Book Review: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

By Joanne Greenberg

English: Piper Kerman at the 2010 Brooklyn Boo...

Piper Kerman at the 2010 Brooklyn Book Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a memoir of fifteen months spent in Danbury Federal Prison work camp. In the range of prisons, this was the highest (best); the others were downhill from there. Piper had been a drug dealer, left the drug game, and ten years later was arrested in connection with a sweep arrest of her former gang members. This woman brought to her experience the absolute best possible strengths – she was healthy, young, attractive but not beautiful, cultured but not pretentious, and flexible.

The book reads well. The reader is brought into Piper’s  prison life as she goes through different levels of the experience, and the reader admires her ability to adjust to what are often uncomfortable but never horrific situations. Later, in jail, pending an appearance in court, things are not as manageable. The writing is smooth and interesting. I had some quibbles with her take on her fellow inmates. I don’t know of any group anywhere as comfort giving, stimulating, appreciative, or loving as how she describes her

fellow prisoners. The administration didn’t count at all. They appear and disappear in a mist with one or two exceptions that she managed to work around. The positive relations that she had with her fellow prisoners made me a little suspicious. I think she was using them to show how useless and ridiculous the modern American prison system is. I agree with her, but I can’t help feeling a little bit manipulated.

This book was highly recommended to me by a friend, and I haven’t had a chance to discuss it with her. I can see why the book would be very popular, because it strikes all the right notes. The prison system sucks, but ordinary people are the salt of the earth. As you already know, this is not the case. Most of the people I picked up when I was doing rescue just thought they were going someplace else. Occasionally, though, we got scuzzballs. I thing the police get bitter because of the scuzzball ratio and this influences their outlook.

The book can be purchased through as well as other outlets.

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

Two Quick Stories

By Joanne Greenberg

A lifetime of working with the Deaf has given me a wealth of great memories and stories to share. Here are 2 quick ones that come to mind.

I was in the nursing home, watching deafened elders scratching spidery words on paper. Many of the words were unreadable. A group was sitting, silent and isolated, in chairs along the wall. Isolation in old-age is a terrible thing to bear, I thought. I got to a fragile old man, with whom I communicated, by howling into his ear.

“I have a gift for all of you!” I shouted. “I can come up here and teach you sign language. Even if you are slow, or have arthritic fingers, you will be able to communicate with one another.” He waved me away.

“We may be low,” he growled, “being here, but we’re not that low.”

“Does that mean you’d rather be mute and isolated than use a beautiful and fluent language, to speak to one another?”

“Our dignity is all we have here,” he said, with a look of great distaste. “We don’t flap our hands around, gesturing.”

Before that conversation, I never would have believed that there was such a stigma connected with using Sign language. I thought the urge to speak and be understood could overcome any negative feelings about a strange manner of communication.

As America’s population ages, with people living longer than ever before, hearing loss is becoming more and more prevelent – and more problematic. Evidence now exists tying age related hearing loss to dementia. This story takes place back in the mid-Seventies. I know that acceptance of ASL has increased dramatically, and that’s great. But the language is still somewhat stigmatized, in particular among the elderly who struggle to come to grips with all the losses – physical and mental – that aging brings.


A Deaf girl was driving me to a class. She had asked me to interpret it, and we were on time. Suddenly, she signalled left, and pulled over to the side of the street. We waited. In a moment, I could hear a siren, but barely and far in the distance. Soon, the sound became louder, then stopped suddenly. Just as I was about to ask her, why she had pulled over, a fire truck – lights only – sped past us.

“Why did you pull over? I could barely hear that siren. And it stopped, well before the fire engine came by.”

“I saw all the people on the sidewalk, a few blocks back, and they all turned to see something coming,” she said. “It would have been either the fire or the police department – so naturally, I pulled over.”

We waited for a few moments, and then were on our way.

There are many forms of deafness. Some Deaf hear better than we do, but in a different frequency range. I have often heard stories of Deaf people hearing a crying baby or a siren, when no one else could. This however, represents a different skill set. This young woman had trained herself to pay attention to stimulus that we might ignore, knowing that what her ears couldn’t tell her, her eyes could. What matters here is not what she could see, but rather what additional information she could glean from what she saw. A valuable skill indeed.

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

Concern at a Distance

By Joanne Greenberg

In Lakewood, Colorado as in many other places in the United States, people are protesting the placement of schools and other facilities for the Deaf. They worry about increased traffic, and the lowering of property values. They fear danger from the pupils in those schools, or the recipients of those services.

”We have nothing against the Deaf,” they say, “but the school doesn’t belong here – or here, or here. Such a school would spoil the integrity of the neighborhood.“

I’ve already heard this complaint. About Black people, Jews and Hispanics.

English: Alameda High School in Lakewood, Colo...

Alameda High School in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A society will create what it values. In this case, concern at a distance. The reality is, that dozens of studies of such intrusions, show us that when the “invaders” are welcomed, they serve to bond the community and result in improvement in property values and the stability of neighborhoods, the way schools, parks and other additions do.

A neighborhood near me accepted a group of at-risk boys in a residential center. The boys were under closer supervision from the school faculty, than home-raised children are. Their group leaders urged them to volunteer time and effort to help the neighbors around them. They became welcome presences in the community, shoveling snow and doing odd jobs for older people and shut-ins who needed their help. Friendships resulted. “The best neighbors you could have,” my friend told me. When the group wanted to expand, the new neighborhood picketed against them. Maybe a Wal-mart will come in for those fearful people.

English: Footprint of Walmart stores within th...

Footprint of Walmart stores within the United States. Areas with more than one branch have progressively larger points. Alaska not to scale with the rest of the map. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

New Book Examines Drug Use in Treatment of Mentally Ill

The International Society for the Psychological Treatment of Schizophrenia (and other psychoses) U.S., is having their annual convention this year in Chicago. I am going to give a speech called, “The Lone Ranger is Busy and Tonto Has Split.” No matter what health plan is adopted for this country, it is going to feature large amounts of heavy-duty psychotropic drugs, given for relatively mild to moderate conditions.

The administration of these drugs has constituted chemical straight jackets to many people, making life-long invalids out of them. The new book that describes this problem, and promotes a solution is Rethinking Madness, written by Paris Williams.

Others have come forward with the same statistics. There has been marked improvement by patients who have stopped their drug regimens, compared with those who have not. We are going to have to solve, or at least ameliorate the serious problem of mental illness on our own. The medical/psychiatric community is not ready to accept this form of treatment. There are in this country today hundreds of small, active help centers and support groups, bringing relief to their patrons.

The Hearing Voices movement that started in England now has chapters in America. There are also private and alternative clinics and peer groups that have recorded improvements on all levels for the people who attend them.

When I looked at my insurance lists, of accepted drugs, I saw that fully 1/3 of the drugs listed were heavy-duty anti-psychotics. This should set off alarm bells in people who are paying great amounts of money, for treatments whose side effects are horrific.

We know that mental illness is treatable in many different ways. Not enough good research has been done on these ways.

Mini-post: Update #JusticeForFelix

161 Signers so far. Don’t drop the ball. Felix still needs you. Sign @ Tweet #JusticeForFelix

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:




Do Deaf people dream in ASL?

Often they do, but it depends on how long they have been deaf and what form of communication is natural to them. You can often see deaf people who are sleeping, talking to themselves in their sleep in full or half formed sign. Many report that the characters in their dreams use the same range of sign – regional professional or technical signs – and with the range of skill as I’ve seen in them while awake.

Deaf friends have told me that they dream they can hear, but since they don’t really know what that entails, or how speech sounds, they imagine some pretty bizarre things.

I have a friend whose parents I had known for quite a few years. I was sad when her mother died. And one day, I was talking to her about her family and I said, “I really miss your mother. We had quite a few telephone visits – and I always knew it was she, as soon as I picked up the phone. She had a very pleasant roughness to her voice. A texture that was unique.”

My friend looked at me in surprise and said, “Are you telling me that people have different voices?”

I told her that not only are our voices different, but most of our emotions were shown in the voice, and not as she had imagined, in face or body language. This surprised her. I also told her that we sometimes play or express other moods with our voices conveying one thing and our body language, another.

Think about what it must be like in prison, where voices are kept dead flat – which translates into dead flat ASL.

Just Visiting

The grounds are beautiful at the facilities I visit at the State Prison, Department Of Correction. I walk past careful beds of flowers, not a weed in sight. There are no trees or shrubs, though, nothing to interfere with the line of sight. We, the visiting group, go through the main door and into a small reception area with armed officers, two women, one man. Others come and go. They check my name and take my driver’s license, which they say they will return when we leave. They pat us down. No homemade treats are allowed. The other members of the party are checked out and we are sent through a door that clangs behind us. There is another steel door ahead of us, not yet open, so we stand between the doors, crowded into the space, maybe ten feet square, holding what we have brought. This is the moment when the unique experience of prison is made plain to me. The officers are unsmiling and show no emotion – their faces are blank and there is none of the anxiety-easing small talk of normal interchange. As visitors, we are potential sources of trouble. The door ahead of us is opened and clangs shut behind us. Ahead is a corridor whose walls have lists of rules and announcements: There will be a class beginning in Bible study on Thursday in room etc. GED classes will begin again next week. The prison newsletter is open for submissions.

We walk to a room led by a guard who opens the doors for us. The prisoners, in green scrubs are already there. The halls have a smell of disinfectant. This room is slightly better.

We are here to conduct Jewish services in the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the two stellar holidays of the Jewish year. We are bringing sealed supermarket items for a holiday meal. There can be nothing special, nothing handmade. We sit with the prisoners, one and one at the table, chatting for a few minutes. The prayer service begins. We take turns reading.

The room is square and large enough for the 12 of us to sit comfortably on the not very comfortable chairs. It is lit with florescent tubes and faint light from barred windows so dirty that the light comes through them filtered and muzzy.

In the middle of the service, two guards come in. Immediately, the prisoners stand and go to one end of the room, facing the center. A list is read. Each man responds to the number with his own number. The prisoners show no expressions of annoyance or impatience that this rare time with us has been interrupted. The speed with which they respond lets us know that no expressions of irritation or words of impatience are tolerated, even though the guards knew we were here and could have put off the count until we left.

The count completed, the guards leave and we go back to our service and then give out the paper plates and plastic spoons, which will later be collected. We unwrap the less than appetizing food and begin to eat. We have been chatting all the while. Have they been able to light candles for Sabbath prayers? No. What have they watched or read that they have liked lately? Sometimes we laugh together. Newspapers and entertainment programs are scanned here, and edited to weed out acts of violence. We answer questions if we can. Partisan political news is expunged. What is or is not allowed the prisoners changes from day to day and no complaints about this are tolerated. Little planning can be counted on, few plans made. This keeps the escape rate low, but it also infantilizes the inmates.

There is, at all times, a low-key but constant tension in the prison. No one is at ease. Our meal over, we embrace the prisoners and knock on the door – we have been locked in – and the guard opens it an escorts us back the way we have come and to the office. We get our driver’s licenses back and anything that was taken from us as being potentially dangerous or forbidden. Three hours have passed. It feels like all day.

As I think of what a deaf prisoner might experience, especially if no other Deaf are in the facility, I realize how easily misinterpretations can occur. Deaf people use lots of physical actions, signs and expressions. Even when they are not using Sign for speaking, they tend to gesture, to give and reflect facial and body movements, their only ways of understanding emotion and motivation. No one lip-reads that well. The deadpan prison expression in guards and inmates gives them no clues as to what is being requested or implied. There is every kind of room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding. The physicality – gestures, facial expressiveness and simple inability to hear are all, contrary to prison culture. Deaf people depend on cues not given in the prison subculture. No wonder their behavior write-ups and bad reports are double those of ordinary inmates. No wonder their sentences are ramped up due to bad behavior.






Not Everything is Captioned

An Old Philco Predicta TV. This was the iPad of its day. Image courtesy of

Sometime ago, a Deaf friend asked me to interpret the 10:00 News. Captioning doesn’t always work with live TV feeds from on scene reporters, so I was glad to comply.

“All of it,” she said.


First, was a statement that the President said the country was on an even keel. Things were improving. This was said by the reporter, whose name was featured.

“Who is saying that, the President or the reporter?”

Then the President said the same thing.

“Huh?” my friend said.

“Shut up,” I said sweetly. Next the head of a citizens group in Chicago stated that the President is completely wrong. Things are not getting better, they’re getting worse. This was said by another reporter. Then we saw the citizen’s group representative saying the same thing.

“He said the same thing. How do we know who is right, and on what basis is their estimate made?”

“Shut up,” I said cheerily. Then we had commercials, which I interpreted.

“Ridiculous” she said.

Then, a report of a fire, a couple of hit and runs and a drive by shooting. More commercials. The weather – self explanatory. Lastly, a reporter told us, that he was speaking from the gold reserve center at Fort Knox, Kentucky. If the drain of gold leaving the United States isn’t stopped in 3 days, the country will be left with huge gold deficits which would result in an immediate crisis.

“Oh my goodness!” cried my friend. “How could this terrible thing have happened? Won’t the government marshall all its powers to stop this – what a crisis!”

“Crisis, nothing” I said, and I turned off the set. “We get crises every evening. I never heard of this one before – and I know I’ll never hear it again. Choose your cataclysm. But, you wanted the news that hearing people get – and you got it.”

“But it doesn’t make any sense.”

“That’s why they call it the boob tube.”


“Shut up,” I said, “and drink your brandy.”

The One Lovely Blog Award

August 1, 2012

I received a message recently, nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award by Marsha Graham of iPhonePhotoMaven at (She publishes several other blogs – her fingers are bleeding on the keyboard.)

Thank you, Marsha, for your nomination. I’m glad you enjoy  We work hard at presenting news and information regarding the issue of Deaf incarceration, in an interesting and enjoyable format. Accepting this award is an honor, and a great opportunity to mention some of the blogs that have had an influence on us.

There are five guidelines for accepting this award:

Link back to the blogger who nominated you.

  1. Paste the award image on your blog, anywhere.
  2. Tell seven facts about yourself.
  3. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award.
  4. Contact the bloggers that you have chosen to let them know that they have been nominated.

Seven facts about me: (Since I’m the editor/administrator for this blog, but neither the site owner – publisher, nor the sole content creator, I feel it necessary to share some of the wealth.)

1. When I’m not blogging, I’m a pro-am boxer. That is to say that although I don’t make money fighting for purses, I train like a pro – 12 round fights at 3 minutes a round. I fight once a week, and spend about 2 hours a day training.

2. is the brainchild of Joanne Greenberg from an impetus by McCay Vernon. Dr. Vernon was looking to co-author a book on the subject, but Ms. Greenberg convinced him of the advantages of an online approach.

3.  My Gravatar is Jack.  Jack is a Chow-Lab mix. He was born to a dog-fighting ring in Georgia, and due to his lack of size was unceremoniously left by the side of the road with his mother and siblings. His mother was hit and killed by a passing car, and the rescue organization – Old Fella Burke County Animal Rescue – found him, starving and afraid – suckling at her corpse. They sent him up to Northeast Animal Shelter – a no kill shelter – in Salem, MA.

4. If you’ve been watching our video series, Felix Garcia in His Own Words, you’ve undoubtedly been impressed by the job done by our wonderful interpreter. Here’s something I didn’t know about ASL interpreting. In this world of self-promotion and overnight Internet fame – the ASL interpreter views her work in somewhat the same light, as does a doctor or a priest. That is to say that they want to keep their names out of the public view, and maintain a confidentiality regarding their clients.

5. I have lived many past lives. I’ve been an audio-video engineer, a computer engineer, a rock and roll soundman, a cabbie, a truck driver and numerous things that are a lot less pride-worthy. Most recently, however, I was a Diabetic. I was obese – at a body fat percentage of over 30%, and I almost died of Diabetic shock before my diagnosis. I have beaten the disease, using diet and exercise. My blood work has been that of a non-Diabetic for the last 3 years, and I’ve been off any medication. Doctors generally view this as impossible.

6. Not all Sign is ASL. Apparently, in Guatemala the Deaf speak Lensegua. Some quick research reveals that just about every country has a unique version of Sign language. There is also a Lingua Franca version called International Sign, and another American form called Signed Exact English. ASL however, is the big dog in the tall grass. It’s the 4th most commonly spoken language in the World.

7. is constantly seeking content. We need to hear from anyone who’s Deaf and has been – or is currently – incarcerated or has interacted with Law Enforcement. Conversely, we need to hear from those on the other side of the glass, so to speak. If you are a Corrections Officer or Police Officer who has interacted with the Deaf, please contact us. This is extremely important. We want nothing more than to tell this story fairly, and with both sides represented.


The next part of the award is nominating other bloggers:

1. Improving Police  A blog site by a former Police commissioner, who works to improve the way policing is done.

2. Nanoy Manga Teaches the art of Manga, and religiously follows I can always count on a “Like” from him, and that earns my gratitude.

3. Lipreading Mom A blogger – and actual real life writer – discusses what raising hearing children is like for a HoH individual.

4. MadMike’s America My mentor and inspiration. They have an army of contributors, post like a Colorado wild fire, and have a vast readership. If ever becomes even 1/10th as huge – I can die and go to Heaven.

5. Law Office of Marsha Graham One of Ms. Graham’s many blogs. All this and a working attorney. Where does she find the time?

6. Another Boomer Blog - This too, is a Marsha Graham blog. Her support for the project has been invaluable, and if it were up to me, she’d win her own special award.

7. Ricky’s Medical Blog mentioned above, I like to climb into a ring with a 200 pound bone-breaker and throw it around. So, dare I say it – I’m pretty buff. Well, this guy makes me look like the proverbial 90 pound weakling. He’s also a doctor, a personal trainer and a behavioral scientist. His articles are factual and informative – and they deal in science – not rumor, mythology or urban legend.

8. Prisonmovement’s Weblog One of the sites that I consider a sister site to We commonly reblog each other, and their cause is much in sync with our own. A great site, and one that I’m proud to associate myself with.

9. Terpshands One area, which concerns itself with, is ASL interpretation. The need for qualified interpreters is great. Terpshands is such an interpreter.

10. CrimeDime Mentioning CrimeDime here is as much an honor as it is a pleasure. They too, are what I consider a sister site to our own, but they’ve been of immeasurable help to me in starting They interviewed me, and published it as a four part series. My head still won’t fit through my front door. I’ve said this before, but CrimeDime – you guys are the bomb!

11. iPhonePhotoBlogging So, along with all her other talents, Marsha Graham is also a photographer. And just to make matters more challenging, she creates all this beautiful work with an iPhone.

12. Ellexa Press LLC Not exactly a blog site, per se, but the home of one of’s favorite interpreters.

13. H.E.A.R.D. Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf. Again, not necessarily a blog site, but they’ve been relentless in both their fight to aid Deaf prisoners, and in their support of

14. Blog Catalog This is a blog site aggregator. Once listed on here, they help promote your blog. It’s kind of like the Zagat guide for bloggers. Civilians can go here to read reviews and ratings of your blog.

15. Solitary Watch The Web site of Jim Ridgeway. He’s the journalist who interviewed Felix Garcia in prison, from which we’ve made our hugely successful video series. Mr. Ridgeway has worked for prison reform and the abolishment of solitary confinement – for many years.

Felix in His Own Words Part 4 – End of Disc 1

This is the fourth video in our series of interviews with Felix Garcia – an innocent Deaf man who has served 30+ years for a crime he didn’t commit. In this particular installment, there were portions where 2 or more individuals were speaking at the same time. In those cases, I tried to put them both on the same caption line – delineated by initials.

Here’s the embedded video:

And here’s the PDF Transcript:

Felix transcript 4

Felix Garcia Interview Part 3

This is part 3 in our series, “Felix Garcia in His Own Words.” It’s already captioned and ready for your viewing. For those of you who enjoy a written transcript, please click the link below the video for a PDF. Part 4 – the end of Disc 1 – is being interpreted now, and will be ready next week.

Felix Garcia Interview Part 3 Transcript

Out of Prison, Trailing Demons – From

This picture moved me, so I used it in a previous post (properly cited and linked – of course). I recently had reason to go back to the original article in which it was published, and decided it rated a reblog here, on So, for your enjoyment and edification…

Private Prison Company May Take Over Virginia Sex Offender Center

Private Prison Virginia Sex Offender

This is reblogged from the Huffington Post. Please click on the link below to view.

Private Prison Company May Take Over Virginia Sex Offender Center.

Felix Part II is Now Captioned

The captioning is now complete on the 2nd installment of the video series “Felix Garcia in his Own Words.”

The 3rd installment has been interpreted and will be posted with captions and a PDF transcript within a couple of days.

SuperMax: The Faces of a Prison’s Mentally Ill – Reblogged From PrisonMovement’s Weblog

We have nothing but respect for PrisonMovement’s Weblog. Although this story is now, almost a month old, I wanted very much to post it. Here’s the link.

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.

*****   ******

Yay! Captions!

Our first installment in the ground-breaking video series, “Felix in His Own Words,” is now – finally – captioned for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Although the video is in the same location as before – on our scroll page – I have included the link, here.

Please note: On the right hand side of the control bar, you will find a button that allows for full screen viewing. If you view this video in the embedded mode – not full screen – you will need to move your mouse off the page. That will cause the control bar to disappear, allowing you to read the captions.

My thanks go out to Talila Lewis of H.E.A.R.D. for her efforts in convincing me of the necessity of this, and to NCAM for explaining the technical ins and outs. Above all, my special thanks go out to ME, who’s bleeding fingers and bleary eyes attest to how labor intensive and difficult a chore this is.

Although there are numerous turnkey solutions available, I found none of them to be satisfactory, and I ended up having to do it all manually, in the editing suite.

The second installment will be ready in a couple of days, and the upcoming third installment is at the interpreter’s, getting cooked. It – and all our future videos – will be captioned. A site dedicated to the well being of the Deaf needs to provide information that is accessible to the Deaf.

As to the written transcriptions – they will still be available, but in linked PDF format.

In the meantime, please enjoy “Felix in His Own Words – Part I” in all its captioned glory.


TSA Agents Laugh at Deaf Man – Reblogged from

TSA agents at the Louisville, Kentucky airport laughed at a deaf man, called him “f***ing deafie,” and then stole his candy – another perfect example of why this loathsome federal agency needs to be abolished immediately.

Read more:

Four Reblogs


The Felix Interview series is really something that you need to see. Although it’s only been available to us for a few weeks, it is the culmination of several years of work by James Ridgeway and Pat Bliss.

In fact, Felix’s prison interview is a monumental labor. Technically, it has involved video editing and compression, cross-country file sharing, a Sign language interpreter, audio editing, mixing and post production – as well as the creation and coding of the transcripts. During the course of this week, I will be adding captions for our Deaf and HOH readers – and the remaining 6 installments will all be captioned.

We’re all working our :)s off, but believe me – it’s well worth it. This might well be the best thing we’ve ever presented on

In the meantime however, we still have other things we need to post. Here are 4 articles that have come to my attention over the past few days.

This is an article published by PrisonMovement’s Weblog – taken from the Washington Post – about solitary confinement. DeafInPrison is very much concerned with solitary confinement due to the parallels between this horrific and draconian punishment, and the plight of Deaf inmates. Deaf inmates are often housed in environments where there are no other Deaf, and where the guards and staff are not trained in how to communicate with the Deaf. This is in essence a form of solitary confinement within the crowded general population.

Furthermore, since the behavior of a Deaf inmate – who is unable to understand the rules – is viewed as disobedience, they are often placed in actual physical solitary confinement. Many have been thus confined for years and even decades.

This is a reader’s letter and comments to another WaPo article on solitary confinement.

Throughout the Blogosphere, there are numerous sites that deal with the Justice system and Penology in the U.S. and around the World. PrisonMovement’s Weblog is one of the best. This story is a call to action for a young woman, Sara Kruzan. Sara was sold into sexual slavery as a minor, and eventually won her freedom by killing her pimp. She has been in prison for the crime, for 18 years now.

Links are provided in the article, as well as a template letter and some other hints and tips for what you can do to help this victim of a broken judicial system.

This is an op-ed, also from the Washington Post. It discusses the moral question of life without parole sentencing for juvenile offenders.

Well, that’s pretty much what I’ve got for you for today. Please remember to check out our video series of Felix Garcia in his prison interview. These are powerful and disturbing pieces, and they represent the hard work and level of commitment of all those involved with

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