This is Still Going On?

By BitcoDavid

Since we launched this Web site, almost 3 years ago, we’ve been reporting on cases where the police have beaten or jailed a Deaf person, because they didn’t realize that Sign language is not a threat. We’ve called for training of officers, and tried to post suggestions for Deaf citizens during police interactions. And we’re not alone. Dozens of blogs, activist groups and organizations have also tried to provide solutions to this tragic epidemic.

Yet, it still happens – and almost daily – somewhere in the U.S.

Here’s the latest case.

You’ll probably have to zoom in, to read the full article, as it is a WebCap. Or you can go see the original at:

AddictingInfo.org

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.

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 DeafInPrison.com 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

By
BitcoDavid

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 DeafInPrison.com 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 DeafInPrison.com 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. DeafInPrison.com 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.

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