struggle for ASL to English.

Then, there is the intimacy problem. A third person mediating the most personal opening and unfolding of intimate secrets is nothing any of us would choose. The frustration for the patient is daunting enough. Consider the frustration for the therapist who is far more likely to misinterpret many facets of the deaf subculture and misdiagnose the problem. Few psychologists, social workers or psychiatrists are expert in sign language and/or with a family background in deafness. The doctor is also more likely to feel that he isn’t getting through to a deaf client and so prescribe more and higher dosages of psychotropic medication.

Now comes the difficult part: No prince is in the wings with immense funds to whisk away these problems. Changes of leadership won’t do it and neither will campaigning for a slice of the pie which, after AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and all the other ailments, is liable to amount to a single withered blueberry. It’s about time we stopped taking inordinate energy to go after elusive government grants. We can do more ourselves.

There are day clinics set up for mentally ill people who run the clinics and hire outside expertise. Why are not such clinics available to deaf people? Private funds are available to hire people trained in the appropriate modes of communication. We might inform our lobbyists to help this happen, but the basics are ours to work out. With such clinics, it would be easier to get the local associations for the deaf and those for the mentally ill to come together to the advantage of both.

This is difficult, but do-able . There will be balking, but the charm of my idea is that no huge amount of money is necessary. We also need to address the hesitation of deaf people toward volunteering their time and energy to work with their mentally ill fellows. This piece of the problem is necessary and sorely lacking.

Deaf people are used to being clients, cases, recipients of services. Some are frightened by bad experiences with hearing professionals, but signers are no loner mistaken for developing mentally disabled people. Sign is no longer seen as jargon. Deaf people may need to step forward as some hearing have, to visit the prisons and hospitals where their contemporaries are and establish contact with them. It’s time to get past the passivity in which the community has, with some notable exceptions, been slumbering.

We now have deaf people trained as therapists, and my suggestion is that deaf volunteers be trained to do therapy with the addition of supervision by these trained professionals. Programs using such workers have been in the hearing world for years, in churches and as peer counselors and in mental health centers throughout the country.

Volunteering sounds like such a balsa wood and paper solution in such a major problem, but we know that ninety per cent of the nation’s rural and exurban fire departments are volunteer and that almost all of the mountain and up-country rescue groups are run by trained volunteers. Our churches and synagogues, our scout troops and school events are volunteer-run. If deaf people want services, and if the parents of deaf children want services, they must begin to provide them for one another without reference to the changes in government.

I’m helping to support a group of mentally ill people and their friends who have established a day drop-in center where troubled and mentally ill people can meet and find sympathetic and knowledgeable help from others who are or have been mentally ill themselves. These free-standing clinics exist all over the country. Why don’t the deaf have them? Private subscription can cover these expenses. The clinics function that way. Often, just knowing that mentally ill people don’t always have to be on the receiving end is a great help in their recovery. Why not this for the deaf as well?

Welcome to the pre-launch of DeafInPrison.com

The goal here is to create a Blog site and community whose purpose is to raise awareness of the plight of deaf individuals who are serving time in America’s prisons.

 

In each of the 50 states, there is no harder time than that served by deaf inmates. These people are seldom supplied with basic information, representation, and counseling because of an absence of Signing professionals, guards and psychologists. Few counseling or education programs are available for deaf prisoners and in the jails, they can miss meals, visits, etc., because no one informs them of times or places where they might sign up for special visits or programs.

 

The prison system in America serves as the nation’s largest elderly care facility, and the nation’s largest warehouse for the mentally ill. When added to this overburdened and ill equipped storage locker for those we are unable to care for elsewhere, the deaf are left a forgotten and overlooked minority.

 

To help raise awareness of this situation, DeafInPrison.com was created. We are in the process of developing a battery of writers, journalists and those individuals who are – or have been – members of this population group.

 

Our planned official launch date will be February 7th, 2012.

 

We need your support, and we hope that you will find this site enlightening and educational. We also hope that you will join our community – as soon as it comes online – and that it can be of help to you.

Thank you for taking time to show interest in DeafInPrison.com

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