Part 3 in the Serialization of Felix’s Case

By Pat Bliss

[Editor's Note: This is the 3rd embed in our series chronicling the trial of Felix Garcia. At this point, all the data that was previously published on the page, Blisshas now been made available in PDF embed format. We will begin reproducing the page, Bliss-2, and the series should be complete shortly. This particular section of the story is taken from transcripts of testimony, and is presented in block quote format, with a few notes by Ms. Bliss. Unfortunately, no graphics could be made available, while sticking to this strict format.

Hence, it makes for a somewhat difficult read, but it is well worth struggling through. Buried within this testimony is a great deal of information indicating Felix's innocence, the extent of the effort gone to, by his family, to frame him, and the bias of detectives and prosecutors against him. I found it to be a thoroughly fascinating read. -- BitcoDavid]

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

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.

 

Wrongfully Accused; Wrongly Judged; Wrongfully Imprisoned

By Jean F. Andrews

The media has increasing spotlighted suspects who have been wrongfully accused by the police, wrongfully judged by the prosecutor and judge and wrongfully imprisoned for decades. Tony Freemantle in Sunday’s Houston’s Chronicle (Jan 20, 2013) lists a number of reasons for false convictions: 1) prosecutors hide evidence, 2) judges refuse to accept credible witnesses who say the suspect was elsewhere during the crime in question; 3) no DNA evidence is collected or its tampered with and 4) misleading forensic evidence points to the wrong person and 5) inadequate legal representation for the suspect and 6) confessions are ignored from real offender

For deaf suspects, I add — 7) false confessions are taken from a tired, scared and overly compliant suspect and 8) a sign language interpreter is not provided during all the police interrogations. This happened to Stephen Brodie, a deaf man from Dallas, Texas who served 20 years in a Dallas prison for a crime he did not commit. Falsely accused of raping a five year old girl, Brodie reported he was forced to confess to this crime during interrogations with the police officers, of which only during half of interrogations did he have a sign language interpreter. It was reported that Brodie case did not involve DNA, but it was the Texas county’s first exoneration involving a false confession

See journalist Tony Freemantle’s vivid and gripping story, Exonerees: The numbers are small, but the toll is immense—and growing (Sunday, Jan 20, 2013, Houston Chronicle).

[Editor's Note: I did all I could do to find a link to this actual article, but the Houston Chronicle apparently chose not to make it available online. The link below is to the photo-essay, which they did make availble.

--BitcoDavid]

In this special section in the Houston Chronicle, photographer, Billy Smith II provides photographs of the 20 exonerees who were convicted of crimes they did not commit and served time in prison. Some were compensated, some were not, some died in prison. See chron.com/exonerees for more video and photos.
See also (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20017910-504083.html) about Stephen Brodie’s case in Dallas, Texas.

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

Help End the Felony Murder Rule

By BitcoDavid

A Follower on FaceBook brought this petition to our attention.

http://www.causes.com/actions/1696694

They bring up the following points:

The felony murder rule operates as a matter of law upon proof of the intent to commit a felony to relieve the prosecution of its burden of proving intent to kill, which is a necessary element of murder.

The intention to commit a felony does not equal the intention to kill, nor is the intention to commit a felony, by itself, sufficient to establish a charge of murder.

The felony murder rule erodes the relation between criminal liability and moral culpability in that it punishes all homicides in the commission, or attempted commission, of the proscribed felonies, whether intentional, unintentional, or accidental, without proving the relation between the homicide and the perpetrator’s state of mind.

Under the felony murder rule, the defendant’s state of mind is irrelevant. Because intent is a characterization of a particular state of mind with respect to a killing, felony murder bears little resemblance to the offense of murder except in name. First-degree murder is an arbitrary assignment.

Holding one or many criminally liable for the bad results of an act which differs greatly from the intended results is based on a concept of culpability which is totally at odds with the general principles of jurisprudence.

It is fundamentally unfair and in violation of basic principles of individual criminal culpability to hold one felon liable for the unforeseen and un-agreed to results of another felon’s action.

The basic rule of culpability is further violated when felony murder is categorized as first-degree murder because all other first-degree murders (carrying equal punishment) require a showing of premeditation, deliberation and willfulness, while felony murder only requires a showing of intent to do the underlying felony.

The purpose of creating degrees of murder is to punish with increased severity the more culpable forms of murder, but an accidental killing during the commission or attempted commission of a felony is punished more severely than a second-degree murder.

While the felony murder rule survives in Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, West Virginia, Indiana, California and other states, the numerous modifications and restrictions of it by some states’ courts and legislatures throughout the United States reflect dissatisfaction with the basic harshness and injustice of the doctrine and call into question its continued existence.

The felony murder rule can be used by prosecutors in a manner so as to cause grossly disproportionate sentencing, depending on the circumstances of each individual case.

The felony murder rule is probably unconstitutional because presumption of innocence is thrown to the winds. The prosecution needs only to prove intent to commit the underlying felony; that
done, first degree-murder becomes part and parcel of the underlying felony because intent to commit murder does not have to be proved.

The felony murder rule is probably unconstitutional because in some cases it violates the Eighth Amendment: cruel and unusual punishment, grossly disproportionate to the crime(s) actually
committed.

The felony murder rule holds unequally involved parties equally accountable and punishable. Again, cruel and unusual punishment if you’re only the lookout for a robber who happens to kill in the process of the robbery.

they deserved it

they deserved it (Photo credit: Will Lion)

The felony murder rule violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process because no defense is allowed on the charge of first-degree murder, only the underlying felony.

The felony murder rule bears no rational relationship or equity in its two penalties, with the penalties of other murder laws, including, at times, the charge of first-degree murder.

It is no longer acceptable to equate the intent to commit a felony with the intent to kill.

Believe it or not, the American Justice System was created to keep people out of prison. The concept of innocent until proven guilty, The right to protection against self incrimination, and The 8th Amendment – all speak to the American concept of fair play, the dread of incarceration and our aversion to cruel and unusual punishment.

What could possibly be crueler than to Imprison a teenager for life – for merely being present at the scene of a crime. Maybe he was driving the car. Maybe he was the lookout. Should he be punished? Yes, of course. But can we, in good conscience, allow one stupid moment – one adolescent lapse of judgement – to cost him his entire life?

Please consider signing this petition at: http://www.causes.com/actions/1696694

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.

 

Stunning PowerPoint by Solitary Watch – Solitary 101

By BitcoDavid

PowerPoint presentation by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway of Solitary Watch.

This is a truly massive work, and well worth taking a few minutes to watch in its entirety. Well written, informative and beautifully enhanced with photos and graphics, this presentation is a must see.

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.

 

Felix’s Story Serialized Pt. 1

By Pat Bliss

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

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

A Letter From Felix Garcia to HEARD

Image courtesy Pat Bliss

This is a letter I received from HEARD. It is Felix’s most plaintive communication yet. We really need to help this innocent man gain his freedom.

Here’s the PDF link to his latest letter.

Felix – HEARD letter

As I work on these videos, I come to see Felix as an intelligent, compassionate, ethical and witty individual who would make a wonderful contribution to society. He deserves his chance.

Finally! Felix #6 is Up!

Here’s the 6th installment in our interview series with Felix Garcia, in prison. Copyright Jim Ridgeway, Interviewers Jim Ridgeway and Pat Bliss, Tech and captions, Me :), and our awesome wonderful interpreter still opts for confidentiality – but I’m working on her. We’ll make a rock star of her yet.

So, enjoy – here’s Felix Garcia Interview Part 6.

After a Break; Felix Part Five

Here’s part 5 – the beginning of disc 2 – in the interview of Felix Garcia in prison, as conducted by Jim Ridgeway and Pat Bliss. Felix is much calmer in this section, and he talks frankly about communication issues, language barriers and lip-reading. He is – by the way – an excellent lip-reader, and he provides some marvelous insight into this difficult and complex method of communication.

Again, as before stated. This is the property of Jim Ridgeway, who owns the copyright. The captions and tech work were done by me, and our wonderful and talented interpreter – without whom none of this would be possible – chooses to remain uncredited. The video cannot be copied or downloaded, but by all means, please feel free to link back to it.

Demand Justice for Lashonn White

In keeping with the Post-a-Day Challenge, I’ve got tons of stuff lined up for you. Not one but 2 follow-ups to yesterday’s post on Internet Interpreting, a story on the inequality in school suspensions of disabled students and Part 5 of the Felix Garcia interview. But for right now, there’s this:

***

Lashonn White is a deaf woman who called 911 after being attacked in her apartment. Instead of helping her, Tacoma police tasered her and put her in jail for 60 hours without an interpreter.

Two police officers were dispatched who had been told that she is deaf. She ran outside to meet them, and immediately, Officer Koskovich tasered her in her rib and stomach. Because of the fall, she suffered heavy bleeding from her knuckles, injuries to her cheek, chin, ribs, neck, and arms, and swelling on the right side of her face. Then they handcuffed her.

White was incredibly confused as to why she was under arrest, and couldn’t talk to the officers because they don’t know sign language. Koskovich said that he had yelled for White to stop, but she had ignored him — in reality, she couldn’t hear him. 

Tell the Tacoma Police Department that all officers need to receive training concerning disabled individuals and to do a full investigation of the incident. Demand justice for Lashonn White!

Here’s the link to the original article and a petition.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/106/043/884/justice-for-deaf-woman-tasered-and-jailed-by-police/?z00m=20380296

Inmate Responds to One of Our Posts

In May, I did a post on the differences between county jails and prisons from the paralegal perspective. Here’s the link to that post.

County Jails vs. Prisons

I’ve added it here, to help provide some perspective.

A few days ago, I received this response from a former inmate.

As usual, if you have trouble making out the text in this image, simply double click on it to view it in full screen.

The harm of solitary confinement in prisons – The Washington Post

From the Washington Post Editorial Board:

The harm of solitary confinement in prisons – The Washington Post.

The Injustice of Lonliness as Punishment

[The tagline for DeafInPrison.com is Sentenced to Solitude in Silence. Our contributor JoanneGreenberg sent this in. --Ed.]

The hardest part of being deaf and in prison may not be the rapes, the missing of messages or the misunderstanding in general. It might be the absence of other deaf people. Imagine a Russian or Basque speaker in jail who knows very little English, and suffers the unappeased hunger for simple contact, conversation and communication. This absence, we hear from other prisoners, is what is so biting in solitary confinement.

What I remember from my trips to mental hospitals, before their patents were ditched into our local streets, was the complaint of deaf people there who had been placed geographically, instead of by medical definitions. This was a huge advance for the ordinary hearing mentally ill, because it didn’t discriminate between chronic and acute conditions, thereby allowing the chronic to be simply warehoused instead of being treated. For the Deaf, it was ruinous because they had no way of knowing who else might be there with whom they could communicate.

Now, the prisons have the same problem. If deafness could take prcedence over the type of crime or the length of sentence, deaf people could be housed together and services tailored to their needs could be instituted.

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.

bitcodavid:

Due to the correlation between Deaf inmates and mentally ill inmates, I felt this excellent article from PrisonMovement’s Weblog was appropriate to share with our readers.

–BitcoDavid

Originally posted on Prison Reform Movement's Weblog:

Solitary confinement

Solitary confinement (Photo credit: Chris.Gray)

By REMA RAHMAN, Associated Press

Troy Anderson is a mentally ill inmate in isolation at the Colorado State Penitentiary, deemed for more than a decade too dangerous to be among other offenders.

His lawyers argue, however, that prolonged solitary confinement is contributing to a vicious cycle, making his psychiatric conditions worse and resulting in misbehavior that warrants further punishment.

Prison officials defend the practice, saying administrative segregation, which can include up to 23 hours a day alone in a concrete cell, is a fundamental part of security.

Art Leonardo, executive director of the North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents, says keeping prisoners away from the general population is a way to “keep them from being harmed.”

But prisoners’ rights advocates around the nation say putting mentally ill inmates in long-term solitary confinement amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. In some states, activists…

View original 550 more words

The Addition of “Bliss -2″

Since this site was launched, I’ve been writing – on my page – about the tragic story of Felix Garcia. This innocent Deaf man has been behind bars for some 30 years now, for a crime he didn’t commit.

Due to the fact that I’m writing this story in chapters, and it’s becoming quite long, David has given me an extra page. You can find the newest additions to the story by looking in the right hand column, on the home page scroll, and clicking on “Bliss-2

Injustice: Mistreatment of the Deaf in Prison

Talila Lewis from H.E.A.R.D. sent us this link. The post was actually written by a young intern.

Injustice: Mistreatment of the Deaf in Prison.

Prisoners Helping Prisoners

by McCay Vernon, McDaniel College & Katrina R. Miller, Emporia State University

Doing Time

At the end of his trial, Mark Brackmann heard the verdict: nine years in prison. Shortly thereafter, he was in a jail cell awaiting transfer to the penitentiary. He had never been in a prison before and knew little about what he would face there. He was saddened that he would be separated from his family and friends, and was leaving behind the two successful businesses he had started from scratch. Literacy among state prisoners is typically lower than the general public (“National Assessment,” 2007). Like many educated men entering prison for the first time, Mark thought he would be very much alone and did not think he would find in prison anyone with whom he would have much in common.

Once assigned to prison in Wakula, Florida, Mark began to get acquainted with his fellow inmates, the guards, and other prison officials. He soon discovered that many of the prison inmates he met were similar to persons he had known on the outside. Some had a positive outlook, others were depressed and angry. Some had college degrees, others had only minimal education. Some had led interesting, productive lives on the outside, others had barely scraped by. Despite those differences, Mark learned that most of the men had dreams and ambitions for their futures, just as he did. For example, many who had spent their lives in crime-ravaged neighborhoods wanted to live where it was safe. Some prisoners hoped to spend time with their children, to be employed, and to have a home. Others dreamed of establishing their own businesses.

Few of these individuals had given serious thought as to how they would achieve their goals, nor had they made the effort to implement their future plans. In fact, only a tiny minority had worked out specific, realistic itineraries for their lives following discharge. As time wears on, inmate self-concept may degrade (Walrath, 2001).

Making Time Matter

In numerous correctional institutions, GED and vocational programming is strongly supported and sometimes court-ordered (“National Assessment,” 2007). Given Mark’s background as a college graduate, his first assignment as an inmate was to prepare fellow inmates to take and pass the GED test for their high school diplomas. He proved very effective at this task. About the same time, Mark formed a close friendship with another inmate, Jeff Botward, who had been a banker prior to his incarceration. Both men were appalled that so many of their peers were doing nothing constructive to prepare themselves for life after release from prison. Nor were they getting needed guidance from the prison staff regarding their futures and the hurdles they would face upon release.

It is notable that former inmates struggle more with keeping employment than acquiring a job. Many earn their GEDs, but lack basic social and life skills that are essential to the workplace (Koski, 1998). Rather than commiserate about the problem, Mark and Jeff decided to do something about it. They discussed the issues and proposed solutions to the prison chaplain, Reverend Allison, and to other interested prison officials. These officials were impressed by and supportive of the idea of helping inmates prepare for discharge back into society. Despite initial objections from some of the more traditional officers, the program Mark and Jeff had proposed was started.

Their first step was to write a book, Life Mapping, which was to be the text for their proposed course. The book detailed the specific steps prisoners should take while behind bars, in order to prepare for life outside prison. It also provided guidance on issues ex-convicts would face and how to cope with those problems after release.

Life Mapping

After Mark and Jeff finished writing Life Mapping, Reverend Allison and a few other prison officials who saw its value arranged to have the book printed. Once the book was available, classes in Life Mapping were begun despite continuing objections from some prison officials. Fortunately, key authorities supported the program and made it possible for Mark and Jeff to conduct classes using the text they had written.

From the beginning, the class proved to be a success. At the conclusion of the Life Mapping class, each student was required to take the poium and share his personalized Life Map.

Mark and Jeff were inundated with requests to open up more classes on Life Mapping. A volunteer professor from Florida State University, Dr. Mike Wallace, observed some of the sessions. Describing them, he said, “They are like a single flower in the desert. It is a miracle that the flower can survive in a harsh, inhospitable prison environment, yet it does. Its beauty is stunning, but even more so because of the austerity that surrounds it.”

Mark and Jeff were excited by Dr. Wallace’s evaluation, but knew they and their fellow inmates had to do more if they were to change the barren culture of the prison system. “We put everything we had into making Life Mapping class a success,” Mark explained.

Growing opportunities

About the same time Life Mapping classes started, another program was launched by an inmate who had studied how to write a business plan. He now teaches that course to fellow prisoners. His program was effective although rough in spots, and could be improved upon. Another class is currently forming, focused on credit and debt management.

The inmates involved in instructing these classes met and formed a steering committee that included Mark, Jeff, and another prisoner, Darrel Simpson. The committee’s goal is to oversee and plan so that the classes developed by inmates are organized, unique, and effective.

The inmates who did the organizational work wanted to brand what they were doing, so they chose the name Realizing Educational and Financial Smarts (REEFS) for the steering committee and bank of educational programs. As their work continued and time passed, the prison culture did change. By now, 6,000 prisoners have completed REEFS courses.

Ordinarily, as one walks through a prison dorm, the prevalent activities are gambling, card games, arguments, sports talk, or fighting. By contrast, today many of the prisoners in the REEFS Program are discussing business plans and goals, while others are reading about current events in business, religion, marketing, and trade journals.

These are positive changes, but they did not come about easily. For example, there were volunteers who wanted to teach, but were unqualified. Some volunteers sought to take ownership of the REEFS’ program and materials. Inmates found it difficult to say no to volunteers due to their lower social status. While most students in the classes were eager to learn, some presented a challenge to instructors. For instance, some wanted to fight when their academic work was deemed unsatisfactory.

The REEFS Program

The REEFS program has successfully demonstrated a way to improve prison systems nationally, not just in Wakula, Florida. It has been shown that exposing inmates to REEFS programming can effect a change in the attitudes and goals of a significant number of participants, as well as positively impacting the prison environment or atmosphere in general. Disciplinary actions decrease in correctional facilities offering educational and vocational programming (Torre & Fine, 2005). The REEFS participants were transformed from idle inmates with few realistic goals to life planners, using their time in prison for self-improvement and preparation for their return to society.

The REEFS Program addresses three crucial factors that prison administrators in the United States presently face: recidivism, costs, and unproductive use of inmates’ time. To implement the REEFS Program or others like it requires that key officials in state prisons adopt an approach similar to Wakula. Lower recidivism rates are associated with prison-based education programming (Torre & Fine, 2005). The financial savings alone would more than justify any costs associated with implementation of such a program.

In order to make the Wakula program a success, there was a high level of collaboration between prison officials and inmates. Cooperation between these two groups is a key element of building an effective program. Additionally, many prison chaplains value educational and vocational training as an avenue to change for offenders and may be a useful resource in program building (Sundt, Dammer, & Cullen, 2002)

Understandably, inmate-steered programs present a concern for prison officials, who are often hesitant to create opportunities for dangerous offenders to disrupt or take over the proceedings. To avoid this, careful screening of prospective participants is required at Wakula.

Most inmates self-select for educational programs in prison, which is considered a coping strategy (Jackson & Innes, 2001). Among inmates, there is a correlation between lower education levels and lack of participation in educational opportunities, suggesting that encouraging inmates to complete their GEDs may increase their interest in continuing educational pursuits (Jackson & Innes, 2001).

Utilizing Peer Resources

Many state prison systems today have sophisticated intake procedures that involve the use of educational achievement testing and data on previous schooling to assess the academic levels of incoming inmates. Some prisons also perform intelligence testing and obtain data on inmates’ work histories. Additionally, all prisons archive details relating to inmates’ criminal records.

While prisoners are outcasts, representative of drug addicts and alcoholics, sex offenders, and violent offenders, the prison population also includes a significant number of well-educated persons in professions and trades such as teacher, professor, business, cleric, physician, accountant, lawyer, and politician. While these inmates have been convicted of various crimes and are consequently serving time, they may also serve as a resource, helping other inmates prepare for the GED test and teaching life skills courses. Walrath’s 2001 study of a peer-run prison program found that in addition to behavioral changes, optimism among inmates was improved as a result of participation.

Because state prison systems do not typically harness inmate potential, a majority of prison inmates leave the system poorly educated and unprepared for life on the outside. Society pays the price in terms of recidivism and enormous criminal justice costs.

Attaining a GED and completing vocational training is not enough. A key problem that may ex-convicts face is not acquiring employment, but maintaining it. Because so many offenders have complex educational deficits, a multidimensional and internally consistent approach to self-improvement that includes life planning is recommended (Koski, 1998). The model that Mark Brackmann and Jeff Botward created at Wakula has proven successful in preparing inmates to re-enter life outside of prison. It provides an outstanding model of prisoners helping prisoners.

References

Jackson, K.L., & Innes, C.A. (2001). Affective predictors of voluntary inmate

program participation. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 30 (3/4), 1-20

Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage. (Summer 2007). National assessment of adult literacy and literacy among prison inmates. Alaska Justice Forum, 24(2), 2-4

Koski, D.D. (1998) Vocational education in prison. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 27: 3, 151-164

Sundt, J.L., Dammer, H.R., & Cullen, F.T. (2002) The role of the prison chaplain in rehabilitation. Religion, The Community, and the Rehabilitation of Criminal Offenders, 59-86.

Torre, E.T., & Fine, M. (2005). Bar none: Extending Affirmative Action to higher education in prison. Journal of Social Issues, 61(30, 569-594

Walrath, C. (2001). Evaluation of an inmate-run alternatives to violence project: The impact of inmate-to-inmate intervention. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 16, 697-711.

Deaf Illinois inmates sue for access to interpreters – Peoria, IL – pjstar.com

Image

Deaf Illinois inmates sue for access to interpreters – Peoria, IL – pjstar.com.

I’m looking for an update to this story. Will keep you posted.

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