The Struggle of the Deaf in Prison

By BitcoDavid

Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

Deep beneath Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain – recently renamed Mt. BitcoDavid – lies the complex. Here, thousands of worker bees  – wearing black suits, dark sunglasses and coiled thingies in their ears – drive around in blacked-out Chevy Suburbans, and labor tirelessly to bring you the best in Internet content.

Recently they received a communique from the Silent Grapevine, requesting a supporter contribution. Here is BitcoDavid’s response to that request:

The Struggle of the Deaf in Prison


All three elements of interaction with the Justice system, directly affect the Deaf in far different ways than they do the Hearing.

1) Arrest: The goal of police during an arrest is to take physical custody of a suspect. Their only concern is discovering hidden weapons, and preventing escape. There is little opportunity for communication during this phase, and an ability of the suspect to follow orders is essential. When a cop holding his gun, yells “get down or I’ll shoot,” you need to get down. If you can’t understand that command, you’re in immediate danger. Many Deaf sacrifice their Constitutional rights, due to lack of understanding the Miranda warning. A written card containing the Miranda rights is useless, because many Deaf have limited reading ability.

The interrogation phase of arrest is equally fraught with communicational failings. Many Deaf, in order to fit in, or to expedite an uncomfortable situation, will respond to questioning by smile and nod. This leads Hearing to believe that the Deaf understand what is going on, even when they don’t. Finally, out of fear and exhaustion, the suspects will often confess to things they didn’t do. After 12, 24, possibly even 48 hours of grueling questions – none of which they can hear or understand – they confess.

2) Court proceedings and trial: Here, an interpreter is essential, but is often denied. An example is the now 33-year-old case of Felix Garcia, the man that is working to pardon. On numerous occasions, the judge would ask Felix if he could hear. For reasons that he himself isn’t completely clear on, he would answer in the affirmative. In the end, all they did was turn the speakers all the way up, causing Felix great pain, but not aiding at all in his ability to hear the accusations and evidence against him.

If a Deaf defendant is at all likely to have the benefit of a qualified ASL interpreter, it is during the trial phase. However, interpreters cost money that states are loath to spend. They will invariably try to find cost cutting methods of getting things done. Why add to an already expensive trial if you can prove that no interpreter is required?

3) Incarceration: It is here that the Deaf suffer most. It is here as well, that competent interpreters are most necessary, and least often made available. There have been cases reported of Deaf inmates not reporting for Count, because the order is verbal. Failure to report for Count can result in serious punishment such as Solitary Confinement. The same situation exists with Mess. Often, Deaf inmates go without being fed, because they are unaware that it’s time to eat.

The biggest problem for the Deaf in America’s prisons is violence and rape. Deaf people cannot hear whispers and muttering. They can’t hear people coming up behind them, and they have difficulty in reporting such activities. They struggle receiving medical care, because they can’t hear the doctors and nurses, therefore may not be as able to take part in their therapy, or in filling prescriptions, as can their Hearing counterparts. Conversely, they are less able to describe symptoms or to otherwise aid in their diagnoses.

The number of prisons and jails that offer onsite interpreters for these situations is relatively small – even in these days of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Furthermore, even if interpreters are available, the inmate must request one before the appointment.

Guards often see Deaf inmates as troublemakers. Nothing gets under a Corrections Officer’s skin, as much as a special request or need. When you’re in charge of 1000 or more individuals, the last thing you want to hear is inmate XYZ needs an interpreter.

We can address and eliminate these issues with a small amount of effort.

Every police cruiser in this country is equipped with onboard computers and WiFi. Police should learn how to use video relay via the Internet. Deaf suspects can be brought to the cruiser, where they would be able to offer a defense against arrest, and at the same time, be informed as to why they’re being arrested and what is expected of them.

Detectives need to conduct interrogations with interpreters present. If costs and availability were an issue, again, Internet interpreters and video relay would do the trick.

The responsibility for determining a defendant’s ability to aid in his own defense should no longer be the purview of judges and attorneys. The court should consult with an audiologist if there is any question as to a defendant’s competency.

Prisons and jails would need to make three significant changes. First, interpreters should be full-time on all shifts, and available. Inmates shouldn’t have to go through official channels to request an interpreter. Secondly, institutions need to house Deaf inmates in separate dorms, fully equipped to meet their needs. Finally, Deaf and bilingual (English/ASL) guards would be greatly beneficial.

Lastly, of course, if ASL were offered in all public schools, colleges and trade schools, individuals – law enforcement and otherwise – would be able to communicate with the Deaf, and would be able to reap the many advantages of learning Sign.

Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

My gratitude and appreciation to Silent Grapevine for this opportunity.

Also, don’t forget that the #KeepASLinSchools video is done and can be seen here and here. Felix’s case is garnering much needed attention, thanks to the efforts of Sachs Media Group who is still maintaining their petition, here. Please take a minute to sign – even if you’ve already signed ours. It is critically important. And thank you all, for your continued support.

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.

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Rockstar Talila Lewis Gets Op-Ed in Major Newspaper

By BitcoDavid

Talila Lewis from HEARD, wrote a piece that was featured in the South Florida Sun Sentinel. It’s an important article, because it singles out Tomoka – which is where Felix Garcia is unjustly serving time. Although this article refers to some horrible mistreatment of Deaf inmates, Felix has reported that he’s actually much happier there, than any of the other Florida institutions, at which he has been held, over his long 30 year incarceration.

Pat Bliss has informed me, that an unnamed Florida paper will also be covering Felix’s story, but that article has not yet been printed. She assures me that will be the first to know, when it finally is published. In the meantime, be well Felix, we’re all behind you – and thank you so much Talila for this awesome op-ed. You rock!

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.


Deaf – Blind Inmates: Are They Being Served Appropriately in Jail?

By Jean F. Andrews

According to a recent newsletter by HEARD, as of March 31, 2013, there are 407 deaf and deaf-blind prisoners in 38 states, Washington, D.C. and in the Federal Bureau of Prisoners. Within these numbers, we do not know exactly how many are deaf-blind or deaf and visually-impaired inmates there are in prison.

Deaf-blind and deaf-visually impaired inmates are most vulnerable to human rights abuses and often do not receive adequate accommodations in jails and prison. Take for example, the case of Ms. Jones, an African-American deaf-visually impaired woman who has been incarcerated numerous times, mostly for misdemeanors. Ms. Jones is profoundly deaf , has limited vision in both eyes, uses American Sign Language (ASL) as her primary language, and reads at the second grade level. To effectively use a sign language interpreter, the interpreter must sign very close to Ms. Jones’ face. She can use a videophone but she must be situated very close to the screen to see the signs of the other person.

At each of her arrests, Ms. Jones was not provided with an interpreter. In her last arrest, she was charged with possessing drugs but none were ever recovered and she did not have an interpreter during the arrest to tell her side of the story. While in jail, she was not provided an interpreter during the booking or during the medical intake. She was not able to explain that she was diabetic and took insulin, and spent three days in jail without her insulin. While in jail she was given a copy of the inmate handbook and a number of forms to sign but she could not read them given her low reading level of second grade. No interpreter was provided to translate these documents. Consequently, she did not learn about the rules she was required to follow while in jail but instead had to depend on another inmate who had rudimentary fingerspelling skills. Upon release, she frequently violated her probation because she did not understand the fees and regulations she had to follow. Because she did not understand the rules of her probation, she violated them and was subsequently jailed.

Ms. Jones’ story points to the inequities of the criminal justice system particularly for those inmates who have more than one disability. Ms. Jones’ deafness, visual impairment, and diabetic condition combine to make special accommodations necessary in order for her to have her rights as designated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Policy  in jails and prisoners need to reflect awareness of these unique needs of deaf, deaf-blind, and deaf and medically fragile inmates,  and include training for jail officials in order to ensure deaf blind inmates are given their Constitutional Rights.

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

Live Coverage of Bridgewater Event

By BitcoDavid

Keynote (presentation software)

Keynote (presentation software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an initial post. Video and in-depth coverage to follow. But, I wanted to get a chance to just give you a quick update – from the field. By eye, it looks to be a crowd of about 100 – 150 people. there are a few hearies, of which I think I’m the only non-signer. Most of the participants appear to be ASL only, speakers.

I sat and enjoyed my lunch, in complete silence, watching hands moving all around me. One rarely gets to experience being in the minority – even to the point of novelty – and the experience isn’t lost on me.

The program is being led by Dr. Aviva Twersky Glasner, who spoke first. Marsh Graham spoke, and mentioned in detail, both Felix, and the Lashonn White case, which we’ve also covered. She is the Deaf woman who was tased by police, and ended up spending 4 days in jail with no interpreter.HEARD and Solitary Watch

have also been mentioned.The Brookline MA police department sent out their team dedicated to working with special populations. All things being equal, Brookline police is doing a superior job of trying to advance the state of policing in regards to all special needs scenarios.

The Keynote, Dr. Brendan Monteiro, began his program, and will finish after lunch. readers will be apprised of the contents of all these presentations, over the next day or so.

I’m hoping to get one more of these field posts up before I leave.

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.

Deaf Suspect Gets Settlement

By Jean F. Andrews

Englewood, Co.

English: A Video Interpreter sign used at vide...

The Video Interpreter symbol. Photo: Wikipedia

On August 13, 2011, William Lawrence was arrested for an outstanding warrant. Lawrence has been Deaf since birth and had diminished English capability. He was handcuffed and questioned with no interpreter present. Lawrence went several days, unable to communicate with anyone, and didn’t receive an interpreter until he was eventually transferred to Jefferson County Jail.

Englewood police used hand written notes, and spoke to his roommate as their methods of communicating with Lawrence, both of which are inadequate and violations of the ADA.

The settlement amount is undisclosed, but a condition of the settlement is that Englewood Police Department is now required to provide a certified ASL interpreter to Deaf suspects during arrest and questioning.

Englewood Police Department has made no statement but conditions for the settlement cleared them of any wrongdoing or further liability.

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

The Things We Take for Granted

By Pat Bliss

I Need a Doctor

I Need a Doctor Photo: Wikipedia


I get many letters from prisoners that just say they had to go to see a doctor or to medical for some reason. But in this one instance, a deaf prisoner in one of Florida’s prisons gave me an in-depth look as to what a prisoner goes through just to be there for a doctor appointment. These are his words:

I have been on call-out so much with medical with test after test. Seriously I am told to get up at 2:00 A.M. for a blood test, I come back [to my dorm] around 3:00 A.M. Am given a call-out to the main unit for 7:00 A.M. I get on a bus to go the main unit. Sit there to around 1:00 P.M. or 2:00 P.M. to see the Doctor. And do not get on a bus to come back to my dorm until 9:30 P.M. to 1:30 A.M. Any time between 9:00 P.M. to 1:30 A.M.  is when I am put on the bus to come back to my dorm. Several days in a row I have had this process repeat itself with these same time frames. So I have not hardly any sleep at all let alone had time to do anything like read a book. I catch pure hell just trying to get a shower and a hour or two of sleep here and there.

I would say we have nothing to complain about, out here in society when we have to wait a couple hours, if that. It struck me how frustrating it is to be a prisoner. No books, magazines or TV provided to help wile away the time while waiting your turn to see the doctor. Couple that with being deaf – and all that that involves.

– Pat Bliss

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.

From H.E.A.R.D., a Tool for Tracking FCC Proceedings

By BitcoDavid


Telephone (Photo credit: plenty.r.)

Penal systems in all 50 states, as well as the Federal, tend to shuffle inmates around. Bed space, behavior, medical status, drug use, gang affiliation and race are only some of the factors that may go into these decisions. Nevertheless, it is not at all uncommon for inmates to be – suddenly, and with no explanation – removed from access to visiting family members and friends. Hence – in prison – little is as valuable as phone privileges.

But, like everything else in prison, the phone costs money. Phone time is charged by the minute, and either paid by the inmate or his family. The problem faced by the Deaf however, is that phone communications take much longer. Most prisons in the U.S. will not allow inmates to contact a Video Relay service. This is done – we’re told – for security reasons. That leaves the Deaf inmate with the far more archaic and cumbersome alternative of TTY. A TTY phone requires typing. In the time it takes you or me to say, “Hello mom. How’s Aunt Sadie?” a Deaf inmate struggling with a TTY keyboard may not even get in the first “H.”

Modern TTY Phone Image: E. Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Modern TTY Phone Image: E. Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Prison systems don’t have a problem with charging this inmate at the same – by the minute – rate, as they do the hearing prisoners, resulting in cases where Deaf inmates have been charged as much as 17 dollars for a local call.

The FCC has been alerted as to this iniquity, and the prison systems have been cited with violating the ADA. As you know, Talila Lewis and HEARD have been working diligently on correcting this issue. She recently sent out the following e-mail to members.


My classmate created a very useful tool to help advocates and organizers keep up with comments that flow into the FCC during public comment periods.  He would like to ensure that disability rights advocates have access to his project and asked me to share the following information:

If you would like to receive a tidy email with a daily digest of filings in FCC Docket No. 12-375 (Implementation of the Pay Telephone Reclassification and Compensation Provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 et al.  -AKA – What Should the FCC do Re Excessive Telephone Rates for Prisoners & their Families?), sign up here:

Alan’s Message to the Disability Rights Community about his project: is a tool designed to make it easy to track proceedings at the FCC. The FCC’s current system, ECFS, is difficult and clunky even for experienced communications law professionals. Though I’m still figuring out if I would like to commercialize Dokket, seek grant money, or continue bootstrapping it, I’d like to offer these email alerts free of charge to the disability rights community. If you have any questions, email me at
Have a great evening!

The link will take you to an active Java applet that allows you to sign up for daily e-mails. Here’s the direct link to Dokket. com, as well.

And here’s an embedded and captioned video from HEARD, that explains this whole thing very well.

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.

LipreadingMom’s Hearing loss bullying Campaign

By BitcoDavid

Shanna Groves is working on a new campaign to bring awareness to the subject of bullying of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. LipreadingMom is one of our favorite sites, and she’s been a wonderful asset for us. We are honored and happy to help out with this campaign in whatever way we can.

As a person with hearing loss, I have seen bullying first hand. I’ve been called ‘stupid,’ ‘mule-headed,’ and have been nicknamed ‘La-La-Land Shanna.’ I simply want to be known as Shanna. Help the more than 48 million people in the United States and worldwide with hearing loss and deafness by bringing awareness to the need to stop this kind of harassment and bullying. People who are deaf or hard of hearing need acceptance, not rejection, to thrive in school and the workplace. Repeat this: “Hearing loss and deafness bullying ends…with ME.” Learn more about my story at

Here’s the link.

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.

Your Money or Your Life

By Joanne Greenberg

Activism usually means my telling someone what to do for someone else, and it generally involves the transfer of money from one group to another.  The prison system here is fund-starved, but our idea, the one about grouping deaf prisoners together, isn’t costly at all.

Once deaf prisoners in a state system are brought together, all manner of help is available to them. Professional and volunteer attention is much more easily  enlisted for various kinds of help, at no cost to the facility.  Every State has an Association of the deaf. Every State has interest groups which can be enlisted in the work of communication and the improvement of conditions in the prisons.

There are prison writing groups and groups providing religious services and ceremonial items, books etc.   Deaf organizations find visits too difficult and time consuming when those being visited are scattered through the buildings in a facility, or in different prisons in the State.

As things stand now, deaf prisoners are not helped by programs made for hearing prisoners — writing programs, GED Etc. Housing deaf prisoners in one place costs no more and is of great benefit, even involving discipline and control.

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

A Brief Tutorial on Accomodations by 4 Ears, 4 Eyes

By BitcoDavid

My friend Cynthia Dixon of 4 Ears, 4 Eyes created this awesome video-slide show presentation and posted it on her site. In it, she shows how to ask for the proper accommodations to suit your needs, and how to go about finding them.

[Editor's Note: This is a slide show with embedded videos. In order to see and enjoy it, it is necessary for you to click the little play button and follow the sequence. It won't "autoplay."]

The video gives an excellent description of the different forms of interpreting and includes a fascinating introduction to tactile interpreting.

Go here to see the original post:

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.

In Touch With Braille – Angela Orlando

By Jean F. Andrews

[Jean's Note: Angela Orlando tells a compelling story of how learning Braille enlarged her life as a deaf-blind woman. This interview was conducted by Cynthia Ingraham, a researcher, writer and teacher in deaf - blind education. ]


WBU-NAC region Otsuki Award
In Touch With Braille
U.S.A. Angela Orlando(38/Female)


There was no warning nor time to prepare. I knew nothing of the horrendous disease embedded in my DNA, OR WHAT IT WOULD DO TO my body.At the beginning of the month, I was free and happy, enjoying life with my six-month-old son. By the end of that month, the genetic time bomb had exploded. I was left as a mind trapped in a useless body. I struggled to keep my sanity, despite the great losses I suffered.

At this lowest point, I was totally blind, completely deaf and paralyzed in my feet, legs and hands. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t feel anything. I was unable to take care of myself, much less my baby.

Braille PDA (by Humanware)

Braille PDA (by Humanware) (Photo credit: sinosplice)

The worst part was the lack of access to information. I didn’t know what was going on around me or out in the world. Sports, culture, business, politics and wars continued. As they say, “Life goes on.” I knew nothing about it. I existed in a state in which I only knew what people deemed to tell me. Since communication involved printing letters on my face with a fingertip, that was very little. It was too much work for my family to keep me informed.

I spent endless hours, days and months trying to entertain myself with my own thoughts. I imagined I was watching my favorite movies, tried to remember the lyrics to old songs and recited books back to myself. I was so isolated, lonely and miserable. I lost all contact with the outside world and so desperately wanted to get back in touch.

After eight long months, I realized my hands were beginning to heal. It took another three months before I regained normal sensitivity in my fingers. I knew at once what I needed to do. I had to learn braille.

Braille Sidewalks

Braille Sidewalks (Photo credit: nep)

I was another lost one who fell through the cracks in the vocational rehabilitation system. They claimed I was too disabled and therefore beyond their help. I received no services and had no trainer. If I wanted to learn braille, I would have to do it myself.

My husband bought a braille learning book online. I didn’t have much support at home, so I was literally teaching myself. I carefully followed the lessons in the book. After I studied each new letter, I worked on practice words and sentences. After one month, I could read uncontracted braille. It was time to move onto the next level.

The training series for contracted braille was longer and harder. There were so many rules and so much to remember. I struggled with short-form words, abbreviations and beginning and ending contractions. I worked every day on reviewing information and learning new skills. After three months, I could read contracted braille, although my pace was quite slow.

I’ve been told it’s impossible to learn braille that fast. Yet, that’s exactly what I did. I was so determined to return to the real world. Braille was the only means to do so.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the first book I read in braille. As I diligently felt the dots, I became so excited. Letters turned into words. Words became sentences. I recognized the story. I was reading!

My next step was to find sources to news. I signed up for “Hotline to Deaf-Blind,” which sent weekly braille briefings about headline news stories. From the national library, I ordered “The New York Times Weekly” and “Parenting Magazine.” Other sources gave me access to “The Reader’s Digest” and “Syndicated Columnist Weekly.” Hope returned to my life as I read these magazines. I was proud to talk politics with my husband or discuss a story he hadn’t heard about. I was back in touch, thanks to those beautiful dots we call braille.

Two examples of non-standard web browsers: lyn...

Two examples of non-standard web browsers: lynx, a text-only browser, and a refreshable braille display (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, 10 years later, I’ve had some training to refine my braille skills. I read much faster now. That’s essential, because there’s so much I want to know about. I spend most of my day reading news and books. I could live forever and still never finish everything I want to read.

The purchase of my first Braille Note device provided even more access to information and social networking. I could email my family, join deaf-blind mailing lists and meet new people who faced similar challenges. I began surfing the web for the first time in my life. I had never imagined so much information in one tiny place. There was so much knowledge to be had, and it was all at my fingertips.

Author J.K. Rowling reads Harry Potter and the...

Author J.K. Rowling reads Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone during the Easter Egg Roll on the White House South Lawn. Rowling read an excerpt focusing on Harry buying his wand from Ollivander’s. Screenshot from official White House video. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I now have a Deaf-Blind Communication device. This machine allows me to talk with people who do not know sign language. They type on my cell phone, and I read the message on my Braille Note. The device also gave me access to a TTY. I’m finally able to make phone calls by myself. My son and I celebrated the night I first ordered a pizza for our dinner. Once again, I owe it to braille.

I’m connected to people through text messages, Instant Messages and Facebook. It is amazing what technology can offer these days. I love reading on a refreshable braille display. The dots are like magic. At a push of a button, they change to say something new. The possibilities are endless.

I’m still deaf-blind and physically impaired. However, I’m no longer a prisoner in my own body. It was braille that allowed me to escape. Now I’m a student, a writer, a leader and friend. My online nick-name is “Dot.” I’m an actual part of society again. This never would have happened without braille.

I’ve been asked, “What does braille do to enhance your life?” My answer is simple. “Everything.” Braille keeps me in touch.

You can see the original article at

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





An Enlightening FaceBook Exchange

By BitcoDavid

We received this message from a FaceBook follower who – for obvious reasons – asked that I don’t post their name.

Okay so I’m going to be a prison guard myself (maximum security male prison if I get what I want) and am going to be learning ASL over the summer (I have an aunt that is deaf and may be able to spend a month or so with her learning the language and a bit about the culture).

What are some of the things I should be told about before I enter in my career field (currently a student and have a year left until I get my degree in criminal justice). Please help me to prepare, I want to help them when no other guard can. I would also like to point out that I do not claim to understand (nor do I think I will ever) the culture nor mind set of a deaf person (let alone one in prison).

I also will not baby them, but will attempt to treat them in a way that will put them on as even a playing field as their fellow inmates. One thing I was thinking I could do was to flash a light in their cells when it’s time to wake up (they couldn’t hear the door unlocking) or to do something similar if they have a visitor or if they are not hearing a warning that is being verbally stated. Especially if there are multiple inmates that are deaf and a

South Korea tests world's first robot prison guard. Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.,news-14852.html

South Korea tests world’s first robot prison guard. Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.,news-14852.html

limited amount of interpreter/s available. I think it wouldn’t hurt (I’m not going so far as to say that I’d be doing them a favor – which I’m not – but I’d be at least trying to restore some justice to the “justice” system if you know what I mean) if there was someone else on staff that could speak with them. Especially in cases where an interpreter is afraid of physical repercussions from other inmates if the interpreter were to translate an accusation or some such message that would incriminate another inmate.

Sorry about the length. Long story short: What are some of the things I should be told about before I enter in my career field as a prison guard (hopefully maximum security male) that will know (maybe not extensively, but a fair amount) ASL?

Here’s the short answer I replied with.

Well first off, sign up to follow Learning ASL is a great 1st step. You’ll be in the extreme minority of corrections officers. However – and you’re NOT going to believe this – but I have heard of cases where COs who DID sign, weren’t allowed to use it. Some institutions are afraid it can be used for secret code.The best short answer I can give you – and this applies to all your interactions with inmates, not just the Deaf – is be sensitive to the humanity of your charges. Inmates are people. Some of them may not be GOOD people, while others may possibly be unjustly incarcerated saints – but whichever, they’re still people. Treat people with dignity and respect, and they will always treat you with the same.

I closed by asking for permission to post our interaction, and this was the response.

Also, please ask the readers for their input and suggestions. I’m going to be writing a paper on the subject and would just looove (no sarcasm, I find the subject matter absolutely fascinating) to hear what others have to say. I’ve already spoken with a few interpreters and my thirst for knowledge is nowhere near quenched.

I’ve actually been reading some of the articles on your website and am disgusted that there are guards that would not report the rapes. This is part of the reason why I want to work with the men. There are more instances of rape. I want to be there as a fair guard. I look at corruption as a disgusting human flaw that I will attempt to stay away from. I don’t want to become that person. It makes me sad to think of such a thing.

I want to help in what small way I can, but I need your help to do it. I want to try to be as sincere and to best represent my mind set as best as possible (it was really late last night when I wrote that message). Also, you could just post this message as well, I’d be okay with that. I forgot to mention, I might consider, if I find working with the general population too stressful to work during the grave yard shift, when there are no interpreters and the most common time (or so I’ve been led to believe) for inmates to attempt to commit suicide. If there is no interpreter and one deaf inmate should commit suicide I would want to be there (as probably the only guard that can speak ASL) to get their last message, to see what last words for they may have for loved ones.

In closing this post, I’m going to do what she requested. That is, I put it to you, our readers. Please comment on areas where you believe this person can study that will help them to be the kind of CO they want to be, and someone who can make a difference in our badly broken prison system.

English: Folsom prison

Folsom prison (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.

[Editor's note: While looking for artwork for this post, I discovered two very disturbing trends that I plan on looking into further for future posts. 1) The testing of robotic devices for use as prison guards. 2) Several sources report that becoming a prison guard - especially in California - is now seen as a more desirable career path than pursuing a professional career such as doctor or lawyer.]



An Excellent Video From DeafInc

By BitcoDavid

This video is geared towards Police officers to help them communicate with Deaf individuals. It is a wealth of valuable information for all of us however. It’s extremely well made, making use of split screen and P.O.V. shots. It’s fully captioned and narrated in ASL. Well worth the watch.

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.

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:]

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:

September at

Individuals with Disabilities and the Issue of False Confessions

False confessions are more common than expected. The most common explanations are that the suspect experiences fear, intimidation, frustration and “just wants to go home.”

Deaf individuals as well as other vulnerable groups are at risk for making false confessions because of their communication differences and disabilities, youth, and personality characteristics.  In one case I worked on the detectives did not use a sign language interpreter with a deaf woman suspect but instead used written communication and lipreading.  The detectives were not aware that the deaf woman had a second grade reading level, could barely write an English grammatical sentence, and was guessing and reading body language to try to determine what the detectives were asking her.

Furthermore, police officers are often trained in using coercive techniques, asking complex questions, repeating questions, making false promises, or threats, or using confusing and ambiguous language to force the false confession. In this article, Individuals with Disabilities and the Issue of False Confessions, published in the Champion, July 2012, p. 34-42, Dr. Vernon and I provide recommendations that can be adopted such as mandatory video recording so that vulnerable populations such as deaf individuals are provided their Constitutional Rights and to ensure there is documentation that the confession is reliable and voluntary.

[Sadly, the link to this article is unavailable, as the Champion has chosen to place it in their protected area. I have included links to their membership page, should you want to join and access it that way. Guest memberships cannot access the protected area. --BitcoDavid]

[***Update - Dr. Andrews was kind enough to e-mail me a PDF of the full article. Here's the link. - BitcoDavid]

False Confessions


Justice Silenced Campaign – Re: Sept. 4th Meeting

This is a PDF letter written to General Council Greg Buzzard. This letter was written as a follow-up to a meeting that took place on September 4th.

Represented were: AdvoCare, and C.U.R.E. National (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants), Embracing Lambs, Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD), and The Justice Silenced Campaign. was surely there in spirit.

The injustices that Deaf and Hard of Hearing Citizens endure in the Courts, interactions with Law Enforcement, and in the Correctional System, are beyond reproach.

Click on this link to view the entire letter:


We wish to emphasize the urgency for the establishment of a bipartisan/bicameral Congressional Caucus for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Citizens that would focus on common legislative objectives to assure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other laws that protect people with disabilities, in all aspects of the government, including, our Courts, Law Enforcement, and the Correctional System.

Not Providing Interpreters for Deaf Persons Can Result in Tragedy as Loss of Life as Well as Be Costly for Jail Systems

Shawn Francisco Vigil, died in prison. He was not provided an interpreter during the medical/psychological intake process, was placed in isolation and committed suicide.

Below, the link to the Denver Post‘s coverage:

Jail officials had housed Vigil in a special unit away from the general population and failed to do any “meaningful analysis of whether he posed a substantial danger to himself,” according to the lawsuit that was filed by Debbie Ulibarri, Vigil’s mother.

In recognition of their negligence, Denver has agreed to pay a settlement to Ulibarri’s family in the amount of $695,000.

The suit alleged the city did not adequately train staff, didn’t have proper accommodations for hearing impaired inmates, failed to provide a sign language interpreter and did not screen the inmate for mental health concerns.

You Learn Lessons in Some Strange Places

I was at my endocrinologist‘s clinic this morning – wowing him with my stellar

Speak Out: Sign language interpretation

Speak Out: Sign language interpretation (Photo credit: Grant Neufeld)

physicality – when an interesting exchange took place. It appears, that his patient immediately after me, required an interpreter. “Sign language?” I asked, obsessive individual that I’m known to be. “Nope, Spanish,” he said. “Problem is, they won’t wait – they’re such prima donnas,” he lamented.

He went on to tell me that that the interpreters and translators, employed by the hospital will stay as long as necessary when they’re actually doing their job, but they will only spend 15 minutes in the waiting room. “Then, they just up and split. They don’t care that we may have a problem case that’s holding up everybody else. They don’t get how hard it is, being a doctor, I guess.”

“No,” says I. “That’s not it at all. It’s the hospital itself. The bean counters upstairs feel that if an interpreter is sitting on her fundament in the waiting room, she’s not earning her pay. I’ll bet you anything they’re told they won’t be paid for time not actually interpreting.”

I went to the U.S. Department of Labor site, and found this link:

English: pictures of 2 sign language interpret...

Two sign language interpreters working together as a team for a student association meeting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




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