June At DeafInPrison.com

Here’s a recap of the month in PDF format. Please click on the link below to view the piece.

June at DeafInPrison.com

Felix in His Own Words – Part I

This video, part I in a series, represents the culmination of the combined efforts of James Ridgeway – who owns the copyright, Pat Bliss – who assisted in the filming, our wonderful interpreter – who requested anonymity, but did an awesome job – and myself – who turned the knobs and punched the buttons.

My original intention was to provide the interpretation in the form of subtitles, but I quickly became aware that our interpreter’s voice-over was so expressive and packed with emotion, that subtitles simply wouldn’t do justice to the feeling of the piece.

This stands alone as one of the single most powerful interviews I have ever seen.

Pat Bliss has informed me that Felix has recently been transferred to a camp with other Deaf, and has not again, experienced the trauma expressed in this video.

Please note: On the right hand side of the control bar, you will find a button that allows for full screen viewing. If you view this video in the embedded mode – not full screen – you will need to move your mouse off the page. That will cause the control bar to disappear, allowing you to read the captions.

Crossover Youth – Reblogged from CrimeDime.com


Anybody who’s on this site will agree that this article applies to the Deaf inmate, just as it does to the youth offender. My thanks – as usual – to CrimeDime.com for doing a wonderful job in exposing this issue.

Originally posted on CrimeDime:

A real commitment to improving the juvenile system requires “assessment” centers like this one to truly assess young offenders for past victimization rather than routinized criminal justice processing. Image: CrimeDime

Plenty of research has established the link between victimization and offending. But establishing the fact that the link exists is easier than understanding why it happens. Even harder? Figuring out what to do about it.

Bethany Case, a visiting fellow at the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), suggests some approaches in the June 2012 OVC News & Program Updatesnewsletter.

  • Early identification of child victims provides a mechanism to intervene with families and children, particularly when there is risk of continued victimization.
  • Accurate identification of adolescent victimization, particularly when youth enter the juvenile justice system, can ensure that adolescents get resources to address the victimization that may be the root cause of the offending.
  • Comprehensive interventions address the…

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Third Letter From California Deaf Inmate

Here is the third letter from this CA Deaf inmate. You, the reader, read of hopelessness and tragedy in the beginning. But, I told him the truth of a possibly brighter future, and he responded. In each letter, he gets better emotionally – as you will see.

I edited it a little to insure his safety, and to give it consistency.


Dear Ms. Pat Bliss,

    I received a beautiful card from some of your friends, you will never fully understand how much and important your letters and cards mean to me.
    In prison, staff and officers and Doctors never do as the law say, they do as they wish. Inmates in prison are considered nothing and Deaf inmates are treated and considered less-than-nothing. In prison, something must happen to me before officers and Doctors will help me or protect me. I told a Doctor of my living situation and he say the only thing they can do is place me in ad-seg – the hole.

[I told him that being black or Deaf will not prevent success in landing a job upon paroling but being unskilled will - this is his response.]

I do know plumbing, janitory work, installing carpet. I know when I parole I’ll self employ, create my own jobs. I want a plumbing company with Deaf workers.

[He held different jobs before arrested at 31.]

    It’s my first time incarcerated and my last. I parole **, 2014. I want to see that day so I’ll suffer in silence. Before I didn’t know God, throughout my life I’ve attempted suicide 4 times. Being rejected at birth, growing up deaf and never fitted in anywhere, I now know if I’m gonna make it, I need God. I’ve never been able to trust or depend on another human being. I’m not looking for riches or material things, all I want is someone to love and who will love me. So after 25 years in prison, your prayers and letters give my joy, you give me the will to keep going. Having conversation [by letter] with you and knowing you care a little about me as a person, helps me see some things differently about people around me. Please write soon, your forever friend. ***

Prisoner Correspondence from H.E.A.R.D.

This is another inmate letter we received from H.E.A.R.D. Like so many letters we publish, the grammar and usage are difficult to decipher, but the content is powerful and profound. We thank Talila Lewis and H.E.A.R.D. for helping us to bring attention to the agony that is the day to day existence of the Deaf inmate.

Image courtesy of http://www.behearddc.org

somebody always fun of alone deaf dumb sign insult me  , i just ignore people , me sometime fear very danger prison somebody  have weapon  no reason , i just depend me carful watch out back gang people ,i cant hear not safe people crowded , i very frustrate my life in prison , alone 8 year no friend just avoid of people ,i just keep cool my self , ged i need more improve reading and writing, teach don’t have interpret for deaf , i need transfer other place prison deaf people for safe myself  gang people i don’t involve friend gang  i like look find friend for good people Christ person that all. thank you you listen my story  my life hope file court about deaf .

Our Second Poll – Please Vote

“Jack” – the Internet Rock Star. Image courtesy of BitcoDavid.

This is our second WP Poll on PollDaddy. Please vote, we need your feedback. Also, I have added a rating applet to all posts. You can now rate posts as well as “Like” and comment on them.

A List of Useful Links Sent to Us by Marsha Graham


Some of these are already on our links page, and others have been embedded in other posts, but they all bear repeating.

Take Action Monday’s for Davontae Sanford – Rebloged from PrisonMovement’s Weblog


Not Deaf, perhaps – but blind, mentally disabled and 14 years old. I think it’s worth mentioning here.

Originally posted on Prison Reform Movement's Weblog:

Standing for the Innocent  has launched a new campaign to support Davontae Sanford. Take Action Monday’s asks that we call & email the DetroitDistrict Attorney’s office and question why Sanford is still in prison.

The campaign started last week and will continue until July 30th.

Each and every Monday until July 30th-Make a call on behalf of Davontae Sanford to Kym Worthy the district attorney who prosecuted him.
Kym Worthy, DA
phone: 313 224-5777

email: prosecutor@co.wayne.mi.us
leave a msg if you cannot speak to her or an assistant.
Question- why they insist on keeping an innocent young man behind bars for a crime they KNOW he did not commit.


some facts:

1. A nation that prides itself as having the best justice system in the
world should tolerate no room for corruption, lies and misconduct that
sends an innocent child to prison for a crime he…

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No, It’s Not Ideal

A prison guard: 'Corrupt' prison guards fuel drug culture

Image courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/2262984/Corrupt-prison-guards-fuel-drug-culture-in-prison.html

Placing deaf inmates together has a positive effect, both for the individual in prison and for the officials and guards who are responsible for his care and treatment. There will be less, not more, of a management problem when deaf prisoners are grouped together, irrespective of the crimes for which they are being imprisoned. Tomoka has a facility in which deaf people have been grouped. There is another in Huntsville, Texas including a G.E.D. program for deaf inmates.

Image courtesy of http://www.queerty.com/how-dare-you-fire-this-dallas-prison-guard-for-telling-co-workers-about-how-gays-should-be-exterminated-20100316/

I would like to hear from deaf inmates there, how things are within the program. I would also like to hear from guards, administrators and other personnel, what their experiences are with deaf inmates. What do you experience in managing diverse populations in the system?

Image courtesy of http://vipdictionary.com/classroom


This is Part III. CrimeDime continues to earn our gratitude and respect.

Originally posted on CrimeDime:

by BitcoDavid* of DeafInPrison.com

In addition to what we have discussed in the firstthreeparts in this series, other inmates often take advantage of the Deaf, for all the obvious reasons. They can’t complain to anyone.

Generally, in prison, any weakness is quickly and mercilessly exploited. What could possibly be more desirable amongst the abusers, than someone who is unable to communicate his suffering?

Rural prison in the United States. Image: CrimeDime.com

Furthermore, they don’t have the advantage of being able to hear people coming up behind them, or whispering about them in groups.

All those little defenses that we hearies take for granted, are not available to the profoundly deaf.

In theory of course, Deaf inmates are to be housed in special and segregated facilities, where they have interpreters, TTY or videophones, Deaf-specific medical care and trained officers who can work with them. Unfortunately, this is…

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A Special Event Featuring H.E.A.R.D.

Image courtesy of H.E.A.R.D.

[This is reposted from H.E.A.R.D.'s page on FaceBook. --ed.]

On Friday, June 15th 6pm onward, Many Languages One Voice is hosting cross-teach-in with HEARD DC. HEARD DC works to ensure that the deaf are able to access the justice system, with a particular focus on deaf wrongful conviction. They’ll inform us of some laws that work to protect the deaf in DC, as well as share anecdotes from their community.

We’ll also share our knowledge of the DC Language Access Act, our struggles with government compliance and some anecdotes from our community. We’re hoping that this will demonstrate that equitable access to government systems is not an immigrant issue nor a differently-abled issue, but a social justice issue for all. Get ready to be inspired!

HEARD’s mission is to identify and remove barriers that prevent the deaf from participating in and having equal access to the justice system by enhancing the competence, capacity, and capability of justice professionals to manage language access and ability rights issues; and empowering the Deaf Community through education and advocacy.

Here’s the link:



This is part three of the series being published on CrimeDime. We thank them for their diligence and hard work.

Originally posted on CrimeDime:

by BitcoDavid* of DeafInPrison.com

There are two major problems with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Primarily, it is technically obsolete. The act predates the Internet, so it doesn’t provide for such essential services as videophone interpreting. Most Deaf can’t use TTY phones, because they involve typing, which brings us back to the initial communication problems of the illiterate and semi-literate.

Written notices like this court docket seem to make sense as an accommodation for the Deaf – until you learn that Sign is not the same as English and there are high rates of illiteracy. Image: CrimeDime

In fact, the Act does very little to address the educational deficits borne by the majority of Deaf. Written signs and cards will be utterly useless to many deaf individuals. Cards were printed up, at one point, containing the Miranda warning. The idea would be that those who couldn’t hear…

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Four Links

Perhaps slightly off topic, but I wanted to share these stories with you.


50th Anniversary of the escape from Alcatraz. The New York Times posted two excellent pieces on this milestone in Criminal Justice History.


And the accompanying slide show.


More on solitary confinement from Truthout.


AlterNet discusses the trend towards jailing teens.


An Important E-mail from H.E.A.R.D.

[The following was taken from an e-mail I got from H.E.A.R.D.]

Reassessing Solitary Confinement:

The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences


Hearing Before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the

Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights

Date:               Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Time:               10:00 a.m.

Location:         Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226


Description:  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Senate’s Assistant Majority Leader, will chair a hearing on the human rights, fiscal, and public safety consequences of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers.  This is the first-ever Congressional hearing on solitary confinement.  Over the last several decades, the United States has witnessed an explosion in the use of solitary confinement for federal, state, and local prisoners and detainees.  The hearing will explore the psychological and psychiatric impact on inmates during and after their imprisonment, the higher costs of running solitary housing units, the human rights issues surrounding the use of isolation, and successful state reforms in this area.

This hearing is open to the public.  The list of witnesses will be announced on a future date.   

Chairman Durbin invites interested advocates and experts to submit written testimony to be included in the hearing record.  Statements should be less than 10 pages, and should be emailed to Nicholas Deml at Nicholas_Deml@judiciary-dem.senate.gov as early as possible, but no later than Friday, June 15, 2012 at 5:00 PM.


Senator Dick Durbin is Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights.  The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights was formed by merging the Constitution Subcommittee and the Human Rights and the Law Subcommittee, which Senator Durbin previously chaired.  The Subcommittee has jurisdiction over all constitutional issues, and all legislation and policy related to civil rights, civil liberties and human rights.  The Ranking Member of the Subcommittee is Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Inmate Letter Dated March 15th, 2012

Sadly, the original letter was barely legible. After a struggle, I managed to translate it – roughly – for you here. I tried to maintain the inmate’s voice, while working to make sense of it.



Hello to the peoples.

Thanks for your support of the deaf people who have suffered in prison for 20 up to 25 years in prison. Now, I have fought with this life in prison. Life is sorrowful with other inmates tricking me as inmates wrote a request form to put me in the hole (confinement) while I was not knowing how they tricked me locked me up for nothing.

Because the deaf person want to stay out of trouble or the deaf person can be beat [for] using sign language to communicate. Some other inmates don’t understand what deaf people talk about. Deaf people refuse to cooperate with troublemaker for making money from someone’s eles’s cell property. Then the hearing people took the request form to and wrote my room number on it. The Sergeant officer ordered deaf person to be handcuffed without knowing what happened just that you got to see the Captain in his office. Deaf person could not reach anyone to get an interpreter.

This the life of a deaf person… They are violating our civil rights… I have a problem, that I cannot find a way to write medical to explain I need surgery on my right elbow. Medical paperwork is hard to understand, the vocabulary deaf person cannot understand. It is hard to explain the problem to the doctor. It is tough to explain the power the doctor has.

The doctor knows that deaf person cannot write right and says “Aha!, Well inmate you gonna be alright or I can cut off your arm. It will be good.” So the deaf person say “Arghh, that can’t be, to cut off the arm!” Then deaf person gives up and that is how deaf person has been frustrated all these years. That is not fair for these hearing people com out with beautiful braces on their knee and already had surgery. The deaf people may never have good legs and arms. That is not fair. Also, I cannot afford to pay another person to explain to the doctor, it is hard to tell doctor the right answers. Only God know everything.

I am a little hearing impaired. I understand 10% when I hear a loud one I can hear words sometimes. I have been in prison for 22 years. I will have to go back to court real soon. I never went to the courtroom or communicated with the policeman in the situation.

Also, now I am in AA meetings. There is no interpreter, I will be filing a grievance soon. The medical staff has refused to give me ID card as Deaf and Hearing Impaired. They did give them where I came from.

Anyway, hope you enjoy reading my journey on these pages. Thank you.


Here’s the 2nd installment of my interview with CrimeDime They’ve done a fabulous job in writing up and formatting this entire series, and have earned the gratitude of myself and DeafInPrison.com

Originally posted on CrimeDime:

by BitcoDavid* of DeafInPrison.com

This is a very interesting question, because one of my goals with DeafInPrison.com is to get some interviews with wardens and corrections officers. Going by the stories I’ve gotten in some of our inmate letters – from deaf inmates – the treatment is nothing other than abysmal.

These people are commonly beaten, raped, and confined to solitary. I want desperately to be afforded the opportunity to get the other side of the story, but have been unable to, thus far.

There are obvious cases of violence, intimidation and even murder to protect someone’s job or position. The Deaf are afraid of recriminations if they report the guards. One common form of this is to use the mental health system as a stick / carrot, kind of thing.

Image: CrimeDime.com

On one hand, a prisoner who doesn’t go with the flow can be written up as…

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This was posted on http://crimedime.com. It represents the first in a series, and http://deafinprison.com is deeply grateful and indebted.

Originally posted on CrimeDime:

by BitcoDavid* of DeafInPrison.com

There is a plethora of problems faced by Deaf inmates, but perhaps the most significant is the lack of communication. Deafness is more than a condition of being unable to hear – it is a condition of being unable to communicate. Most Deaf do not speak English as a native language. Many have no language or communication mechanism at all, but the majority of Deaf are raised speaking ASL. This is a language, not an add-on or overlay. In other words, one does not grow up with English, and then later in life, translate that English into Sign. It’s as alien a linguistic form to ours as is Chinese.

This problem then, translates into spoken commands, but also written and symbolic ones. For example, we all understand that when a corrections officer says, “Get away from that bunk,” a deaf inmate will not…

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The Injustice of Lonliness as Punishment

[The tagline for DeafInPrison.com is Sentenced to Solitude in Silence. Our contributor JoanneGreenberg sent this in. --Ed.]

The hardest part of being deaf and in prison may not be the rapes, the missing of messages or the misunderstanding in general. It might be the absence of other deaf people. Imagine a Russian or Basque speaker in jail who knows very little English, and suffers the unappeased hunger for simple contact, conversation and communication. This absence, we hear from other prisoners, is what is so biting in solitary confinement.

What I remember from my trips to mental hospitals, before their patents were ditched into our local streets, was the complaint of deaf people there who had been placed geographically, instead of by medical definitions. This was a huge advance for the ordinary hearing mentally ill, because it didn’t discriminate between chronic and acute conditions, thereby allowing the chronic to be simply warehoused instead of being treated. For the Deaf, it was ruinous because they had no way of knowing who else might be there with whom they could communicate.

Now, the prisons have the same problem. If deafness could take prcedence over the type of crime or the length of sentence, deaf people could be housed together and services tailored to their needs could be instituted.

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