What He Said, and What it Says About Us

By BitcoDavid

Texas – the state that’s turning execution into a pastime - publishes the last words of death row inmates. We got this story from an excellent piece in the Gray Lady. If you read it, pay particular attention to the comments section. We tend to forget that in America, most people view inmates with a mix of fear and hatred. I was really disturbed by the lack of empathy, sympathy or even basic compassion towards the condemned, in many of  those comments.

Texas' new and improved execution chamber - I guess it beats ol' Gruesome Gerty. Image Credit NYT

Texas’ new and improved execution chamber – I guess it beats ol’ Gruesome Gerty.
Image Credit NYT

Anyway, here’s the link to Texas’ page:

http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/death_row/dr_executed_offenders.html

They publish the race of each offender on the main page, and if you click the individual links, they cite the gender as well as the race and gender of the victim. It provides a fascinating insight into the Texas judicial system. This site is well worth bookmarking and studying thoroughly.

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

The Things We Take for Granted

By Pat Bliss

I Need a Doctor

I Need a Doctor Photo: Wikipedia

 

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

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

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

– Pat Bliss

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

HEARD’s Writing Campaign

Want to help write sorely needed letters to Deaf inmates in prisons throughout America? Here’s your chance to help alleviate someone’s insufferable solitude.

Hello Fellow HEARD Supporters:
Its that time again, writing time. HEARD Board members and volunteers we will be gathering for a few hours to write to some of our Deaf inmates that are in prisons across the country. This month our focus will be our Deaf women and Deaf blind inmates. Please let us know if you would like to join us.
Please send HEARD an inbox message, or an email at info@behearddc.org. Please put Writing Campaign in the subject line.

Here’s the link to the FaceBook events page. It’s a public event – everyone can sign up.

http://www.facebook.com/events/227125900747195/

English: Supermax prison, Florence Colorado Es...

Supermax prison, Florence Colorado. Another town in Colorado, notorious for its overwhelming number of prisons, is Caňon City. It goes by the appellation – Jail-town USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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.

Inmate Letter from Montana – 2nd in HEARD series

Here’s the link to the PDF of this second inmate letter, courtesy of HEARD.

HEARD Montana Inmate Letter

Related Stories

Montana State Prison: Female Guards Fired for Sexual Misconduct

 

An Inmate Letter from Utah – Courtesy of HEARD

This is one of four Inmate Letters I received from HEARD, in my inbox last night. I will be posting them today, as I get them converted and redacted. We need to redact all inmate letters to protect the safety of these brave individuals who speak out against an unfair and unjust system.

Although I get them as PDF files, and reconvert them back into PDF files to post, you lose the ability to see the sticky notes placed on the originals by HEARD. In a way, this is good, because these are internal notations that are not intended for the eyes of the public. On the other hand however, I regret that you can’t see them because they provide insight into just how much great work the people at HEARD are doing for these individuals.

Here’s the first one:

HEARD Utah PDF

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.

Inmate Letter Dated July 1st 2012

I received a letter for the first time from another Deaf inmate in a Florida prison. As usual, his name, locations and identification  will not be revealed. I am leaving out, as he requested, any mention or description of personal family, business and actions. I also have had to type it out as the printing is hard to understand if letter was scanned. This is not a letter of abuse as we have seen posted before but is quite different in that this inmate is still struggling with his deafness, like trying to use a TTY phone and communicating with the hearing. I’m typing it verbatim (misspelling included).

July 1, 2012

Dear Patricia,

Hi, I do hope things are going well for you. *** gave me your name and address. He told me you were interested in the trails that the deaf and hearing impaired go through in the judicial and D.O.C. prison system. First of all “Pat” if you don’t mind, I feel I have to apologize for my handwriting. I am ‘all’ left handed and as a 16 year old I was pinned between a truck and block wall. So I have some permanent damage in my left arm.

I don’t really know if I was born with my hearing problem. As a young child I never knew that I had a hearing problem, because I didn’t know. Maybe I may of thought that I had a problem behaving. [He was telling of being reprimanded because he didn't hear something.] I think it was then when I started setting in the corner of a room and paying attention to every one around me. Constantly looking to see if I was being spoken to. I had a very hard time in school. I was assigned to a speech therapist. This helped me alot in speaking and to keep my voice low. I was always getting into trouble from being way too loud.

[Here he describes his family businesses and the extreme noise.] I didn’t think it mattered my hearing was already almost gone. My first year in prison in*** is when I came to the conclusion that my old ways of hearing wasn’t making it. So I started the process of seeking help.

I seen a audiolgist for an evaluation, this lady was very good at what she did. She discovered that I could and was lip reading her, so she put me in the booth and pulled a blind over the windo. “I never know that I could.” After the exam she told me that, quote “I don’t normally do this but you have a considerable hearing loss and I am going to put you in for two over the ear hearing aids. I will fit you for the left ear now bing that is the ear with the most hearing loss. I only received one from D.O.C. After three years D.O.C. would let me go through the process again of replacing a hearing aid or get a new one. So I got one for my right ear. I have 10% hearing in left ear and 28% in the right ear.

“I tell you mam after 40 years of not hearing. With my hearing aids on “in here” in a crowded day room I find that normal is extremely loud and at time obnoxious. More and more I catch myself turning my aids off and backing myself against a wall or corner. I don’t know if I’ll ever get use to them. Till ** spoke with me about you I never really gave my hearing disability very much thought, pertaining to the court system. Since them I have been thinking about it.

I do see now that in many instances I did not hear what was being told or directed to me. Now that I look back, not only being ignorant of the law. I had a whole lot of blind “faith” in the judicial system and my public defender. I actually see my attorney shaking his head yes or no and I just thought that he knew best. Most of these times were during a bench meeting, collogue, or proffer. These ocured with both attorneys and the judge.

It’s been all coming back. I can picture the judge asking me “do you understand and agree with what has been told to you?” I remember my attorney telling me to just say yes your honor I understand. I look over to my defender and there he is shaking his head yes or no. I honestly thought that I had to agree with my lawer and what he said. Wow I feel like a blooming idiot for not knowing. During a week of trail and many of other orders and hearings I hardly heard anything but confusion.

 

I have been having a problem trying to get through to my family on the T.T.Y phone for the deaf and hearing impaired. I can’t seem to get through to the Florida relay operator. It’s been a while since I have asked the sarg. to put a workorder in on it to fix it. I will as the assistant warden of programs if he would look into it for me.

I do have a built-in telecoil in one of my hearing aids. This telecoil is designed to pick up the signal from the telephone only. But it is broke and D.O.C. will not pay for the option any more. I can hear my partys on the regular phone if I turn it up all the way and there is no one on the other phone.

I received a “D.R.” after nine years of being clean of any infraction on my record. The D.R. was for disobeying a verbal order. It was so confusing at that time. I was road beaten and had just gotten off the “cattle car”. But from seeing an audiolgist to have my one hearing aid fixed or replaced. So at that time I didn’t have this crucial stepping stone. So the commands spoken by officers now are lost in to a sea of garble. I was so confused at this time I had no hearing aids. Didn’t understand any communications when being interrigated during my brief encounter. I only heard mumblings and inappropriate degrading remarks. Which I refrain from quoting. This all came about during the inmate prossesing circus. I was trying to hear and follow orders being screemed out from “many” sources. The D.R.stood because the sarg. Lied on the D.R. and stated that I said that I heard the verbal order. Five inmates signed whitness statements saying thay didn’t hear no such order, how could he have heard it. So I got 30 days confinement. Before my time was up I got shiped as a confinement inmate back to *** for two surgeries.

I completed the America sign language class. And now I am an active facilitator for the class. I help the people who need a lot of help.

I have run into a lot of times misunderstanding words, getting them twisted around. Lately have been trying to stay to myself and God to keep out of trouble.

Well Pat I do have to apologize for taking so long in writing to you. You gave me a lot to think about, even though you haven’t written to me. “I would like some kind of response if you choose.”  Thank you.

*****   ******

Third Letter From California Deaf Inmate

Here is the third letter from this CA Deaf inmate. You, the reader, read of hopelessness and tragedy in the beginning. But, I told him the truth of a possibly brighter future, and he responded. In each letter, he gets better emotionally – as you will see.

I edited it a little to insure his safety, and to give it consistency.

 

Dear Ms. Pat Bliss,

    I received a beautiful card from some of your friends, you will never fully understand how much and important your letters and cards mean to me.
    In prison, staff and officers and Doctors never do as the law say, they do as they wish. Inmates in prison are considered nothing and Deaf inmates are treated and considered less-than-nothing. In prison, something must happen to me before officers and Doctors will help me or protect me. I told a Doctor of my living situation and he say the only thing they can do is place me in ad-seg – the hole.

[I told him that being black or Deaf will not prevent success in landing a job upon paroling but being unskilled will - this is his response.]

I do know plumbing, janitory work, installing carpet. I know when I parole I’ll self employ, create my own jobs. I want a plumbing company with Deaf workers.

[He held different jobs before arrested at 31.]

    It’s my first time incarcerated and my last. I parole **, 2014. I want to see that day so I’ll suffer in silence. Before I didn’t know God, throughout my life I’ve attempted suicide 4 times. Being rejected at birth, growing up deaf and never fitted in anywhere, I now know if I’m gonna make it, I need God. I’ve never been able to trust or depend on another human being. I’m not looking for riches or material things, all I want is someone to love and who will love me. So after 25 years in prison, your prayers and letters give my joy, you give me the will to keep going. Having conversation [by letter] with you and knowing you care a little about me as a person, helps me see some things differently about people around me. Please write soon, your forever friend. ***

Prisoner Correspondence from H.E.A.R.D.

This is another inmate letter we received from H.E.A.R.D. Like so many letters we publish, the grammar and usage are difficult to decipher, but the content is powerful and profound. We thank Talila Lewis and H.E.A.R.D. for helping us to bring attention to the agony that is the day to day existence of the Deaf inmate.

Image courtesy of http://www.behearddc.org

somebody always fun of alone deaf dumb sign insult me  , i just ignore people , me sometime fear very danger prison somebody  have weapon  no reason , i just depend me carful watch out back gang people ,i cant hear not safe people crowded , i very frustrate my life in prison , alone 8 year no friend just avoid of people ,i just keep cool my self , ged i need more improve reading and writing, teach don’t have interpret for deaf , i need transfer other place prison deaf people for safe myself  gang people i don’t involve friend gang  i like look find friend for good people Christ person that all. thank you you listen my story  my life hope file court about deaf .

A Special Event Featuring H.E.A.R.D.

Image courtesy of H.E.A.R.D.

[This is reposted from H.E.A.R.D.'s page on FaceBook. --ed.]

On Friday, June 15th 6pm onward, Many Languages One Voice is hosting cross-teach-in with HEARD DC. HEARD DC works to ensure that the deaf are able to access the justice system, with a particular focus on deaf wrongful conviction. They’ll inform us of some laws that work to protect the deaf in DC, as well as share anecdotes from their community.

We’ll also share our knowledge of the DC Language Access Act, our struggles with government compliance and some anecdotes from our community. We’re hoping that this will demonstrate that equitable access to government systems is not an immigrant issue nor a differently-abled issue, but a social justice issue for all. Get ready to be inspired!

HEARD’s mission is to identify and remove barriers that prevent the deaf from participating in and having equal access to the justice system by enhancing the competence, capacity, and capability of justice professionals to manage language access and ability rights issues; and empowering the Deaf Community through education and advocacy.

Here’s the link:

http://www.facebook.com/events/276146022484434/

Inmate Letter Dated March 15th, 2012

Sadly, the original letter was barely legible. After a struggle, I managed to translate it – roughly – for you here. I tried to maintain the inmate’s voice, while working to make sense of it.

–Pat.

 

Hello to the peoples.

Thanks for your support of the deaf people who have suffered in prison for 20 up to 25 years in prison. Now, I have fought with this life in prison. Life is sorrowful with other inmates tricking me as inmates wrote a request form to put me in the hole (confinement) while I was not knowing how they tricked me locked me up for nothing.

Because the deaf person want to stay out of trouble or the deaf person can be beat [for] using sign language to communicate. Some other inmates don’t understand what deaf people talk about. Deaf people refuse to cooperate with troublemaker for making money from someone’s eles’s cell property. Then the hearing people took the request form to and wrote my room number on it. The Sergeant officer ordered deaf person to be handcuffed without knowing what happened just that you got to see the Captain in his office. Deaf person could not reach anyone to get an interpreter.

This the life of a deaf person… They are violating our civil rights… I have a problem, that I cannot find a way to write medical to explain I need surgery on my right elbow. Medical paperwork is hard to understand, the vocabulary deaf person cannot understand. It is hard to explain the problem to the doctor. It is tough to explain the power the doctor has.

The doctor knows that deaf person cannot write right and says “Aha!, Well inmate you gonna be alright or I can cut off your arm. It will be good.” So the deaf person say “Arghh, that can’t be, to cut off the arm!” Then deaf person gives up and that is how deaf person has been frustrated all these years. That is not fair for these hearing people com out with beautiful braces on their knee and already had surgery. The deaf people may never have good legs and arms. That is not fair. Also, I cannot afford to pay another person to explain to the doctor, it is hard to tell doctor the right answers. Only God know everything.

I am a little hearing impaired. I understand 10% when I hear a loud one I can hear words sometimes. I have been in prison for 22 years. I will have to go back to court real soon. I never went to the courtroom or communicated with the policeman in the situation.

Also, now I am in AA meetings. There is no interpreter, I will be filing a grievance soon. The medical staff has refused to give me ID card as Deaf and Hearing Impaired. They did give them where I came from.

Anyway, hope you enjoy reading my journey on these pages. Thank you.

Awaiting Trial

Lying on an inch thick mattress, puss running out of his ears, migraine headaches, vomiting chronically and constantly passing out, would accurately describe Felix Garcia’s day-to-day existence at the old Morgan Street Jail in downtown Tampa, Florida. The woefully ill-equipped medical staff struggled to help a new inmate – coming to see them regularly – suffering from Cholesteatoma and Serous Otitis Media.

The former is a type of inner ear cyst, whose symptoms include brain abscess, deafness, dizziness, erosion into the facial nerve causing paralysis and meningitis. The latter is an acute infection and possible rupture of the tympanic membrane.

Image courtesy of http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002045/#adam_001050.disease.symptoms

Day in and day out for 2 straight years, this man – unable to communicate his misery – bided his time in the red brick building, clearly visible from I-275 as the interstate winds through the city. Morgan Street is the oldest of the Tampa jails. Since Felix’s time, two newer and more modern jails have been built in Hillsborough County – the Orient Road Jail and the Falkenburg Road Jail.

Life in jail is common and routine. Clanging alarms and loud horns awaken you at sunup. After a quick and early breakfast, you have an hour of recreation where you can walk around, watch TV, read, play cards, go to the law library on a pass or maybe play basketball. Lunch too, is ahead of time and brief. If you’re fortunate enough to have visitors – and they show up during specified times – you may be able to enjoy a few short moments of respite. Dinner comes too soon in the evening, and the day ends shortly afterwards. Then there’s talk! Jail is one of the noisiest places on Earth. Everything is iron, steel or loud and resonant concrete. There’s a constant din of banging and clanging – and the talk. It’s a steady drum-beating roar of Vox Humana.

Felix didn’t get many visits, Frank did. Inmates are allowed to make collect calls, but Felix couldn’t use a phone. Therefore, he would have a cellmate make his calls for him. Even if a TTY phone had been available to him, Felix had never seen one, and had no idea as to how to use them. If one did exist at Morgan Street, Felix didn’t know it.

After throwing up their hands in frustration, the medical staff opted to send Felix to Tampa General Hospital. The following table shows the severity of his condition.

Admitted Date

Admission Type

Discharge Date

10/19/81

Outpatient

10/19/81

10/26/81

Outpatient

10/26/81

11/19/81

Outpatient

11/19/81

11/25/81

Emergency

11/25/81

04/22/82

Outpatient

04/22/82

04/29/82

Outpatient

04/29/82

05/06/82

Outpatient

05/06/82

05/16/82

Inpatient

06/08/82

06/11/82

Outpatient

06/11/82

06/15/82

Outpatient

06/15/82

06/29/82

Outpatient

06/29/82

07/27/82

Outpatient

07/27/82

08/02/82

Outpatient

08/02/82

08/16/82

Outpatient

08/16/82

08/19/82

Outpatient

08/19/82

08/24/82

Outpatient

08/24/82

08/30/82

Outpatient

08/30/82

09/14/82

Outpatient

09/14/82

02/28/83

Inpatient

03/04/83

03/07/83

Inpatient

03/21/83

08/09/83

Outpatient

08/09/83

Felix spoke to me of being in a “fog,” not only during the trial, but also for years before he was arrested. He had a final operation, a couple of years into his prison sentence, which cleared up the fog, but the migraines, nausea and passing out still occur.

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.]

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