The Role of Early ASL Learning and Linguistic Competence of Deaf Individuals

By Jean F. Andrews

Map of the USA in ASL

Map of the USA in ASL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

American Sign Language (ASL) is seldom learned early by parents of deaf children when the diagnoses of hearing loss occurs. As a result, few deaf children have strong ASL role models in the home. This has important educational implications. But it also has criticaL repercussions when the deaf child grows into a deaf adult and gets caught in the criminal justice system.
In almost all (with the exception of one), cases where I interviewed deaf suspects or inmates, I have found that they had learned ASL after the age of five. Some even learned it later in junior high or high school. Most all had English reading levels of 4th grade or below.
ASL plays a critical role in a deaf individual’s overall linguistic competence in both ASL and in English. When they learn ASL late, this often delays their ability to learn English. Research has shown strong links between later ASL proficiency and English Literacy.

Lack of ASL proficiency also affects their abilities to effectively work with a sign language interpreter in a police, legal or correctional setting.
Part of the problem is that we have few strong ASL/English bilingual Early Childhood Programs so deaf children are delayed in access to ASL. Another part of the problem is that hearing parents are too busy to learn ASL. They work long hours in jobs where they cannot fit in a sign language class. As a result, their deaf child becomes their sign language teacher and this further delays the deaf child’s acquisition of concepts and language structures because they do not have strong ASL linguistic role models.
One solution to helping parents learn ASL is through online ASL classes. With today’s technology, the video quality is quite good and recent research by Dr. Curt Radford, Professor of Deaf Education at Utah State University has shown that online ASL learning is possible. His recent dissertation completed at Lamar University found that university students in the ASL online class did just as well as ASL students in face to face class.

One creative outcome of Dr. Radford’s research is that he has recently developed an online ASL program for parents. It is reasonably priced and available 24/7 for today’s working parent.
It may seem like a long stretch to connect early ASL acquisition and signing abilities of deaf adults in the criminal justice system who have difficulty understanding sign language interpreters. But the relationship is there. When audiologists, physicians, and educators deny the deaf children and his parents with information on the benefits of ASL as a language, they are not seeing the big picture. Deaf children need English and ASL as early as possible to achieve linguistic competence in both languages. And Dr. Radford’s parent ASL online course as well as other available online resources that achieve this same goal are good places to start.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.


Overcrowded Prisons – a Photo Essay from Mail Online

By BitcoDavid

The British Daily Mail reports that jails and prisons across America are literally ready to burst, with more than two million Americans behind bars. California, the worst for overcrowding and ever-expanding inmate populations, houses 140,000 inmates. Her 33 facilities, designed to hold a maximum of 80,000, are stretched to beyond the limit.

Currently, U.S. prisons are working at about 40% over capacity – across the board – and that figure is expected to shoot to 50% by the end of the decade.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that 30 thousand prisoners need to be released, due to what they referred to as an unconstitutional situation.

Even though California and other states have actually increased available bed space, a stream of new inmates over the past 5 years has flooded the system. And this overcrowding is resulting in an increase in violence and antisocial behavior both amongst inmates and corrections officials.

Often areas like gymnasiums and even dining halls are being converted to emergency living quarters. In some cases inmates are being forced to share bunks, or to sleep in busy common areas, with constant traffic. Single unit cells are now expected to house 2 and even 3 inmates.

Per capita, The U.S. leads the world in number of incarcerated Human beings. Russia is #2 and South Africa takes the show position – #3. Of this vast subculture – nearly 2.3 million people – over half are Black, and 750,000 are housed in private – for profit - prison facilities.

And yet, almost ironically, as these rates are climbing higher and higher – the rate of violent crimes on American streets is rapidly decreasing. Are we going incarceration crazy?

The original Daily Mail article contains an excellent video, that I was just unable to embed – although I did try numerous times. The video is uncaptioned but since it contains no dialog, you won’t miss anything. I would strongly advise that you click on the link below to see this astounding video.

To see this excellent article in its original format with full size graphics go here:

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and an Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Guestblog: Marsha Graham on the Gallaudet Controversy

By Marsha Graham

This is not a civil liberties issue. This is an employment law issue.

McCaskell’s sin is one of rank stupidity. She is a non-tenured individual working for Gallaudet as the Chief Diversity Officer – not a secretary, not a janitor, not even a diversity underling. She speaks for Gallaudet in matters of diversity.

Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At Gallaudet the students are Deaf and discriminated against for their deafness. There are Gay Deaf students there, and the head of the Diversity Program has just made a statement against the LBGT community through signing this petition. She was an idiot if she thinks that won’t come back to bite her in the butt.

Further, the students of Gallaudet do not want her back. Remember, I belong to a Deaf and HoH attorney’s association, and many of them went to Gallaudet and know the parties and the students. Why on Earth would any student who suffers daily discrimination based on hearing loss, want a diversity officer who does not believe in diversity? Or even seems to oppose diversity?

My take: She did not want her job at Gallaudet enough to keep her mouth shut and her fingers off discriminatory petitions. I worked for the state  – and my Dad for the feds, and we kept our heads down and our mouths shut because we liked our paychecks. When you represent your organization in the world, you don’t put it on the front page through your behavior. Anyone who is a diversity officer, who opposes diversity should do the same or find a new job. Surely one of the anti-gay organizations will hire her as a mascot now.

Edward Miner Gallaudet at his desk, presumably...

Edward Miner Gallaudet at his desk, presumably in College Hall, as President of Gallaudet College (later Gallaudet University). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ms. McCaskell is in an employee-at-will jurisdiction where and individual can be let go for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason – just not an illegal reason. She has embarrassed her employer and alienated the students. No one will trust her. She has fouled her own nest, so to speak.

By the way, I find many Deaf folks (not all, but many) rather conservative by nature. Most blind folks are similarly conservative by nature. So branding this a liberal assault is both wrong and back in the rank stupidity category, in my opinion. It is a response to an individual who made it impossible for her to represent her employer and the students of Gallaudet.

You want your job? You’re highly visible? Keep your head down and keep out of trouble. If you get yourself in highly visible trouble, you fall on your sword and protect the employer.

The President's House (also known as the Edwar...

The President’s House (also known as the Edward Miner Gallaudet Residence or House One) located on the campus of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. The 20-room Victorian Gothic mansion was designed by Vaux, Withers, & Co. in 1867. The original owner of the home was Edward Miner Gallaudet, founder and first president of the school. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a contributing property to the Gallaudet College Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marsha Graham is the driving force behind several blogs, among them AnotherBoomerBlog. She is a good friend to and we would be lost without her support. When she’s not blogging, she’s a committed activist and attorney.

I breathe, drive, take photographs, and write – not necessarily in that order.

On the other hand… A Reblog From People of the Eye

By BitcoDavid

In Nobody should be thanking the FRC Prez People of the Eye state that Angela McCaskell’s sin, if you will, wasn’t in exercising her Civil Liberties, but rather in her “REASONING for doing so since it jeopardizes recently gained LGBTQ marriage rights and because other civil rights are not put up for question / popular vote.

If women’s suffrage had been up for direct vote, we wouldn’t have gotten the 19th Amendment.  If the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was put on the ballot in southern states, we wouldn,t have gotten it passed.  If the ADA was put on the ballot, it is unlikely it would have passed.  We elect our elected officials to represent we, the people, of the United States and also to uphold the constitution so….

But since different groups are trying to undermine marriage equality various courts have had to examine if these ballots or lawsuits are right, just and good – so far they have been ruling in FAVOR of marriage equality for all.  Most recent example:

They point out that Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council is not generally considered an open minded and kind individual, and that McCaskell thanked him by name in her news conference. Further, as Marsha Graham has also pointed out, G.U. is fully within their rights – just as McCaskell was within hers – to terminate her employment. Maryland is an employee at will state.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civ...

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, look on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I enjoyed their take on this story, and therefore reblogged it for you. However, my issue is with Liberals behaving badly. I was shocked, when in a discussion with a rabid Conservative with whom I am close, I was told that Liberals are intolerant. “What?” Exclaimed I, “why we are the very picture of tolerance. We support all people in their struggle for equality.

“Yes,” says my friend, “unless they disagree with you. Then you have the tar and feathers at the ready.”

When I see something like what happened to McCaskill, it is hard for me to disagree with my misguided friend.

Same thing here. I actually find the post by People of the Eye, more to my liking than McCaskell’s exclusionary and regressive politics. But as a great man once said, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death, your right to say it.”

Here’s the link to their coverage:

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and an Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

A Deaf Policeman Heard the Noise…

By BitcoDavid

Oaxaca Mexico now has a contingent of [d]eaf police officers, to monitor the non-audio equipped surveillance cameras that watch goings on in parking lots, markets and on streets. The belief being that these natural lipreaders will be able to observe conversations and other indications of criminal activity.

Known as Angels of Silence the city of Oaxaca has hired them based on their heightened vision and ability to read lips.

The 230 surveillance cameras in Oaxaca’s historic center and surrounding area provide feeds for the Police’s Command and Communication Control Center (C4). A team of 20 deaf police officers monitors the cameras in search of suspicious activities. (Courtesy of the Public Safety Secretariat of Oaxaca)

The 230 surveillance cameras in Oaxaca’s historic center and surrounding area provide feeds for the Police’s Command and Communication Control Center (C4). A team of 20 deaf police officers monitors the cameras in search of suspicious activities. (Courtesy of the Public Safety Secretariat of Oaxaca)

Well, I’m certainly glad that these people are getting work, but I think the city’s in for a rude awakening when they discover that Deaf do not have heightened visual acuity, nor are they born lipreaders. And even if they were, lipreading isn’t magic. Even the best lipreader isn’t going to be able to discern a conversation from a surveillance camera – on a darkened street during the wee hours. It’s not like most criminals plan their nefarious activities at high noon.

Marsha Graham from AnotherBoomerBlog is an exceptional lipreader. And yet, when I talk with her, I need to be looking straight at her, and I can’t be doing all the things Hearies do, like smoke cigars, chew gum, drink coffee, eat, pick our noses… etc. I doubt the Oaxaca criminal population will be looking – clean shaven and empty mouthed – directly at these cameras.

Our contributor, Dr. Jean F. Andrews had this to say.

The lipreading ability is exaggerated. And to give press to this hurts the deaf community in the criminal justice system. I just came off a case where police and detectives assumed the deaf woman was lipreading as they read her Miranda rights, and did not provide her with an interpreter. So, it promulgates the myth that deaf are expert lipreaders. The prosecutor in the case even swayed the judge on this issue.

If you’d like to read more on this, go to

English: Seen from the main facada of the ex-C...

Seen from the main facada of the ex-Convent of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, in Oaxaca city, Oaxaca, Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Angela McCaskill Speaks Out

By BitcoDavid

This video was taken from the Baltimore Sun, and captioned by me for this site. I normally don’t do that. Typically, if a captioned version is unavailable, I will forgo posting it at all – much as I may like to. Unfortunately, I feel that this story is important enough so as to necessitate posting this video. I will cite the source and link back to it, and hopefully there will be no hard feelings.

It is essential for me to state that I do not agree with this

woman’s politics, at least as they pertain to this particular issue. I have long been a supporter of equality in marriage rights. Further, we have definite differences in opinion as to religion.

However, I honestly believe that Ms. McCaskill is being unfairly targeted by Gallaudet and by the Liberal and Gay communities. If we want equal treatment and a level of tolerance, we need to be able to afford those same rights and privileges to those with whom we disagree. I sincerely hope that Gallaudet University rethinks their stance and reinstates Angela McCaskill.

Here’s the citation link to the original video: thanks them in advance for their understanding regarding our use of their intellectual property.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.


Lipreading: What It Is, What It Isn’t

By Jean F. Andrews

I read a children’s story about a deaf boy who purportedly was able to lipread a warning through a heavy snow and wind storm from the back of a ferry boat as he and his classmates were traveling to school on the mainland. The deaf boy was able to lipread the man at the dock who was saying, “Go back! Go back!” Of course, they did and he was declared a hero. There is also a story about a Texas hero, Deaf Smith who helped to win the Texas Independence War in a series of battles against the Mexicans in 1836. As the story goes, Deaf Smith was a spy for the Texans and amazingly lipread the Mexican soldiers’ battle plans while perched in a tree overlooking the Mexican’s camp. Deaf Smith’s heroic deeds lead to the capture of Santa Ana, the Mexican general. And recently, there was an article about Mexico hiring deaf policemen who, according to the hyperbole in the article, were hired as they were using their lipreading skills to catch drug dealers.

Image Courtesy of Shanna Groves, the LipreadingMom.

Such tales, though entertaining, are misleading. They create a public perception of the general public toward lipreading. They cause the public to think that lipreading or speech reading is an effective mode of communication for deaf persons and that it is almost as effecting as hearing.
The deaf boy on the boat used visual clues such as the man’s body language to tell the boat captain to turn back the boat. And of course there were the weather clues! As for Deaf Smith, he was an experienced spy who understood the movements of the Mexican army. According to the historian, Dr. Steve Baldwin who has studied and written extensively about Deaf Smith from oil paintings, letters and archival literature, the hero Deaf Smith was postlingually deaf, married a woman from Mexico so he spoke fluent Spanish, and often disguised himself as a drunk and went undetected into the Mexican’s camps to study their movements. While there are folk legends that he lipread the enemy, his expertise as spy overrode the so-called lipreading skills. Now as for the deaf Mexican police, I would assume that they were using more than lipreading but they understood the behaviors, movements and culture of the drug dealers. Thus, it is not lipreading abilities per se, but the surrounding body language and other areas of expertise the deaf persons’ bring to the communication event.
What is lipreading?

Erastus "Deaf" Smith was a scout for...

Erastus “Deaf” Smith was a scout for the Texas Army in the Texas Revolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lipreading is the ability to understand conversational speech visually and without sound as it appears on the lips in order to comprehend a message and carry on a conversation.
Why is it difficult?
Lipreading is difficult because 42 sounds (phonemes) that make up English are either invisible or look like other sounds on the lips. The vowels are the most difficult to lipread because they are formed in the mouth out of view. The other one-third of the 42 sounds must to grasped quickly as they soon disappear from the lips.
What are obstacles to lipreading?
For one, sounds appearing on the lips are ambiguous. In addition, people may move their heads while talking, they may have a beard or moustache, be chewing gum, have protruding teeth, or may be eating. The lighting may be poor in the room. Further the deaf person may be tired. Deaf students in our program tell us many times, that late in the afternoons or during evening classes, their eyes are very tired of looking at signing as well as trying to lipread.
Who are the successful lipreaders?
The deaf boy in the boat, Deaf Smith, and the deaf Mexican policemen would not win awards for their lipreading! Indeed, research has shown that it is not deaf people who have studied and relied on lipreading for 12 to 16 years who are the good lipreaders, but that it is hearing college sophomores who are the best lipreaders. Why is this so? It is because lipreading depends a lot on guesswork and filling in the gaps or missing words to make sense of the sentences. College hearing sophomores have a command of the English language so they can easily lipread. For deaf people who do not have a command of English, lipreading is most difficult.
Lipreading is not related to intelligence. Persons will vary on their aptitude to lipread. Lipreading is more useful for those who have residual hearing or are hard of hearing. It is not useful for persons with profound and severe hearing losses, particularly those whose losses are congenital. If a person can add lipreading to amplification then lipreading abilities will increase.
In sum, lipreading is an inadequate form of communication for deaf persons and for many hard of hearing persons. It can be of some use if the words are familiar and are used in a routine context such as, “coffee?” “cream and sugar?” However, when the communication exchange becomes more complex as when a deaf suspect is given the Miranda Warning, then lipreading is inadequate.

And of course it’s even harder to read lips with your face pushed into a car hood.

Why do judges and prosecuting attorneys have difficulty with this concept? One reason is that when they view a videotape of a deaf person being interviewed by a detective or policeman, they hear the police and detective’s spoken language, see the questions in written form, look at the deaf suspects attempts and writing, and they assume that the deaf person with lipreading and written communication is understanding the interaction of being informed of their Constitutional Rights through Miranda. To further complicate the situation, when the deaf suspects nod and say yes, this further misleads the hearing officers and judges into thinking the deaf person is comprehending.
Such is not the case. Lipreading is not effective as a mode of communication by itself or even with writing, especially in cases involving Miranda and deaf persons.
Simms, D. (2009). NTID Speechreading: CID Everyday Sentences Test. RIT: Rochester, NY.
Vernon, M. & Andrews, J. (1990). The Psychology of Deafness: Understanding Deaf and Hard of Hearing People. New York: Longman. (pp. 100-103).

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Felix’s Story Serialized Pt. 1

By Pat Bliss

As many of you know, I have been publishing a series on arrest and subsequent trial of Felix Garcia on It has been available in standard HTML format on my pages, Bliss-1 and Bliss-2 – with future pages yet to be posted. However, our editor, BitcoDavid has recently devised a way that PDF media can be viewed on the site without having to click through. He is making many upgrades to this site, and among them will be the phasing out of these back pages. We have decided that this story belongs on the main scroll, and with his help, I’ve been able to post this first 15 page section of the series.

Pat Bliss is a retired paralegal in criminal law. She continues to do legal work for indigent prisoner cases showing innocence. She is a Certified Community Chaplain, Certified as a volunteer for CISM (Crises Intervention Stress Management) and involved in community events. 

Supreme Court Rewrites Miranda Warning

By BitcoDavid

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and an Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

In the United States, a person who is going to...

In the United States, a person who is going to be questioned by police when he or she is in police custody must be read his or her “Miranda rights”. The Miranda warning assumes people don’t understand what their rights are so it requires police officers to read a statement to people being arrested which informs them that they have certain rights, such as the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On June 1st, 2010 Justice Kennedy delivered the Court’s ruling in Burghuis vs. Thomkins 560 U.S. __, No. 08-1470. The case involved Van C. Thompkins Jr., who remained mostly silent during a three-hour interrogation, but finally confessed to the killing of Samuel Morris. Thompkins’ confession was used against him at his trial, which ended with a conviction of first-degree murder.

Thompkins appealed using the fact that he had initially opted to remain silent, but police continued to interrogate him. An appeals court, in 2008, agreed with him.

But the SCOTUS ruled against him, stating that it is not only necessary to remain silent, but that you need to state verbally – at the onset of the interrogation – that you wish to exercise that right. It would be similar to invoking your 5th amendment rights. In other words, it is necessary to reply – to each question – when taking the fifth, “I refuse to answer on the grounds my answer may incriminate me.”


Alright, McGillicuddy. Did ya kill that nun? I refuse to answer under my Miranda rights. You’re goin’ to take the spike for this, McGillicuddy. I refuse to answer under my Miranda rights. McGillicuddy? Do you believe in God? I refuse to answer under my Miranda rights. What about your family? Do they know what a scumbag you are? I refuse to answer under my Miranda rights.

You get the idea.

Here’s the PDF of the SCOTUS ruling.

Here’s a link that explains all the legal ins and outs.

And here’s one from our side:

What does placing your signature on the Miranda Waiver Really Mean?

By Jean F. Andrews

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Deaf suspects are asked routinely to sign the Miranda Warning Waiver affirming they waive their rights. What does this mean? For the police and detectives this means that the deaf person understands the six statements of the Miranda and read it with comprehension. When they sign their name on the waiver, this means they waive their rights to remain silent, seek an attorney before questioning and so on.

However, the deaf person may sign their name and have a different view. A deaf defendant who may read at the third grade or below may not be able to read the Miranda. They may put their signature on the document simply to appear cooperative.

How can the detective determine if the deaf person understands the Miranda Warning? One way is to have a sign language interpreter present.

This rarely happens. Typically, police and detectives rely on written communication and lipreading which are rarely effective for deaf defendants whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL).

Two viewpoints–one from the detective or police and one from the deaf defendants.

The police and detectives run the risk of having their interrogation and confessions of the defendant thrown out of court or suppressed if they fail to provide for a sign language interpreter. This is not only Federal law but is found in many state statutes as well.
What is the answer?
More education for detectives and police about the difficulties deaf adults have in comprehending the Miranda and the ensuring of providing deaf defendants with sign language interpreters.

[Editor's note: Recent changes by the Supreme Court involving the Miranda warning are worth noting. On June 1, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to alter the familiar Miranda warning, adding a stipulation that requires suspects to outright state to investigators their desire to remain silent, in the same way they must specifically ask for an attorney. For more on this critical change to your legal rights, go here: or here:]

Gallaudet Chief Diversity Officer Suspended

Angela McCaskill, the Chief Diversity Officer for Gallaudet University, was placed on paid leave on Wednesday, October 10th for signing a petition that asked for votes against Maryland’s same sex marriage law. The Washington Post reports that McCaskill was one of 200,000 Maryland residents who signed. The petition was calling for a referendum on the law. Ms. McCaskill has worked at the university for over 20 years, with an exemplary record.

The president of Gallaudet, T. Alan Hurwitz, is quoted as saying,

“It recently came to my attention that Dr. McCaskill has participated in a legislative initiative that some feel is inappropriate for an individual serving as Chief Diversity Officer. However, other individuals feel differently. I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps.”

The Washington Blade originally published a copy of the petition online.  Planet Deaf Queer then made her signature public.

For more on this story, Please see the Washington Post. Here’s the link:

On October 17th, McCaskell gave a press conference in ASL, with an interpreter present. Video of that press conference is available at:

However, that video – although both in English and in visible sign – is not captioned. will post a captioned version within the next couple of days.

English: College Hall located on the campus of...

College Hall located on the campus of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. The Victorian Gothic building was constructed in 1877 and is a contributing property to the Gallaudet College Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Book Examines Drug Use in Treatment of Mentally Ill

The International Society for the Psychological Treatment of Schizophrenia (and other psychoses) U.S., is having their annual convention this year in Chicago. I am going to give a speech called, “The Lone Ranger is Busy and Tonto Has Split.” No matter what health plan is adopted for this country, it is going to feature large amounts of heavy-duty psychotropic drugs, given for relatively mild to moderate conditions.

The administration of these drugs has constituted chemical straight jackets to many people, making life-long invalids out of them. The new book that describes this problem, and promotes a solution is Rethinking Madness, written by Paris Williams.

Others have come forward with the same statistics. There has been marked improvement by patients who have stopped their drug regimens, compared with those who have not. We are going to have to solve, or at least ameliorate the serious problem of mental illness on our own. The medical/psychiatric community is not ready to accept this form of treatment. There are in this country today hundreds of small, active help centers and support groups, bringing relief to their patrons.

The Hearing Voices movement that started in England now has chapters in America. There are also private and alternative clinics and peer groups that have recorded improvements on all levels for the people who attend them.

When I looked at my insurance lists, of accepted drugs, I saw that fully 1/3 of the drugs listed were heavy-duty anti-psychotics. This should set off alarm bells in people who are paying great amounts of money, for treatments whose side effects are horrific.

We know that mental illness is treatable in many different ways. Not enough good research has been done on these ways.

Florida to Execute Schizophrenic “Prince of God”


Truthout reports that Florida Governor Rick Scott has signed a new death warrant for John Erroll Ferguson, despite the fact that several psychiatrists agree as to the fact that he’s a paranoid schizophrenic. The State Supreme Court has ruled that although they agree with the psychiatrists’ findings, that the 64 year-old’s delusions are not that far from mainstream Christian beliefs. The case will be brought to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1977, despite the warnings issued by his state appointed doctors, Ferguson was released from a Florida mental institution. Shortly after that, he went on a killing spree, for which he was originally sentenced to die. Since then, numerous psychiatrists and other mental health experts have continued to diagnose him as psychotic.

From the Truthout article:

The prosecution initially argued that Ferguson was faking his symptoms. But that was shot down last week by Bradford County Eighth Judicial Circuit Judge David Glant who found the testimony of Ferguson’s experts “credible and compelling” and ruled that Ferguson’s delusions are “genuine.” Nevertheless, Glant ruled that Ferguson is competent for execution because his beliefs are in keeping with Christian teachings.

Ferguson expresses the belief, among other things, that he is the “Prince of God” chosen to fight two antichrists alongside Jesus – after which he will rule the world with multiple wives. In his mind, his incarceration is part of a “hardening” process designed by God to prepare him to return to earth after his execution and save America from a communist plot.

In 1986, the SCOTUS outlawed the execution of the mentally ill. In Ford v. Wainwright, they found that the defendant has to be able to comprehend the nature of the penalty. In other words, he needs to be able to understand the concept of being put to death. In another case, in 2007 – Panetti v. Quarterman – the court added even more requirements before Texas could execute an individual who suffered from similar delusions to Ferguson’s.

Ferguson has stated that Florida’s willingness to have him executed is not due to any crimes he may have committed, but rather due to a conspiracy between the state and one of the two Antichrists that God has called upon him to destroy. Ferguson believes that upon killing these two Antichrists, he will rule the world beside Jesus.

Here’s more from Truthout:

Ferguson also lacks any understanding of the consequences of execution. He believes death penalty is no match for his special powers which prevent him from ever being killed and that “just like Jesus, you’ll come and look and you won’t find me there [in my grave]“.

Despite all of this, the Florida Supreme Court held that only a factual “awareness” of his crime and the reasons for his sentence are required for Ferguson to qualify as competent. At the same time, the Court denied that Ferguson “believes himself unable to die or that he is being executed for any reason other than the murders he was convicted of in 1978.”

Here’s the link to their coverage:





AI Media (Australia) Launches “Live Captioning” System

English: 2008 Google Developer Day in Australi...

2008 Google Developer Day in Australia: Dan Morrill talks about GPhone and Android. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

AI Media is an Australian social enterprise, who’s mission is to establish a method by which teachers in a classroom can lecture students, and the lecture will automatically appear as text on the student’s Laptop. The system works in all formats, including iOs, OSX and Android.

The idea is that the teacher wears a lapel microphone, which streams her voice to a remote station, online. A reader than re-speaks her

Screenshot of what the text would look like for a student. Image courtesy of

words into a server, which captions and streams it back out to the student’s computer or other Internet aware device.

They claim that this can replace three people in the classroom. An Auslan (Australian Sign Language) interpreter, a speaker and a note taker. I’m not sure what all these people would do. It seems to me that a terp could handle the entire job, but nonetheless their point is a valid one. It’s not that we want to put interpreters out of work – replace them with machines, but rather that there are insufficient trained and qualified interpreters available. This system can cover that disparity. It can also help cash strapped schools offer inclusion where they couldn’t otherwise afford the huge costs associated with providing interpreters for every classroom.

This video, from their site, explains more fully.

Here’s the site’s link:

Save Auslan courses - Save Auslan TAFE Diploma...

Save Auslan courses – Save Auslan TAFE Diploma course protest (Photo credit: Takver) Celebrates its 200th Post!

Image credit – like ya gotta ask?

Deaf – The Sonny Liston of Blog Sites, has published 200 posts. I’m telling you, there were times I didn’t think we’d ever make it this far. A lot of people, a lot of support, and a ton of machinery have worked in concert to make us a reality.

I’m grateful to our phenomenal contributors, our awesome supporters and followers, WordPress and ImageWorks.

I’m also grateful to HEARD, SolitaryWatch and the slew of utterly amazing Blog sites – too many to mention – who have been so supportive and helpful to us. You know who you are, and if you don’t, just take a stroll down our sidebars.

Sonny Liston

Sonny Liston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Brief Update on Felix

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

I, among others, receive a lot of letters from the prison population that generally contain adverse circumstances and their need to tell someone on the outside what is really going on – on the inside. That is good. We need to know in order to alert those who can help.

But, there are still good things going on inside the prisons, even if it only involves one prisoner at a time. Let me give you an example of what I mean. As you know, I am serializing the criminal case of deaf inmate Felix Garcia.  In addition, you have seen the videos of an interview that Washington Correspondent, James Ridgeway and I had with Felix in 2011. Felix writes me weekly, and tells me his days’ activities and the bad stuff that goes on, but every once in awhile he writes about something good in his life. Here is one particular accomplishment, which I wish to share with you.

Here in his own words Felix wrote:

On a good note I went and made my speech. Because of my nervousness I stoped and prayed. When I opened my eyes all I saw was all my friends. Mr. H., J., S., V. and you right up front. God knows how to help me and in my prayers I said Lord you lead I’ll follow. I went in stomping said my testimony as I held the microphone and walked among the crowd touching some in silent prayer. At the end everyone was on there feet shouting, clapping, crying. As tears ran down my face all I could do was point up and give him the glory. I did not know how much it affected the people untill I went to the yard and many of them said “awsome,” “blessed,” “thank you,” wow! How can I tell them it was not me but God. It’s never us but through me he did a wonderful thing and I believe lives have been touched and will be changed.

Felix and Pat Bliss, Christmas 2011 Image courtesy Pat Bliss

I was certainly moved at Felix seeing this reality. For so many months now, since his story first came out end of December 2011 on, it has touched peoples’ hearts and has generated a large group of advocates to help him attain his freedom. However, being locked up in prison one knows nothing of what is going on out in the world unless they see it on TV, receive outside information or are told. Well, I have told him – over and over – how his life story has impacted other deaf in prison and on the outside, and the hearing world as well. But when you yourself don’t believe it, it means nothing. Now that he believes it in his heart, his life has purpose and meaning for others. That is something that happened in a cold prison room, where oppression abounds. But the spirit of hope is still alive and that cannot be taken away from any prisoner, as shown by the responses Felix got from his fellow prisoners.

Felix Garcia celebrating his GED in 1984 Courtesy Pat Bliss.

I mentioned this particular event in Felix’s life because it is a turning point. What happened to Felix should never have happened to anyone – being falsely blamed and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Instead of getting bitter, he has chosen to look back and see the positive changes in his character as a gift from God, and has come to the conclusion that his life story is meant to heal others. What greater gift can one give to oneself than that?

[Editor's Note: Pat has informed me that attorneys are working on Felix's case, and should be ready take things to the next level very soon. In the meantime, is working on getting signatures for a petition that will be sent to - among others - the Governor of Florida, seeking a full pardon for Felix.

Any help we can get will be greatly appreciated by both and by Felix himself. Please sign our petition at:

Please, share this link on FaceBook or Tweet with hashtag #JusticeForFelix.

Thank you for all you do,


Test Tube Annie

If you live in Massachusetts, this story is already old news. Annie Dookhan, a drug lab test tech, was arrested on Sept. 28 for falsifying test results that helped to put thousands of people behind bars. Her testing rate was over 500 a month, compared to 150 by the average drug tech. The state is currently reviewing those sentences, and some individuals have already been released.

Known to her coworkers by the appellation “Super Woman,” Dookhan apparently falsified the data to advance in her job. She is even accused of actually adding cocaine to samples that came up free of the substance. Her supervisor was quoted as saying, he “… never saw [her] in front of  a microscope.” This and her amazing rate of positive tests, over 3 times that of her fellow techs, caused a red flag to go up.

From CBS via Mox News – YouTube:

This is a YouTube video and can be viewed with captions by clicking the “cc” button at the bottom of the window.

More coverage can be found at:

And special thanks to HumansInShadow / InprisonedWomen for their original posting of this story and the video.

Deaf Couple use Internet and Technology to Run Restaurant

Today’s New York Times reports on a Deaf couple that have opened a pizzeria restaurant in San Francisco.

Russ and Melody Stein, who are [D]eaf, own Mozzeria, a restaurant in San Francisco. Workers use sign language, pen and paper, bulletin boards and the Web to communicate.

What strikes me, is something that I’ve been saying for quite some time, regarding the legal community. Simply stated, the need for live interpreters can be mitigated – or at the very least, minimized, through creative use of the Internet and other new technologies.

THE rise of social media and new technology has been an unexpected boon for the deaf, making it much easier to communicate with hearing people — in ways like simple text messaging and video relay services. Twitter and Facebook put us on par with other restaurants. Hearing guests may notice that instead of just picking up the phone and calling, they need to rely more on the Internet to reach us or make reservations.

Melody Stein uses an iPad app to confirm reservations via a translation service.

Numerous apps already exist for both iOS and Android devices. For a decade now, WiFi equipped laptops and Webcams have been ubiquitous in Police vehicles. Officers could be quickly and inexpensively trained to use online services for communicating with Deaf suspects and victims.

This is an uplifting story, and well worth the read. But as you peruse it, I would ask that you read behind the lines a bit. Think about ways we can harness the greatest communications invention since the telephone to help other Deaf pursue their dreams – and more important, how we can help innocent Deaf avoid the morass of problems brought about by an intolerant and ignorant legal system.

Here, again, is the link:

George Whitmore Dead at 68

Whitmore in custody in 1963. From T.J. English’s Web site:

George Whitmore died in anonymity and poverty, at the age of 68. In 1963, Whitmore was wrongfully convicted in the double homicide of Janice Wylie, 21 – a magazine editor, and Emily Hoffert, 23 – a schoolteacher. He was 19 years old.

The interrogation by a group of all-White detectives lasted 22 hours. Whitmore, a school dropout with a 90 IQ, finally signed a 61-page confession. The case, which the city of Manhattan and the nation dubbed, “the Career Girl Murders,” eventually made it to TV in the form of “the Marcus-Nelson Murders.” It was from this film that the spin-off series “Kojak” was born.

T. J. English, the author of The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge, knew Whitmore, and eulogized him in a 2-page column in the New York Times.

This story unfolded before the eyes of the nation on the eve of the Civil Rights Movement. The evidence clearing Whitmore was voluminous. Witnesses testified on his behalf. Blood chemistry and forensics data didn’t match the confession. Whitmore was said by police to have a photograph of one of the victims in his possession at the time of his arrest. No such photograph existed. It would be 9 years before Richard Robles – a White man, was eventually tried and convicted for the crime.

The Whitmore fiasco was pivotal in New York’s banning of the Death penalty. He is also credited with being a force behind the Supreme Court’s milestone ruling in “Miranda v. Arizona,” the case that led to suspects being read Miranda rights.

Northwestern Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions has a timeline on the case.

Although Whitmore was finally released, and actually served much less time than many other wrongfully convicted individuals – such as Felix Garcia – nobody can argue that his life was indelibly changed by this horrible miscarriage of justice.

Likewise, we all owe him not only the debt of a life ruined by rabid prosecution, but we owe him much, much more. If you ever find yourself under arrest, and you utter those words cops hate to hear – I don’t have to say anything without a lawyer present – you can whisper a silent prayer of thanks to George Whitmore.

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