Famous Web Site Posts Exaggerated April Fools Story

By BitcoDavid

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

But you already knew that, huh? What gave it away, the NY Yankees bit?

Anyway, I just want to say that I’m shocked! Shocked I tell you! That DeafInPrison.com – the blog of record - would stoop to such antics!

All I can say in my defense is, “I have no recollection of that event, Mr. Senator.” ” It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.” And of course, “the check is in the mail.”

Happy April Fools, everybody.

 

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.

Boston Red Sox to Begin Training in ASL

By BitcoDavid

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

The 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox will begin a program of ASL training for all players, according to principal owner, John Henry. Henry said, “This has nothing to do with communication. It occurred to me and to [team manager] John Farrell, that ASL would be a good way for our players to improve coordination skills and arm strength.”

An intensive program of ASL in conjunction with Ballet and needlepoint is scheduled to begin as early as May 1st. Participation is mandatory, and the association is currently investigating the contractual and legal issues.

“After all, we won the Series last year,” added noted pitcher Jon Lester, “so this year’s kind of a throw-away. I mean, what have we got to lose?”

Not to get caught behind the eight-ball on this, the N.Y. Yankees issued a statement that all players will now train with dark glasses, earmuffs and a cork in their mouths, while music from The Who’s Tommy will be blasted from the P.A.

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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Your Thoughts on the Felix Garcia Case

By BitcoDavid

Felix Garcia celebrating his GED in 1984 Courtesy Pat Bliss. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/deaf-prisoners-felix-garcia

Felix Garcia celebrating his GED in 1984 Courtesy Pat Bliss.
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/deaf-prisoners-felix-garcia

Although we have entered into an arrangement with Sachs Media to bring their considerable skills to bear on Felix Garcia’s pending clemency, we are still getting signatures on our petition as well. I’m fine with that, but I hope people are also signing their petition – which goes directly into the inboxes of the officials who have influence on the case.

In the meantime, as I have perused the, now, 765 signatures, several of your comments have struck me. I have collected a few here, for you all to see. These comments are your words, not mine. In other words, this is how the Public feels about Felix.

My boyfriend has done time with him and was a translator for him while at polk ci. He had discussed this with him in detail and was very surprise to heat that it finally made he courts. After listen to him and then reading up on Felix I felt that I should support him. Must be bad to be in there for being guilty but being innocent that must must be really bad.

***

I am a certified sign language interpreter with 25 years of experience. I also have Deaf parents and a Deaf sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I take this case very personally because it could have been one of my family members being unjustly jailed. This is a complete failure of our justice system that should have been so blatantly obvious at the time, but somehow it wasn’t. Mr. Garcia should be freed immediately based upon this new evidence and more importantly, due to the lack of him being afforded the opportunity and ability to defend himself against these false charges. I stand with all those who support that persons who are Deaf or hard of hearing should never be tried without the clear ability to communicate and defend themselves against any and all claims made against them. To do otherwise is complete madness and unconstitutional.

***

This would be heartbreaking if it was merely a case of one man being framed for murder by his own brother and wasting more than thirty years in a prison cell. It is infuriating once you understand that Frank Garcia openly confessed to framing his brother Felix in writing and in court, and yet Felix is STILL in prison seven years later. But what makes it truly, egregiously, outrageously horrific, is that Felix is functionally Deaf, and like other such men and women in prison, his Deafness has been denied – when not outright exploited – by our glorious justice system from the day he was arrested. He has been denied interpreters and even batteries for his hearing aids, laughed at when attempting to communicate, frightened into a desperate suicide attempt by guards, and raped. This. Is. Not. Acceptable.
***
Keep up the outstanding work, Pat Bliss and team!
***
As a former law enforcement agent, I feel sad and guilty for the unjustified incarceration of Felix Garcia. Please, do not let this tragedy continue, release this poor soul who was betrayed by his own brother.
***
New evidence requires a review of this case; and not giving a Deaf man access to his own hearing aids is Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

This is just a sample of the many comments I have received on the petition, but they convey the emotions and thinking of the general public as they become increasingly aware of Felix’s plight. Please take a moment to sign the Sachs Media petition here, and Like their FaceBook page, here. Even if you have already signed our petition. I know that’s a lot to ask, and I apologize for it, but this way, you can be assured that your voice will be heard.

At the same time, I’d like to thank everybody who has already signed ours, and to let you know that our petition is still active, and still holds the record for longest lived petition since this case was first made public. We had the record for the most signatures, and although we have gained a significant number since Sachs Media’s petition was launched, I honestly hope we no longer have that honor. When our 765 signatures become the second runner-up, that means that so many more will have already been brought to Florida’s attention.
You can tweet about Felix using the hashtags, #JusticeForFelix or #FreeFelix.

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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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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Press Release on Felix Garcia Case

By BitcoDavid

Photo: Hundreds rallied at the Florida Capitol today! Help Felix Garcia by signing the Change.org petition. http://bit.ly/FreeFelix

Rally at Florida State Capitol for SB1304 and HB1125 – and for Clemency for Felix. Image: Sachs Media Group

Below, you can see a copy of the press release that Sachs Media Group sent out to all the major players in both the national and local media. DeafInPrison.com is not only proud of our efforts to free Felix Garcia, but we are also quite flattered that Sachs Media included us in that distribution. New York Times – we take our place at your table. Pass the biscuits, please.

Again, this is a press release. So, no pictures. That’s why I embedded it, rather than pasting it into this article. But it is the first press release we’ve ever received. In the words of Faith Hill, “I still like to wear my old ball cap – ride my kids around piggy-back.”

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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Deaf Bill of Rights act in Georgia

By Supporter Contributor Frank James John Lala, Jr., Ph.D.

 

Here’s the linked Ruling via embedded PDF.

 

For more reading by Frank James John Lala Jr. Ph.D. see the link below.

http://www.amazon.com/Counseling-Substance-Abuser-Frank-James/dp/0966375300

Keynote Speaker at the World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf on Mental Health Issues (1999), and author of, “Counseling the Deaf Substance Abuser”. Dr. Frank Lala, recipient of Gallaudet University’s prestigious Laurent Clerc Award by Dr. I. King Jordan in recognition for the work in mental health and substance abuse. Author has both School Smarts (Education/Degrees) and Street Smarts (Experience/Harsh Childhood that gives him Survival Skills, Character, and Perspectives on Life)

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#KeepASLInSchools Video Finally Done!

By BitcoDavid

It was like the 7 labors of Hercules!

All kidding aside, it was a great project and I am proud and happy to have been a part of it. So, without further ado…

As I am working more and more with Sign now, I’m learning some of the significant differences between ASL and English. In video, the most significant difference is speed. I have learned that even Native Signers cannot communicate at the same speed as oral speakers. Most videos have a video track and an audio track. In some cases you will also have a narration track and perhaps a musical soundtrack. In the case of this particular video, we had a video track, a narration track, a musical soundtrack and a captioned overlay track.

Chipmunk

Chipmunk (Photo credit: ogwen)

now you can generally speed-up or slow-down the video tracks, but the audio tracks have to maintain the speed they were recorded in, or they will change pitch. Radically, in fact. Preteen girls sound like grizzled old men, and grizzled old men sound like Alvin’s Chipmunks. (In fact, that’s the secret behind those chipmunk voices.) Oh, and don’t think you can rely on things like Pitch Shifters or Autotune to fix these problems, either. They won’t work.

English: David R Ferguson Audio Engineer

David R Ferguson Audio Engineer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, the point is, when putting together a video, you start with the audio tracks and build around them, not the other way round. Great, but the audio tracks in this case are naturally 1 and 1/2 to 2 times the speed of the signed video tracks. Soooo, it was a lot of fun at the ol’ BitcoDavid audiovisual research lab.

Anyway, it’s all done and I sincerely hope you like it – and perhaps learn a little something from it.

My heartfelt thanks go out to Monica Hood of DeafInsight and all those who contributed to the project.

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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Wind in My Sails

By BitcoDavid

Grant Executive Clemency to Felix Garcia

Where Felix Garcia is concerned, the go-to is and has always been Pat Bliss. Ms. Bliss has put forth a herculean 17 year effort to free Felix. As a result, he calls her “Mom.” The most recent turn of events in the case, is the ongoing Clemency hearing in which Pat is being assisted in this struggle by Reggie Garcia – Felix’s pro bono attorney.

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

These two individuals have enlisted the aid of Sachs Media Group, Florida’s #1 Public Relations firm. DeafInPrison.com has opted to be of aid where ever possible to Sachs Media. They have a lot of boots on the ground, where we do not. One area where we can assist them, as they take on this final leg of a struggle we have been solely involved in for almost 2 years now, is the transfer of signatures from our petition to theirs.

I have done this, but unfortunately, Change.org will not accept signatures from a Care2 petition. It’s simply a tech issue, having to do with login requirements. It is due to this situation, that I am asking the following.

If you are one of the 745 individuals who were gracious enough to sign our petition, could you please see your way clear to sign theirs as well? I fully realize that this seems like a bothersome request. You would be well justified in thinking that since you’ve signed one petition, you shouldn’t be asked to re-sign yet another.

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

But here’s the thing. Their petition is directly linked to the e-mails of all the individuals in Florida who we were targeting. The difference being, these people will receive these signatures right away – in their inboxes, not in the U.S. mail. Rather than being an envelope they can simply stick in a desk drawer somewhere, these signatures will be right in their faces – right away. I can’t stress how important that will be.

Some have asked me what happened – did the wind get knocked out of my sails? The answer is a most definite no. The wind is most assuredly still in my sails, but now I’ve got an armada rather than just one little boat. With our help – all of us – Sachs Media can finally free Felix.

Please visit their Petition page, here. Sign the petition – even if you’ve already signed mine. Like their FaceBook page, here. I will be posting on that page regularly. We’re not selling out, we’re trading up. After 32 years, Felix needs to be freed. It’s a moral issue, a legal issue and a justice issue. Every day that Felix spends in prison is another day we all suffer, another day the whole world suffers.

Here’s the unformatted link to the Sachs Media petition:
https://www.change.org/petitions/rick-scott-grant-executive-clemency-to-felix-garcia

Here’s the unformatted FaceBook link:https://www.facebook.com/championsforjusticeforfelixgarcia

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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Is the U.S. Becoming a Police State?

By BitcoDavid

police_state

The above infographic was made by SecurityHub.com, and sent to me via e-mail. the full sized original can be viewed, Here. Please comment. I would be interested to know if our readers agree or disagree.

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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Major Update on Felix’s Case

By BitcoDavid

As most of you know, DeafInPrison.com has been working tirelessly, on the release of Felix Garcia, the innocent Deaf man, imprisoned for 30 years thus far, in Florida. We have written countless pieces on his situation, been in constant contact with Pat Bliss, the paralegal who has been working on this case for over a decade, now, and we created the longest lived and most active petition thus far, seeking his pardon.

Well, Pat Bliss and Reggie Garcia – the pro bono attorney who’s handling the clemency hearing – have enlisted the aid of Sachs Media Group in an effort to inform both the public, and the requisite Florida legislators, about this urgent case.

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

Sachs Media is in the process of launching a FaceBook page, and of starting their own petition on Change.org. DeafInPrison.com will be transferring our 740+ signatures over to Sachs Media’s petition – which is directly linked to the e-mail addresses of the same individuals we were targeting. That way, those individuals will receive signatures immediately, rather than our waiting until we reach the 1000 mark. Sachs Media will also be coordinating this activity with a press release – something we’ve tried on numerous occasions.

I will be posting those links as soon as they become available to me.

This is a major step forward in Felix’s case. Sachs Media has a large war chest of contacts and resources they will be able to bring to bear, and those of us who have worked to see Felix freed, may finally get the resolution we’ve been working so hard – and waiting so long – for.

Most recent photo of Felix with Pat Bliss.  Image credit Pat Bliss

Most recent photo of Felix with Pat Bliss.
Image credit Pat Bliss

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the individuals who have signed our petition, and who have worked through social media as well as contributing or commenting here, on DeafInPrison.com. Your signatures will now be added to a much larger pool, and transferred directly to Pam Bondi, Governor Scott and all the members of the Florida Cabinet who have sway with the Clemency Board. When Felix is released, you will be able to say that you were directly responsible for helping to make that dream a reality.

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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Evergreen Dog Bites Baby

By BitcoDavid

This story has nothing to do with our stated mission, but I’m a dog lover who grew up in Evergreen, Co., and I can’t let a national story about both – in synchronicity – go unnoticed.

Of course, in my day, there was no 4700 block of Pine Road. In fact, I don’t think there was a Pine Road at all. When I lived there, Evergreen sported one traffic light. The town is not without its celebrity however. It was the home of John Hinckley, the man who attempted assassinating Ronald Reagan. It was also featured in the Ashley Judd film, Double Jeopardy.

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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Marlee Matlin @ BHCC

By BitcoDavid

Image Credit BitcoDavid

Image Credit BitcoDavid

I can’t say enough about Marlee Matlin‘s appearance at Bunker Hill C0mmunity College in Charlestown, today. She was funny, enlightening, open, friendly and entertaining. She’s overcome much to enjoy the success she does, and her message transcends the Deaf community and speaks to the underdog in us all.

Ms. Matlin’s parents were supportive and nurturing, and they started her out in Sign, early. Unlike many parents of Deaf children, they learned the language themselves, along side her. So, Marlee was quite fortunate to have missed the gaping communication gap that many Deaf must endure.  Nonetheless, they were reticent about her going into acting as a career, and tried to dissuade her – in none but the nicest of ways.

She goes on to say, that it was Henry Winkler who initially gave her the confidence to try, and Winkler has remained a lifelong friend.

I wanted to shoot some highlights for you, but I was hesitant to video the whole show. She is after all a star, and I didn’t want Disney sending the Copyright Police out after me.

Marlee's English Interpreter. Photo credit BitcoDavid

Marlee’s English Interpreter. Photo credit BitcoDavid

There were several interpreters on hand to interpret signed questions as well as to convert spoken questions into sign, although Ms. Matlin can hear with her aids. Most interesting however, was the interpreter whom she apparently works regularly with, who read the English translation of her sign for the audience. I actually found that I could follow her, without having to listen to him at all. I’ve only been signing for about 9 months, but I could understand pretty much all she said.

After the speech was a Q&A. I raised my hand multiple times but wasn’t picked. I didn’t have a question for her. I merely intended to say – in Sign – “Hi, my name is BitcoDavid and I’ve been signing for about 9 months. I just wanted to sign to a genuine movie star – and have her sign back.” I had actually practiced that bit, the night before. But, alas it was not to be.

The auditorium was packed! I was glad to see such a huge turnout, but of course it made for difficulty getting in and finding a seat. Still, SRO is great for a Deaf performer at a one-horse community college. I couldn’t have spent my time any better.

Photo Credit BitcoDavid

Photo Credit BitcoDavid

There was also a mess of food I couldn’t eat -  Carbs, that old chestnut – and a book signing. I thought about hitting her with my ASL dazzle then, but the line was prohibitively long, and I only had a 2 hour parking window. In Boston, people have been murdered over parking spaces – so I decided not to push my luck.

Guess I’ll just have to wait and sign to the next Deaf movie star to hit town.

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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Event: Marlee Matlin Speaks at BHCC

By BitcoDavid

Thursday, February 27, 2014
A300 Auditorium
Program begins at 1:00 p.m.
Book signing to follow

Free and Open to the Public – Online registration is required.

Winner of an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actress, and author of I’ll Scream Later and Deaf Child Crossing, Marlee Matlin will speak about the journey of her life: from the frightening loss of her hearing at 18 months to the heights and depths of Hollywood, her battles with addiction, and the unexpected challenges of becoming an emissary for the deaf community. Matlin is known for her starring role in the film Children of a Lesser God and numerous TV appearances, including recurring roles on The West Wing, The L Word, Reasonable Doubts and Switched at Birth.

DeafInPrison.com would like to thank Suzann L. Bedrosian of Deaf Community News for alerting us to this event. Here’s the Link to register. http://www.bhcc.mass.edu/cc/

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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Progress is Being Made on Mandates

By BitcoDavid

English: Federal Bureau of Prisons (seal) Espa...

Federal Bureau of Prisons seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, the Senate passed the sorely needed Smarter Sentencing Act. Supporters of the law came from both sides of the aisle, but the act is opposed by the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, who believe that Federal mandatory sentencing is a necessary tool for minimizing crime and aiding prosecutors.

The truth is, this legislation would reduce prison population and ease recidivism, balance out racial disparity, heal broken families and save tax dollars. More Black males under the age of 40 are currently jailed or imprisoned, than were at the peak of South African Apartheid. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is operating at 140% of its maximum capacity. That means that there are 14 inmates for every 10 beds.

English: An aerial view of the Federal Correct...

An aerial view of the Federal Correctional Institute in Sheridan, Oregon. It is run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons by the US government (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While it has been proven that Blacks are no more likely to sell drugs, than Whites,  they are far more likely to be prosecuted for drug law offenses. Whites also tend to receive no sentences or light sentences, whereas Blacks are more likely to feel the brunt of mandatory sentencing laws.

Yesterday’s Senate vote shows that both Republicans and Democrats believe that America’s incarceration fever is out of control and needs reform. The problem has become so disastrous, that even these two opposing philosophies are willing to work for change.

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For years, judges have opposed these draconian laws. I have even heard of cases where judges handed down rulings, while in tears – their own sense of right and wrong being in direct opposition to laws that tied their hands.

Of course, like any legislation, yesterday’s vote was only the first hurdle. The bill will now go to the House, where if it is passed will go to Obama‘s desk. From there, it will have to face any Supreme Court challenge. So, don’t expect to be picking up your loved one, at that main gate, tomorrow – but given the givens, DeafInPrison.com lauds this flickering flame of progress and says thank you to the U.S. Senate.

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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Event: HEARD’s 3rd Aniversary Bash

By BitcoDavid

HEARD will be celebrating its 3rd year, on Tuesday, February 18th at 6:30 PM, Eastern. The event will be held at D.C. Public Library, Tenley-Friendship Branch, 4901 V Street NW. There will be speakers, a new class of interns announced and the Al Jazeera documentary will be screened. Embedded below is the FaceBook invitation page.

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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My Insperation

By BitcoDavid

Derrick Coleman is the first Deaf NFL player. He has been featured in inspirational commercials, and has helped bring the Seattle Seahawks to the Superbowl against the Denver Broncos. Here’s a letter written to Mr. Coleman by a young girl.

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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Friends for the Friendless

By BitcoDavid

What if there were a program that benefited the disabled community, cut down on prison recidivism, and rescued animals? Oh wait, there is. A number of states are now exploring programs where inmates can care for and train adopted service dogs.

In one example, C.H.A.M.P. Assistance Dogs Inc. has partnered with Missouri Department of Corrections and placed dogs at Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WERDCC), in Vandalia, Missouri. The dogs go from local shelters to an 8 to 10 week training program at the facility. There, these animals live with and accompany the women in their day to day activities while being trained in all aspects of life as a service dog. Staff members visit the prison once a week to evaluate the dogs. Successful inmates are rewarded with the opportunity to take on more dogs.

The Prison Pet Partnership of Tacoma, Washington has as their mission statement, one single sentence: Prison Pet Partnership enriches the lives of inmates, homeless animals and the community through the human-animal bond.

I got this quote off the Florida DOC‘s Web Site:

The dogs featured on this web site were trained for eight weeks at prisons in Florida by state inmates, who were themselves trained by a professional dog trainer, in the hopes that they may find gainful employment in animal services when released from prison. The dogs were taught how to sit, stay, come and walk to the left and slightly behind their owner. They are housebroken and crate trained, and have all their shots. They’ve been spayed or neutered and many are microchipped. Costs for the dogs range from $45 to $155 depending on program type, length of training and whether they were already spayed or neutered.

Florida actually has a number of programs in place, training both service dogs and companion animals. These programs are available to inmates of both genders, in facilities throughout the state. Colorado offers the training of companion animals that are not  service dogs through their prison industrialization program – CCI (Colorado Corrections Industries).

The success of these programs, for both the animals and the inmates is well documented. Besides the long known advantages afforded any individual by bonding with an animal, inmates may prove to be even better suited to working with abandoned animals. After all, who can understand what it’s like be unwanted, better than an inmate?

This kind of experience gives inmates a leg up in the world after their release, because they have developed a professional – and in demand – skill. It also teaches people who may have never had to provide care to another life, how to do so. But, perhaps the most important aspect of these programs, from the point of view of the inmate, is it provides a friend in a place where friendship is rare. Just knowing that somebody is tail-waggingly awaiting your return to your cell, may be just the morale boost required to turn a broken life around.

November 2013 — Prince Charming was donated to the program by an owner who no longer wanted him. He was a little on the obnoxious side. You see, he was not neutered when he came to the program. Neutering made Prince Charming a new dog. His new ability to concentrate soon sent Prince to the head of the class. He was adopted by an exceptional couple who resides in California. When he isn’t traveling all over the United States with his family, he is entertaining the kids in the park or nursing home with his large repetoire of tricks. Prince Charming now adds a new sparkle to the lives of nursing home residents. He has earned his licensed therapy dog title. — CCI

The dogs don’t always go work in the outside world. Florida also has a program at the Miami-Dade Juvenile Detention Center, revolving around Therapy Dog, Justice. The rescued Black Lab is used as a calming influence on troubled Teens, and time alone with Justice is offered as positive reinforcement. The program has been markedly successful. The HART Program at Wakulla CI, gives Heartworm positive dogs a place to recover and rehabilitate.

In researching this article, I was stunned by the number of programs of this nature, in operation today. That being said, I can’t think of anything more beneficial to all concerned, and have to wonder why there aren’t many, many more.

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.

Event: HEARD Hosts Panel on Junius Wilson

By BitcoDavid

In Nowhere Man in a Nowhere Land, by Jean F. Andrews, we told the story of Junius Wilson. He was a Deaf, Black man living in the Jim Crow South. He spent 76 years in the State Hospital for the Colored Insane - wrongfully charged with rape.

On February 11th, HEARD and the Disability Law Society will host a lunchtime panel event featuring speakers familiar with Mr. Wilson and his story. Susan Birch, author of the book Unspeakable, and others will be speaking and answering discussion questions.

Location is the Washington College of Law – room 503, and the time is Noon on February 11th (a Tuesday).

I for one, wish I could be in attendance. It strikes me as a must see event.

Below is the HEARD invite as a PDF embed.

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.

Suppose it were Mozart

By BitcoDavid

Prison is a horrible place, and an even more horrible concept. But I would propose that perhaps it is we who suffer most when our friends and loved ones find themselves chewed up in the soulless machine that is America’s Criminal Justice System.

Now, as always – I would preface this article with the disclaimer that sure, some people definitely belong behind bars. Yes, Virginia there are criminals, and yes, there is no place that can serve them better than the cold steel of the  Greyrock Hilton.

But where would the world be if Mozart were sent to waste his life behind barbed wire? What a dull, colorless place Earth would be if Picasso were denied paint and canvas, or if Bell were kept from playing with magnets and wires. And to some degree or another, are we not all Mozarts, Picassos and Bells? I put it to you in the purely theoretical. Is it not possible that a cure for Cancer, a discovery of Warp drive, another Jupiter Symphony isn’t rotting in some hell-hole somewhere?

Most recent photo of Felix with Pat Bliss.  Image credit Pat Bliss

Felix with Pat Bliss.
Image credit Pat Bliss

Pat Bliss is an expert on prisons. She does what many of us wish we could. She goes into these places – on a regular basis – and works with the men and women behind bars. Hence, she has learned a great deal about the tangled web of visitation and the virtually inaccessible prisoner trust accounts. Last night on the phone, I broached an idea I had been hatching.

"Jail" in Sign Image: LifePrint.com

“Jail” in Sign
Image: LifePrint.com

You see, as many DeafInPrison.com readers are already aware, I have set out to learn Sign language. So, while watching the absolutely awesome Al Jazeera exposé featuring Felix Garcia, I saw him signing. I thought it might be a great opportunity for ASL students in the Florida area, to visit Felix over a period of a few weeks. Felix could tutor people in a boot camp immersion environment, via daily visits. In return, people could pay Felix for the service, which would provide him a nest egg for that day when he finally gets his clemency.

So, I needed to communicate with Pat Bliss, to work out some of the logistics of this wicked pissah idea of mine. I grabbed the phone, cranked the crank and hollered into the pipe. “Sarie – get me Pat Bliss.”

Well, it turns out my idea is impossible.

You see, individuals would not be able to visit Felix. Felix is allowed only 2 hours of visitation a week, and that on weekends only, and only by authorized visitors. He is allowed only 1 hour a month for visitation from media types for interviews. He has limited access to TTY, and of course no Video Relay access. He cannot operate or maintain an Internet presence, cannot access social media and – other than the very limited computer training program in which he is already involved, has no access to digital technology. In fact, Pam Bondi has a certain well known undergarment all tangled up in a bunch over the fact that I – and others – maintain a Web presence for Felix, as 3rd parties.

Furthermore, Florida takes issue with inmates getting paid for performing services for private individuals – unless of course it’s slave labor for factory facilities like CCA and other private sector profiteers.  It’s OK if United Fruit pays him 50¢ a day, but you and I can’t pay him 50$ an hour to teach us Sign.

***

Here’s the thing that strikes me about Felix. He’s a downright nice guy. I’ve seen him in so many interviews now, discussed him in such depth with Pat, and written so much about him that I can say that without fear of contradiction. Felix is a nice guy. And moreover, an individual who could make a substantial contribution to society. So it is we who miss out. We are the losers here. Just as we would have missed the glory of the Jupiter symphony, the psychological expressionism of Cubism, and the 2nd naturedness of telephone communication – had those luminaries been cast aside – we are missing all the great contributions that could – at least theoretically – be made by the Felixes of this world.

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.

Resolutions

By BitcoDavid

As a full third of Americans hunker down and prepare for Armageddon Storm 2014, I thought I might talk about some of my New Years resolutions. Now, I’m not a big resolution guy. I find that people tend to hit the ground running, but lose steam after about a month or so, leaving the resolution to gather dust in the basement, next to the treadmill and the Ab Buster. Conversely, I think if developing a specific habit is desired, it can be started anytime, and there is no need to await a new year. That  being said, we constantly reinvent and reapply ourselves, and Jan 2 is as good a time as any, to again pick up the bit, dig in our heels and renew our commitments.

First and foremost of course, would be Felix. I have no control over the plethora of factors effecting Felix’s release, but I can renew my commitment to his cause. We have only 300 more signatures to go, before we can send Felix’s petition off to my 2 favorite Republicans, Pam Bondi and Rick Scott. At the same time, Pat Bliss and a Pro Bono attorney are working on a clemency hearing for Felix. In fact, Pat should be returning from Florida soon, and hopefully she’ll have some news for us. In the meantime, we at DeafInPrison.com can double down and continue writing about Felix and his case, and keep beating the drum for you – our readers – to sign his petition.

Then there’s ASL. I would like to be conversational by this time next year. In fact, assuming that Dr. Twersky Glasner has another symposium this year, I’d like to be able to enjoy my lunch while signing away like a pro. No more banishment to the Hearie Table – population 1. I can learn to sign one-handed, so I can eat veggie wraps with the other.

De Niro in Raging Bull. Image: Andy's Film Blog

De Niro in Raging Bull. Image: Andy’s Film Blog

Of course some resolutions are more personal. I want to get better at inside fighting, and keeping my guard up on attack. I stay in pocket well, when I’m on the defensive, but I tend to drop my guard when I move in for a combination. And this coming Summer, I’d like to run a few more races than I did last year. 3 short years from the staring window, and I’m a boxer and a runner. Not bad huh? I think I’m the oldest guy at my gym.

Anyway, we have our work cut out for us. Happy New Year, and I wish us all success in 2014. Let’s make this the year that was.

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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