My 1st incounter with l.a.’z finest

By Moorbey

[ Editor's Note: Moorbey'z Blog has been an asset and a help to DeafInPrison.com. He has graciously offered to provide us with this Supporter Contribution post. I have left it in his own unique writing style, and have added only some images. I see his writing style as the literary equivalent of what graffiti is to visual art. If graffiti is how the people paint, then - love it or hate it - this may be how they write. Nonetheless, this is a powerful and tragic story, and it deserves your attention. --BitcoDavid]

It waz summertime we had just moved in a brand new house in a upper middle class white neighborhood. Momz sent me age 10 to the store and my 2 brotherz age 9 and the baby of the boyz age 7, came along so we could play some space invaderz at the 7-11 which just happened to be 2 1/2 blockz away from home.

We purchase the itemz that momz wanted and we played space invaders 4 about and hour and we started walking back to the house. We get 1 1/2 block from the house and we see a black & white cruise by uz and all of a sudden they whip a U-turn and cut uz off. Now we have grocery bag in hand and we are just walkin and talkin. The 1st officer sayz what are u doing in this neighborhood. My baby brutha sayz we are coming from 7-11.
Cop #2 sayz niggerz can’t afford to live in this area, so we must have ran away from tha Boy’z home that iz 3 milez away. So I sayz  take uz around tha corner and speak with our mom. Cop #1 sayz that iz not our job and out of the clear blue he slapz tha baby.

Now we have been taught a fair fight iz a fair fight, do not ever let an adult put handz on u unless they are family or a friend of tha family. So it waz on. We did our best to break this cop off but now we are just some happy kidz digging life until this life changing experience. Cop #2 makez a call on tha radio officer in distress call an within minutez 3 other unitz appear. They handcuff uz and start to beat on uz like we are grown men.

Now at this point we have been gone 4 about 3 hourz,and popz comez home from the golf course and momz sayz go find tha boyz they been gone to long.
He goes to 7-11 and they tell him we have been gone 4 hourz and pullz over to talk to copz and noticez we are bloodied, bruised and in the back seat of separate squad carz on the way to tha infamous Rampart Division Station. Popz goes to get momz to head down to tha station, they take a good look at uz and popz loses it and he iz arrested. Momz had to bail him out. I had never seen my momz cry till that day. Chargez were dropped against everyone except me. I had 3 felony chargez of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest at 10 yearz old.
***
You can see more of Moorbey’s work at Moorbey’z Blog.
–If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.”Let’s be realistic, let’s do the impossible” Ernesto “Che” Guevara

There But For the Grace of God…

By BitcoDavid

Picture this. You’re on your way somewhere, when a police cruiser comes speeding up from behind you, and lunges up onto the sidewalk, cutting you off. Just as you stop in your tracks, another cruiser does the same maneuver, behind you. A third, boxes you in by stopping curbside, on your left. In unison, the cops jump out of their cruisers, guns drawn, and yelling. “Freeze! Get on the ground! Face Down!”

Website delivered a "404." Unable to cite photo credit.

Website delivered a “404.” Unable to cite photo credit.

You’re standing there, completely stunned and unable to move – unable, even to make sense of their commands. “I said get down! Get down on the ground NOW!” You hear one say, “if you don’t lie down you scumbag, I’ll blow you in half!”

“What’s going on, Officers? What did I do?”

“Shut up! Shut up and lie down or we’ll shoot!”

You lie down. Face down on the frigid sidewalk – you lie down.

“What did I do?” You feel one large man sit on top of you, his knee digging into your back. Your arms are violently pulled behind you, and with crystal clarity, you hear the ratcheting click of the cuffs as they lock into place.

Nobody has told you anything. Nobody has even asked your name. Someone or some thing is droning out your Miranda rights. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to…”

“… Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?”

“I didn’t do anything. I don’t want a lawyer. I don’t want to remain silent. I didn’t do anything.”

“Just answer yes or no. Do you understand your rights?”

Defeated even before the bell, you nod your assent, accompanied with a croaked out, “yes.”

Now you’re in the back of a police cruiser. The only clear memory you have is how much it hurt when they picked you up from the ground, by pulling at your cuffed arms. A searing scorch shot through your shoulders and upper back. You thought they were pulling your arms out from the sockets.

“Can you at least tell me what I did?” You ask, as the cruiser rolls on for what seems like hours.

“Please sit back and be quiet, sir. You’ll get all that information.” You hear him lean over and say to his partner, “God, I hate the talkie ones.”

News coverage showing the number of arrests in one day in one county in Florida.http://baycountypress.com/2013/01/29/arrest-logs-and-mug-shots-for-bay-county-florida-jan-28-29-2013/

News coverage showing 40 arrests in one day in one county in Florida, 12 of which were drug related.
http://baycountypress.com/2013/01/29/arrest-logs-and-mug-shots-for-bay-county-florida-jan-28-29-2013/

A few more jokes, and good-natured conversation between them – as though you didn’t exist at all – and you’re at your first booking destination. You’re walked past rows of desks and computers, and finally placed in a cell. “Turn around,” somebody barks, and through a small slot in the barred door, your cuffs are finally removed. You feel like you just got off the Rack. Your only thought is how grateful you are to have those cuffs off.

Scared yet? If you’re a young Black male, in an urban environment, you stand a 1 in 4 chance of this happening to you.

You’re alone. You’re alone and although this nightmare has only just begun, you’re already broken. You’d say or do anything, if you thought it would help end this.

One of the cops – you recognize him. He more or less took the point on your arrest – keeps coming back to your cell and asking you pointless questions. “How old are you?” “What kind of car do you own?” “Do you live alone?” Finally, at one of his stops, you ask him, “Hey, can I go to the bathroom?”

“Gimme a few minutes, and we’ll get someone to take care of that for you.”

You wait for what seems like another hour. Finally, someone comes and tells you to turn around for cuffing. “I have to go to the bathroom,” you say as he clicks the cuffs home, and unlocks the cell door. “Yeah, yeah. We’ll get you there. Just be patient and don’t make any trouble.”

He brings you to a desk, where he removes one of the cuffs and locks it to an eyelet. You’re chained to this desk. After about 10 minutes, another officer shows up. Moving like a glacier, he takes a form out of a drawer and inserts it into a 1960s vintage, whirring and clanking, typewriter. “Name.” It’s not a question. It’s a monosyllabic utterance, drenched in boredom. You give him your name.

After you’ve given this man your address, your phone number, your identifiable marks and tattoos and the name of the first girl you ever got to 2nd with, you tell him that the other officer promised, you could go to the bathroom. He looks askance at you – his face, silently calling you a pain in the ass – and gestures to another officer. This one takes the cuff out of the eyelet, and walks you down the hall to a large lavatory. He leaves the one cuff on your wrist, but lets you go in, alone.

It’s been a good 4 hours since you were arrested.

After you’re done in the bathroom, you’re brought back to the cell. Still, no one has told you what you’re being charged with, or given you any pertinent information. To them, this is all business as usual, but to you, it’s the scariest day of your life. A simple nugget of friendly information might go a long way toward assuaging that fear.

More time passes. Eventually, someone comes, cuffs you up again and puts you in a van. You’re on your way to your second booking destination.

Entrance and egress is provided through back doors and special causeways, so you don’t even know the addresses of the places their pin-balling you in and out of. Now you’re in a much larger facility – a holding pen of some sort. Other people are in there with you. You’re actually more scared of them than you are of the cops, so you just sit quietly in your little corner and wait. They are all doing the same.

It’s now been 8 full hours since you were arrested. You’re tired, hungry, lonely, cold and afraid. Your Wallet, cellphone, car keys, watch and other personal effects were all taken from you. Your belt and shoes were taken from you. You’ve been given some foam rubber slippers, and other than pants, shirt and underwear, you have nothing. A cop comes to the door of the pen and barks out your name. You stand up, and he tells you, “You’ve been ID-ed. You’re moving into interrogation.”

Here’s where you get your proverbial one phone call. He takes you – cuffed – into a room with a large number of pay phones. He removes one of the cuffs and clicks it into another eyelet, this one anchored to the phone stall. He hands you a coin, sufficient for a 3-minute local call. Not knowing any alternative that makes sense, you call your BFF. In response to her natural question, you yell to the four winds, “Hey, where am I?” “_______________ County detention facility. _____________ ____________ Street,” someone replies from the ether. After you hang up, you wait for someone to come and unchain you from the phone.

You’re stripped, cavity searched, and issued an orange jumpsuit. You’re put in a small, ill-lit, windowless room with a large mirror on one wall. Other than 2 chairs and the table you are chained to, there is nothing in the room. You wait.

You wait.

Finally, a team of interrogators comes into the room.

It seems, the more they talk – the more trouble you’re in. They deluge you with questions, show you mountains of unrecognizable photographs, badger you and accuse you. They tag team you with the good cop/bad cop routine. They threaten you with unfathomable torments, and try to convince you that confession is your only hope. They lie to you. They use your own body’s physical needs, such as food and sleep, as weapons against you. They eat in front of you, and drink coffee. They blow cigarette smoke in your face. It may be 12, 13 even 14 hours since you’ve had anything to eat. Sign this, and we’ll go get you a sandwich.

You don’t sign. Not because you’re some sort of staunch individualist who knows that his own innocence will eventually win out, but because you don’t have a clue what the hell they’re talking about. On the way back to your newest cell, they – jokingly – threaten to throw you down a flight of concrete stairs.

It’s Friday night. The earliest you can be arraigned is Monday afternoon.

The arraignment isn’t your day in court, your chance to stand up and speak on your behalf – while a deeply committed, and brilliant country lawyer snaps his suspenders, and challenges a jury. It’s 15 minutes of people using a foreign language to speak about you in 3rd party dissociation.

At the end, bail is set. 250,000 dollars. Of course, you only have to pay 10% of that. Do you have 25 grand? No. So back to jail you go. You’re awaiting trial. Six months – maybe a year. You’re in jail, you haven’t been tried, and you’re innocent of crime.

If you’re a young Black male living in a major city,  the likelihood of your serving time at some point in your life is 28% . If you’re a young male of any ethnicity and poor, you are 150 times more likely to be arrested than if you’re wealthy.

Next time you post to an Internet site, about how prisoners wouldn’t be there if they didn’t do something to deserve it, I hope you think about my little story, here.

Now, as horrific and Kafkaesque as this story reads, try – just try – to imagine what it would be like, if you were Deaf.

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.

 

How Prisoners Make Us Look Good – From the NYT

By BitcoDavid

Inmates at the state prison in San Quentin, Calif., in June.
Image: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/sunday-review/how-prisoners-make-data-look-good.html

I finally got a second to get a post up on here! I’ve been swamped, working on several upcoming projects, including the last video in the series of interviews with Felix Garcia by Jim Ridgeway and Pat Bliss, the PDF serialization of Felix’s story and an Idea Jim Ridgeway and I are hammering out together, which promises to be really exciting.

I saw this story in the New York Times about a week ago.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/sunday-review/how-prisoners-make-data-look-good.html

The author postulates that since prisoners aren’t counted by sociologists and statisticians when formulating the upward mobility and social status of ethnic groups – and that since almost 50% of U.S. inmates are Black – that Post Civil Rights Era Blacks are not doing as well as we may want to believe.

[C]orrections officials count actual prisoners, a captive audience; sociologists and census-takers typically undercount prisoners and former inmates living on the edge of society.

The real problem, as Dr. Pettit sees it, is that imprisoned black men aren’t figured into statistics about the standing of African-Americans. The consequence, she says, is an overstatement of black progress in education, employment, wages and voting participation.

In short, any social or ethnic group can be made to appear successful in statistics, if their prison population isn’t counted in the equation. When that population is re-added back into the mix, that particular group doesn’t fare so well.

Dr. Pettit discovered the following:

¶ Among male high school dropouts born between 1975 and 1979, 68 percent of blacks (compared with 28 percent of whites) had been imprisoned at some point by 2009, and 37 percent of blacks (compared with 12 percent of whites) were incarcerated that year.

¶ By the time they turn 18, one in four black children will have experienced the imprisonment of a parent.

¶ More young black dropouts are in prison or jail than have paying jobs. Black men are more likely to go to prison than to graduate with a four-year college degree or complete military service.

¶ Black dropouts are more likely to spend at least a year in prison than to get married.

+ Midyear 2009 Incarceration Rates by Race and...

Midyear 2009 Incarceration Rates by Race and Gender per 100,000 U.S. residents of the same race and gender. Prison Inmates at Midyear 2009 – Statistical Tables – US Bureau of Justice Statistics, published June 2010. See tables 16-19 for totals and rates for blacks, Hispanics, and whites. Broken down by year, gender, and age. See page 2 for “Selected characteristics of inmates held in custody in state or federal prisons or in local jails”. It has the overall incarceration rate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These figures are truly disheartening. We have written a lot on the School to Prison Pipeline, the inequity of Black inmates and the prevalence of Prison Gerrymandering, and these statistics clearly back up what we’ve been saying.

America is the world’s #1 jailer. Individual cities as well as private corporations have developed whole economies around the incarceration of Human beings. States like California and Florida are actually to the point where they can no longer afford to warehouse the massive numbers of people in their jails and prisons.

Questionably unconstitutional laws like mandatory sentencing and Three Strikes laws are forcing the Justice system into a similar situation to what happened in the Mental Health system in the 1980s – where it became so costly that President Reagan had no choice but to simply close them all down and turn the patients out in the streets.

But what stands out in this article, is that sociologists, the Census and other civil statisticians are using this immense prison population to jury-rig the numbers so as to make those of us who are fortunate enough to not be locked up, look like we’re doing better than we really are.

English: Aerial view of San Quentin State Pris...

Aerial view of San Quentin State Prison, in Marin County, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here, again, is the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/sunday-review/how-prisoners-make-data-look-good.html

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.

Overcrowded Prisons – a Photo Essay from Mail Online

By BitcoDavid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223626/Prisons-America-breaking-point-million-citizens-bars.html

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

Florida to Execute Schizophrenic “Prince of God”

 

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

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

From the Truthout article:

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

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

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

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

Here’s more from Truthout:

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

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

Here’s the link to their coverage:

http://truth-out.org/news/item/12222-florida-okays-execution-of-schizophrenic-man-in-direct-violation-of-supreme-court-ruling

 

 

 

 

Blacks and Whites Use Different Sign

The September 18th edition of the Washington Post – Health & Science section reports that even in the language of the deaf, race makes a difference. This story by Frances Stead Sellers of the Washington Post:

Carolyn McCaskill remembers exactly when she discovered that she couldn’t understand white people. It was 1968, she was 15 years old, and she and nine other deaf black students had just enrolled in an integrated school for the deaf in Talledega, Ala.

When the teacher got up to address the class, McCaskill was lost.

Image courtesy of Washington Post

What intrigues McCaskill and other experts in deaf culture today is the degree to which distinct signing systems — one for whites and another for blacks — evolved and continue to coexist, even at Gallaudet University, where black and white students study and socialize together and where McCaskill is now a professor of deaf studies.

Full graphic from Washington Post

You can learn more by clicking on the following link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/sign-language-that-african-americans-use-is-different-from-that-of-whites/2012/09/17/2e897628-bbe2-11e1-8867-ecf6cb7935ef_story.html

 

 

 

We Spend More on Prisons than Schools – From AlterNet

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com via AlterNet.

You might find this article a bit partisan, but there is some very interesting information buried in it. It’s a reblog from AlterNet. Please let me know what you think.

http://www.alternet.org/education/crazy-country-6-reasons-america-spends-more-prisons-higher-education?akid=9298.79351.y_IKZG&rd=1&src=newsletter701550&t=3

Why do people steal in order to buy drugs? For starters, most are poor and will stay that way because as a society we have failed to create an inclusive full-employment economy. Instead we genuflect to Social Darwinism, hoping that the jobs for all will miraculously appear from the private sector, and if they don’t, then it must be your fault if you don’t have a job. Second, drug prices are vastly inflated due to price subsidies disguised as drug enforcement. Every dollar spent on the vast apparatus that attempts to enforce prohibition drives up the price of drugs and the amount of crime related to drug use.

The writers pose the question why does the U.S. spend more money on prisons than on higher education, and answers with the author’s top 6 reasons.

English: Graph demonstrating the incarcerated ...

English: Graph demonstrating the incarcerated population relative to the general population. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Solitary Confinement is Used as Torture – From AlterNet

As pertains to the Deaf, even incarceration within a general population environment can be likened to solitary confinement. In many cases, the inmate may be the sole Deaf occupant of the facility. In such cases, he will have no one to communicate with, and will in essence be in solitary confinement. However, this article refers to so called control unitsSupermax prisons and the other more traditional definitions of solitary confinement.

Perhaps the most notorious case of all is that of the  Angola 3 , three Black Panthers who have been held in solitary confinement in Louisiana for more than 100 years between the three of them. While Robert King was released after 29 years in solitary, his comrades – Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace – recently began their 40th years in solitary confinement, despite an ongoing lawsuit challenging their isolation and a growing international movement for their freedom that has been supported by Amnesty International.

This story came from AlterNet. It discusses not only the horrors of unending solitary confinement, but also the inequity with which it is meted out.

But while broad patterns can be discerned, these are the numbers that are missing: How many of those in solitary confinement are Black? How many are self-taught lawyers, educators or political activists? How many initiated hunger strikes, which have long been anathema to the prison administration? How many were caught up in the FBI-organized dragnet that hauled thousands of community leaders, activists and thinkers into the maws of the U.S. “justice” system during the Black liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s?

http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/solitary-confinement-used-torture-chambers-black-dissidents?akid=9250.79351.Xb2r6B&rd=1&src=newsletter697066&t=12

Human Rights Watch estimated that there were approximately 20,000 prisoners being held in Supermax prisons, which are entire facilities dedicated to solitary confinement or near-solitary. It is estimated that at least 80,000 men, women and even children are being held in solitary confinement on any given day in U.S. jails and prisons.

Reading this article, I was stunned by the time spans they discuss. The thought of being completely alone, in the dark, and deprived of any form of aesthesis for even a period of a few days is terrifying. Imagine being locked up like that for 40 years.

The following links are already embedded in both the original AlterNet article, and in this post, but I felt the need to add them anyway.

http://solitarywatch.com/2012/02/01/how-many-prisoners-are-in-solitary-confinement-in-the-united-states/

http://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/supermax/Sprmx002.htm#P40_391

http://blog.amnestyusa.org/iar/louisianas-angola-3-100-years-of-solitude/

May at DeafInPrison.com

Click on the link to view a PDF update on our activities for May.

May at DeafInPrison.com

County Jails vs. Prison from a Paralegal Perspective

I was asked by BitcoDavid to give my impressions of jail and prison as a paralegal. From 1993 to the end of 2006, I have spent a lot of my time either going into a prison or a jail. I hear many confuse the word jail when they mean prison so let me clarify the difference. Simply put, if one is arrested and awaiting trial, is convicted or pleas to a sentence that is less than one year – that person will serve his sentence in a county jail. If after a trial or a plea, and the sentence is a year on up – that person goes to a state prison. Federal sentences are carried out a bit differently – they are mainly all served in a federal prison.

When I was first hired as a paralegal in 1996, it was primarily to be the liaison between jail and the law office. I was already involved in prison ministry and had been inside many prisons by then. Therefore, this new position seemed to fit right in.  Jails are a different animal than prisons. Between the two, just about any inmate will take a prison over a jail. Why?

Jail is a 24-hour confinement in a cell pod area – no place to walk, except for possibly one hour of recreation a day in a small area. A few other activities could be attending a religious service, going to the law library, visiting with legal counsel or reporting to medical – if necessary. In one jail where I visited clients, medium and minimum-security inmates walked to chow. Maximum-security inmates were served at their cells. Cell pods are large enclosures composed of beds and tables, or separate areas consisting of smaller cells around the walls, with tables in the middle. They’re often overflowing, with inmates sleeping on the floor – very close quarters. However, the stress is probably the worst factor. The majority of inmates are awaiting trial. Tensions are high. Mistrust is like nowhere else.  Con games are going on constantly, and some inmates become snitches for the State, hoping it will help them get a better deal. Unfortunately, it often works.

In order to get inside a jail, I needed a permission letter written by the attorney, to a Captain or Sergeant in the Sheriff’s Office who oversees visitations by legal counsel. When I would show up to see a client, and my name checked with date and time entered, I was given a badge to wear while inside. I generally had a one-hour time limit, but if I were to see more than one client, then I had however long it took to complete the visitation. One time I got so busy seeing clients (I had about 6) I didn’t watch the clock, and when I went to leave the normal way, no one was on duty. In fact, I could not see anyone down one hall or another. I felt a little panic as I forgot how to get to Intake, where new arrestees are brought in. Finally, I found Intake and explained why I was inside. Because they had seen my face before, they believed me and we had a good laugh. Maybe if this had happened after 9/11 it would not have been so funny as many rules changed after that.

Before 9/11, in the 1990s, I had a lot of leeway.  At this one jail, there were 5 floors. Each floor had 2 to 3 attorney rooms – mostly glass – where I was locked in with the inmate. Often, those rooms were occupied. No problem! On one particular floor, they had a broom closet with a metal bench type table. Yes, that is where I would go and meet with the client among mops, buckets and sanitizers! Actually, I got the job done very well, and could leave when I wanted to. I almost preferred this room. In the attorney room, I would have to ring a buzzer, and wait for a deputy to open the door so I could leave.

That was another story, waiting on the deputy to open the door – letting me out was not top priority. Several times I would be locked in for quite awhile because, for example, of shift changes. I would much rather been in the broom closet, and able to leave whenever I wanted.

Each jail has a different layout, therefore, it would behoove you to listen to directions thoroughly, the first time – one could get confused with all the hallways. Some used color-coded stripes on walls or floors to different wings. Video cameras were strategically placed.

Like I mentioned earlier, inmates would prefer prison to jail. Where jail is quite confining, prison allows more freedom. One could almost say, prison is like a community environment –everyone makes their own bed and does their own laundry. They have a job to do every day. If not working at a job, inmates can go to classes like GED, or learn a skill. Outside ministry programs like Prison Fellowship and Kairos, [Kairos Prison Ministry – ed.] offer church services. Typically, there will be a law library. Inmates walk to chow, can exercise or join a sports team, go to the canteen and make phone calls. All of this of course is regulated, but from this perspective, there is more of a life.

Then there is the emotional factor. In prison, they know they are there for a while. It could be a little over a year, or for life. Nevertheless, the tension of not knowing the immediate future is gone. They settle in, so to speak, to start a new life. This new life though, offers new challenges – just like in any new neighborhood. Every prison has its gangs, its predators, nice people and bad people.

Well, aren’t they all bad? You would be surprised at how many decent people find that they are suffering the consequences of a bad decision, for whatever reason. Of course, many are actually innocent. That is where I come in – the innocent! It has been my passion all the while, in criminal law, to help free the innocent – to see justice done.

Sexual Victimization Reported by Former State Prisoners, 2008

svrfsp08.pdf (application/pdf Object).

A Follow-up to My Last Inmate Letter

[I received another letter from the deaf inmate in CA in response to my letter. His first letter is shown below and/or under inmate letters tab. I have typed pertinent parts, and in clearer understanding, as most of it is a repeat of his first letter but I believe it shows what a little kindness can do for an inmate who has had no contact with society in his 25 years of incarceration. He still wishes to remain anonymous due to fears of retribution and harm but if you, the reader, would like to pass on a word of encouragement to give him hope, please leave a comment and I will print it and send it to him. This also applies to all the letters I have received that have been passed on to BitcoDavid.

--Pat]

_______________________________

4-2-2012                                                                                                                                                                                 ******* **** ******

*******-Lower

***** ****** ****

******. CA *****

Dear Ms. Pat Bliss,

After all these years with no contact or communication, your letter was pure joy. I wrote the attorney lady address that you sent me, I took the time and explained all these years of incarceration of abuse and rapes: who – what – when. But because officers read our mail, unless it is legal mail, I ask Ms. Attorney *** to inform you of my condition and circumstances. I fear for my life constantly from officers and inmates which the officers use against other inmates….

I’ve live in loneliness, no love and a broken heart for 55 years. Ms. Pat…there are 2 laws and rules: black and white, the officers urge racism and hate and violence…if you get this letter I’m telling you I don’t want to die in prison…from birth till this day, my life has been lonely and empty and for 25 years hell but thanks to you, you have given me a small light of hope.

But at my age I wonder who would want to deal with a black, deaf, inmate even out in the world? I’m emotionally damaged and scared of people.

I’m so low emotionally, I don’t expect anything, no happiness. I have never loved or never had love, no compassion, no togetherness, no family, no friends and now I’m completely deaf. Pray for me and may God Bless you. Thanks. ****** *******.

____________________________________

[For the public’s information, I have the ball rolling to try to get this man help. Since mail takes so long, I have no other feedback to share at this time.]

Our 51st Post: A NYT Video

Prison Passion Play

Inmate Letter

[The following was posted by Pat Bliss, and transcribed in Word format by me. It is a very tough read, as I tried to avoid editing as much as possible. I wanted it to be in the original voice, but did need to make some changes in grammar or spelling, only to make it readable. I strongly encourage you, however, to give it a read. It is a profoundly disturbing and heart rending work.

BitcoDavid]

The following was written to me by an inmate. It is very difficult to read, due to the inmate’s educational status. BitcoDavid did the transcription – as best he could -  and tried to correct for spelling and grammar where it would make the letter easier for our readers to understand, while at the same time trying not to alter the inmates original work.

Image courtesy http://hiphoprepublican.com/opinion/2010/07/12/vanessa-jean-louis- a-conservative-perspective-on-former-inmate-re-entry/

4-11-2012                                                                              xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Wednesday                                                                            xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx-Low

Do not print my name. I                                                  xxxxx P.O. Box xxxxxxxxx

Fear “ retaliation of officers                                           xxxxx CA xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I’m Deaf and fear for my life, in cells with other Inmates, in dorms and around officers. I’ve been beaten and raped many time’s over 25 years.

Mrs. Pat Bliss,

I’m xxxx xxxx I’m now incarcerated since 1988. I was born with very bad hearing, in 1958, but at that time of my life, I was born in an orphanage by a teen-orphan mother. I’m Black, and who my parents was, I’ve never known, and in 1958, no one cared about a Black-Deaf-orphan.

I learned how to adjust, and read lips. I only made it to the 9th grade in school, since I couldn’t hear well. I avoided people most of my life

I learned how to do plumbing and janitorial work to survive. This is my first time in prison. Over time now in prison, I’ve lost my hearing completely. I was wearing hearing aids – then I was given an amplifier, but now 2012 neither hearing aids or amplifiers do not help.

When I was in court, I told my attorney – I couldn’t hear & I didn’t understand. He never spoke up for me, so I wrote a note to the judge.

I wrote a note to the judge stating I was hard of hearing and what I had did concerning the case + how long I had known the defendant + that I needed help communicating. But the judge had my note ordered sealed and she never read it to the court. She read the note, but not to the court.

I was on drugs and the women I dealt with was on drugs. The judge and DA use my statement as a confession and sent me to prison. I was with prostitutes and street people. Some I was having sex with for years. Most of the women was Deaf or disabled In some form or another. I went to court and told the truth in a note and the court used it against me. So, I got charged with rape. Since being in prison, I’ve been on psych-medication off and on. I’ve been beat and raped many times. Officers always put me in situation where I will be beat and raped and my stuff taken.

I was at xxxxxxx – xxxxx – xxxx and was beat daily by officers and when I complain and wrote 602-appeals they put me in ad-seg – then transfer me to xxxx – state prison – where things got worse. I wrote the federal court in xxxx County. I got beat and transferred and put back on psych-medication in 2005, 2006. I 602 appeal being raped in cells.

In 2005 and 2006, the officers put me on a special – van – transferring me to xxxx xxxx. There my counselor – a lady – received notes from other prison staff and she changed my case factors – from rape – to – “child abuse,” then refused to even see me – or help me – so, I wrote the courts to get legal papers stating this was not true. I was beat and put in a cell with another inmate who rape me and officers refuse to help me – or move me to another cell.

I wrote a 602 appeal stating I’m deaf and being raped and abused and my things stolen – xxxx xxxx and now here at xxxx xxxx they refuse to help me or protect me. I’ve ask doctors and custody and counselors and psych doctors to give me a single cell for safety concerns and mental help. They all say no. I stated A.D.A. regulation 1630-2-R the risk of direct threat – mental harm and physically harm and the imminence of harm.

They all refuse to help.

I’m completely ignored. I’m Black and in prison for a rape I did not do and I’m Deaf. Now. I do not trust anyone and I do not talk to anyone and I never leave my cell. I’m scared to sleep in the cell with inmates – I’m scared around people. If I complain – or write a 602 appeal I will be beat and transferred again.

I’ve seen my c-file and medical files, and ther is statements in both concerning me and things I’ve suppose to have said – to people – staff and doctors and officers that I’ve never seen and never talk to.

I was put in A.S.L. Sign language school, but I was too scared and nervous around the crowd of inmates at class. I couldn’t set still.

So, I stop going. I do know and understand Sign language and I do use it and read lips and notes to communicate. If I’m forced to talk, I’ve ask for an interpreter many times at the doctor’s offices and in groups. But, no one ever come to help. I do not know what else was wrote in my charts lately, but no staff – doctor – officer – nurse – interpreter will help and the E.E.N.T. ear specialist stated and noted and I have legal documents saying I’m legally Deaf. I learn when very young how to read lips and watch people’s movements – first before learning Sign language. So, officers think I can hear them and officers send inmates to talk with me. Then the inmate will state the same to help officers. In prison, staff and doctors and officers only write what will benefit them and they only help inmates that will help them and say what they want. I learn this in my 25 years of incarceration. Facts.

I’m now in a program called E.O.P. Psych, which custody and doctors can use to disclaim anything I file against them.

Yes, I’m very depressed and I’m very paranoid around people and I don not trust anyone. The doctor’s work with custody and officers and keep me on medication – drugged up.

I’m in cells with inmates with serious mental problems. They abuse me and fight me and take my stuff. I told the doctors this, but even their boss said he cannot help me. I told the unit officers and they said for me to fight back or if someone gets hurt then they will separate us and put me in another cell. I cannot hear and I cannot speak well and I cannot yell for help.

I need a single cell, but they say no. Unless I kill my cellie – or he kills me. They then will take me to court and give me  more time – or bury me somewhere.

I was not exam until 1995 by prison doctors, but nothing was wrote – or noted. “1845 –legally” until 2006 at xxxx xxxx.

From all the transfers and ad-seg trips, I do not have anymore legal papers – lost.

I do not have any disciplinary “problems” but I’ve been to the hole and transferred many times. On legal papers in prison everything looks great, but in reality they do nothing to help of protect. I’m Black and in prison and Deaf and with no family ever.

I was 29 or 30 when I came to prison. Now I’m 55 years old – on August, 2012 – I’ll be 56 years old.

After dealing with the foster home – state people and society and going deaf and the state courts and state attorney and prison staff and doctors and officers and inmates, now I have serious emotional and mental problems. I don’t sleep and I don’t eat and I do not talk to anyone ever. I pray, but God gave up on me when I was born.

I’ve been lied to and [illeg.] on by doctors – pastors – officers – counselors – inmates. The people and women I thought was my friends came to court and testified against me to save themselves.

I pray only for death now.

You are my last hope of asking for help. If you cannot help me get a single cell and protection until I parole – 2014 – if they let me parole – I will give up completely.

Knowing the prison system you might not ever get this letter or you might not want to help a Black Deaf inmate either.

For 25 years I’ve not had any outside contact and no help – no visits – no mail – no phone calls – not even TTY phone. I’m at the end of my rope.

I’ll end here – hopefully waiting.

xxxx xxxx xxxx

Help if willing – or – able.

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