Preschools, Prisons and Deaf Inmates

By Jean F. Andrews

Seal of the United States Department of Education

Seal of the United States Department of Education (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Sunday’s New York Times (October 26, 2013), Nicholas D. Kristof wrote a compelling piece linking two ideas that seemed, at first blush, to be oceans apart–preschools and prisons. What comes to mind is an innocent looking, three year old playing with play dough next to a grizzled inmate who looks beaten down by poverty, low education and the system. What a contrast!

In his article, Kristoff quotes Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, that such a plan to invest in national early education programs would be a “magical opportunity.” Duncan is quoted as saying “It can literally transform the life chances of children, and strengthen families in important ways — NYT.” Kristoff also quotes a major new study from Stanford University that shows that the achievement gaps begin as early as 18 months.  “Then at 2 years old, there’s a six year-month achievement gap. By age 5, it can be a two-year gap. Poor kids start so far behind when school begins that they never catch up – especially because they regress each summer — NYT.”

What has this to do with Deaf inmates?

Lots.

English: President Barack Obama plays basketba...

President Barack Obama plays basketball with Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, D.C., Feb. 28, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my testing of deaf inmates as well as test data reported by Dr. Katrina Miller, in her Huntsville study, the majority of deaf inmates suffer from poor achievement levels, most notably below 3rd grade reading levels.  Most never had early intervention in signing preschools.  Indeed, most learned sign language in later childhood or adolescence and had poor communication with family members as inferior as poor instruction in school.

There is a national need for ASL/English bilingual parent infant programs in preschools that encourage parents to learn sign as early as possible. This will help them to communicate with their children, to build their minds, their social skills and their emergent literacy.

We will have to confront the problems of poverty and underachievement sooner or later in the Deaf students’ lives, as Kristoff notes. Why not set up these early education programs so we can avoid jailing the troubled adolescent later, as he further notes. And we can parallel these ideas to deaf education, by setting up ASL/English bilingual preschools.  Like regular education, in deaf education  “[w]e face a choice between investing in preschools or in prisons — NYT.”

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

When Death Comes as a Kindness

By BitcoDavid

Herman Wallace is best known as one of the Angola 3. Sites like Prisonmovement’s Weblog and Moorbey’z Blog have spent years trying to get him released from solitary confinement in Louisiana. Early on Friday, October 4th, Herman Wallace passed away, after a long battle with cancer. He was 71 years old.

Wallace was a writer, an artist and the figurehead of a cause. He spent 41 years in Angola’s solitary confinement.

Since January of 1974, Wallace has not seen the sun, experienced the joy of conversation or felt the heat of a woman. He lived what is for many of us, a lifetime, in a 6′ by 9′ concrete cell.

Mr. Wallace had originally been convicted on an armed robbery charge, and was housed in general population. During a prison riot, a corrections officer – Brent Miller – was stabbed and killed. Wallace and Albert Woodfox were convicted of the stabbing, and sentenced to life in solitary. There, they were confined with another inmate, Robert King. These three men became the subject of an Amnesty International report in 2011. Documentarist Vadim Jean directed the film In the Land of the Free, about the plight of the Angola 3. To the very end, Wallace swore his innocence, and both his family and his lawyer believed that the 3 were wrongfully convicted.

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

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

Wallace was released 3 days before his death, in what can only be described as a real life Dostoevsky novel. No justice, no closure – merely a glimmer of hope before the bitter end.

Wallace was born on Oct. 13, 1941. He leaves behind, five sisters.

Time marches on, and there is an urgency in peoples’ lives. If we don’t help people like Wallace now, when they need our help, it may be too late when we finally get around to doing the right thing by them. I bring this up because of Felix Garcia. The man I see in this picture has aged markedly. Felix has spent over 30 years, wrongfully incarcerated. If we don’t help him now, it may soon be too late.

After 41 years in the deepest recesses of Angola’s hellish solitary confinement, and the long-term agony of the most horrible of diseases, Mr. Wallace must have been glad to go. Surely for him, death came as a kindness.

My gratitude to the New York Times for help with this article.

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.

A Mother’s Day Digest Post

By BitcoDavid

For starters, I’m a Bozo. I misspelled Appetizer on my last post. I’d have edited it out, but once you publish a post, the title stays permanent. WordPress will repost the edited title as a new post. So, my Bozo moment lives on the Internet, frozen in eternity. Thanks Spellcheck – you’re off the Christmas list.

Marsha Graham – as mentioned in the last post – fell down and broke her shoulder. Any broken bone is intensely painful, and slow to heal, but a shoulder has to be one of the worst. If you want to send some well wishes, you can post them to DeafInPrison.com, and I will be sure she gets them. Alternatively, you can go here. She needs our support.

***

Why Digest Posts? News happens so fast, I just can’t keep up with it. I’ll set out to do a single story post, but by the time I’m ready to start writing, a half dozen stories have come in. So, without further ado…

4 from the NYT:

English: Seal of Texas House of Representatives

1) The Texas Legislature is wrestling with a bill that will address that state’s overwhelming number of wrongful convictions. The bill is called the Michael Morton Act. Named after a man who wrongfully spent over 20 years in a Texas prison, this act would force prosecutors to share all evidence garnered in investigation – including any evidence that would serve to prove innocence. This is a significant step for a state known to be suffering greatly under the burden of wrongful conviction. Here’s the link from the Times.

2) Gail Collins did an op-ed comparing government corruption and malfeasance in NY government, with other states. She finds that NY, with 32 separate corruption cases pending, isn’t doing as badly in the race to the bottom, as one might think. Apparently Illinois, Arizona and Georgia also top that list. New Jersey however, received the highest marks. Who’d a thunk it? New Jersey is the least corrupt state in the Union. Live and learn. Here’s that link.

3) In Brooklyn, NY, a supercop detective – now retired – is having 50 of his highest profile convictions investigated. Apparently, he relied on a crack-addicted snitch as his primary source. Now, the Brooklyn D.A.’s office is questioning the legitimacy of those convictions. From the Region section.

4) Amanda Knox teaches us that sexism, sexual bigotry and wrongful conviction don’t just occur here in the U.S. This interview spoke to me so much that I decided to copy it, in full. Something I hardly ever do. Enjoy.

Which authors do you most admire?

Vladimir Nabokov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jonathan Safran Foer, David Foster
Wallace. . . . I like authors who experiment with narrative and delve
into very specific conditions within their characters in order to expose
universal truths about humanity. After reading, I like to feel that
I’ve experienced, learned, identified, been challenged and been provided
with insight.

When and where do you like to read?

I have two comfy chairs at home that I fall into when I’m reading, but I
probably read most when I’m in transit. I always carry a book with me
to read on the bus, and I tend to arrive everywhere early.

What was the best book you read while a student in Perugia, Italy?

Since I was in Italy for just a month as a student, the only book I was
able to finish before I was arrested was a new volume of modern Italian
poetry — the title of which I don’t remember. What I started to read and
most enjoyed while I was a student was an Italian edition of “Harry
Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” I was trying to teach myself Italian
outside of the classroom by referring to the familiar. That’s exactly
what I ended up doing when I first entered prison, this time with an
Italian version of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” that I got from
the tiny prison library.

What was your reading life in prison?

A friend jokingly told me once that I was doing in prison what he wished
he could do in his own life — take time off from everything (school,
work, responsibility) to read and read and read. Reading started out for
me as a means of passing the time and learning the language. Reading
became a means of escape, and then a means of identifying and affirming
who I was in the face of the prison’s oppressive environment. I looked
to books to stimulate my mind and create a daily sense of purpose.

Was there a particular book that helped get you through the experience?

Different books helped me through different periods in different ways.
For instance, over time the prison grew more and more overpopulated, and
at a certain point, I was struggling to cope with a cellmate who became
increasingly confrontational and violent. “The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s
Guide to the Galaxy,” by Douglas Adams, was a humorous distraction from
the tension.

Other books, like Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping,” were helpful
because they explored themes, like loneliness and alienation, that I was
having to learn to cope with myself.

Have you kept up with your Italian? Do you continue to read in the language?

I have a few close friends with whom I can practice speaking Italian,
but I mostly maintain fluency through reading. At the moment I’ve
returned to Boccaccio’s “Decameron,” which is satisfyingly challenging
and fun.

Are there any Italian writers you especially like?

Umberto Eco. He’s meticulous, thoughtful, innovative, tending toward the
epic while also humanizing. I love his lists — and I can always trust
him to help me increase my Italian vocabulary.

What’s the first book you read when you got back home?

“A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole, which was recommended by my boyfriend, James.

What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Are there any you steer clear of?

I like fiction better than nonfiction, but beyond that it’s easier to
define the kinds of stories I steer clear of rather than those I’m drawn
to. For me, the qualifying factors of a good story — captivating
narrative, challenging, insightful perspective and credible, complicated
characters — can come in many forms. I avoid romances and most
thrillers, because thoughtfulness is often sacrificed for the sake of
sentimentality or “action.”

What were your favorite books as a child? Do you have a favorite character or hero from those books? 

As a kid I was drawn to fairy tales — Mother Goose, the Brothers Grimm,
Hans Christian Andersen. Also, fantasy series, like “Harry Potter” and
“Redwall.” Then again, I read almost everything my mom put in front of
me, and then I raided her bookshelves. I liked strong, adventurous
female characters (“Xena” was a favorite TV show) but also quiet,
introverted underdogs who learned to step up.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

“A Prayer for Owen Meany,” by John Irving. While a little more
idealistic than I personally feel capable of aspiring to, the philosophy
of this book strikes me as pertinent for a person in power. The hero is
physically small and yet larger-than-life. He makes a difference in the
lives of those around him and, ultimately, sacrifices his life for the
sake of a greater good. It’s a beautifully written, inspiring story.

What was the best thing about writing a book? 

Transforming my thoughts and memories into a tangible narrative. This
gave me as much a sense of relief as a sense of accomplishment. Writing
helped me process the experience. Also, I really enjoyed working with
and learning from my collaborator, Linda Kulman. I’ve adopted many of
her writing strategies. This was a raw, emotional process, and I felt
safe sharing the most painful memories with her.

The hardest thing about writing a book?

In reliving what I went through I was surprised to discover suppressed
feelings of intense anger and grief. They were feelings that I couldn’t
allow myself to experience while confronting adversities of
imprisonment, trial, conviction and dehumanizing helplessness. When I
sat down to write, though, I suddenly found myself in a position to
really reflect — be outraged and sad — much more so than I anticipated I
would be if I were to regain my freedom. I frequently had to stop
writing and take a walk or curl up into a ball for a while until the
panic and/or grief subsided and I could work again.

Would you like to write another book, and if so, what would you like to write about?

I would very much like to write another book and put to work what I’ve
learned. The pet project I have in mind is a novel inspired by and
exploring my Oma (grandmother) and Opa’s (grandfather’s) history —
certain drastic choices they made in the course of their lives together.
I look forward to sitting down and listening to my Oma to get a sense
of the time period she grew up in, and at the same time to have that
stimulate my imagination for a story that I see revolving thematically
around identity and sacrifice.

What do you plan to read next?

“How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone,” by Sasa Stanisic. Also, “Zorba
the Greek,” by Nikos Kazantzakis. I have so many books at home that I
can’t wait to read, and yet I couldn’t help but pull these down from my
friends’ and family’s bookshelves.

Here’s the link to the original.

3 from AlterNet:

1) For years, perhaps even decades, Ariel Castro kept women as captives – denying them clothing and forcing them to stay on all fours, wearing dog leashes. In this fascinating story, AlterNet asks why dozens of 911 calls and reports from neighbors went unheeded by police, while at the same time, SWAT teams are performing drug raids every day. A few marijuana plants used for medical purposes – a SWAT team and a prison term. Running a Texas Chainsaw Massacre style torture chamber and kidnapping women – we can’t be bothered.  Here’s the link on AlterNet.

2) In the School to Prison Pipeline department, we have a story about a Diabetic High School girl who was beaten and arrested by school cops – for falling asleep in class. AlterNet coverage, here.

3) Speaking of cops beating women, you gotta read this. In Baltimore, the cops were beating on – and arresting – a young man, when woman witness, whipped out her iPhone and started filming. The cops saw her, and went to work on her. They actually say, “You want to film something bitch? Film this!” They broke her phone, beat her up and arrested her. Here’s the link to this must read story.

Well, there you go. Happy Mother’s day and stay tuned.

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.

Digest Post 5/3

By BitcoDavid

OK, today’s digest post is huge. Let me start with a quick anecdote vis-à-vis this ear bud thing. A woman who fights at my gym, Kim – for whom I have a great deal of respect – is involved with the Team Blood project, and therefore contributes to numerous charities. She’s been holding a piece of gear for me, so I could make a small contribution. OK, now today – I wanted to tell her that I would be ready to make the purchase on Monday – but she was wearing her Walkman. I called her name twice, and upon getting no response, tapped her lightly on the shoulder. Now when you want to speak to a Deaf person, you lightly tap them on the arm or shoulder to get their attention. Not a good idea with Hearies – especially not trained, combative Hearies. Well, it was no problem once she realized it was me, but in a different situation, I could have expected a jab or two. Deaf people are used to touching and being touched. Hearies consider that a violation of personal space. Anyway, the point is ear buds do make you essentially deaf, but without the life history to prepare you to deal with that.

Adam Mordecai (Mordecai), Advomatic

Adam Mordecai (Mordecai), Advomatic (Photo credit: B.G. Johnson)

We have written a lot about the phenomenon of false confession. People really don’t understand what would prompt someone to confess to a crime they didn’t commit. New research shows that 25% of DNA exonerations involve false confessions. This link will take you to a video about Adam Mordecai, a young man who confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.

NJ.com, a news aggregator site for New Jersey, reports that the crisis of elderly inmates is becoming a tax burden on that state. They sat that the number of prisoners over 50 has jumped 90% in the past decade, now sitting at 3,000 individuals. They site mandatory minimums and 3 strike laws as the reason. Here’s the link to that article.

In Arizona, a residential community for the Deaf is coming under fire for discrimination. Yup, you read that right. Apparently, HUD, the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is alleging that Apache ASL Trails, is discriminating against the non-Deaf. Here’s the link to NYT’s story.

A story that’s been all over the Web this week, is that prisoners are now creating reviews of their particular facilities on Yelp.com. Some of the reviews are actually quite good, while others – obviously – are not. And of course, one must bear in mind that you don’t get any choice where they send you, so a review isn’t going to make much difference. I mean it’s not like shopping for a used car. Here’s the story on WaPo.

The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs (Photo credit: Jason Verwey)

The NYT Editorial Board did a remarkable piece on drug treatment. They decry the inane War on Drugs®, put forward a cogent and reasonable argument for detox and other forms of non-destructive treatment. It’s really worth the read.

CCA has found it’s way back into the news again. Go figure. According to AlterNet, Corrections Corporation of America‘s latest act of unmitigated evil is referring to themselves – for tax purposes – as a real estate trust, and their unwilling charges as tenants. No really. I wish I was making this up, but its true. Nowadays, you don’t serve time for committing crimes, you relo to a loft space with roommates. This story would be almost funny, except that the IRS has allowed the exemption. Here’s the AlterNet coverage.

Jean Trounstine, with whom I collaborated on some Supporter Contributions a few weeks ago, published this article today, about death row inmates studying Plato. Plato, you may recall, was one of the 1st death row inmates, and now his writings and teachings are helping others to cope with the unimaginable angst of facing execution. Here’s that link.

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.

Digest Post 4/11/13

By BitcoDavid

Two weeks from today, I’ll be 56 years old. Who’d a thunk I’d ever make it this far? Worse, in 3 weeks, my marriage will be 19 years old. All the credit goes to Maureen. Woman’s a saint.  I wouldn’t have stayed with me, for a month.

I’m working on a new piece of gear, which will increase my blogging potential substantially – I’ll let you know more when it’s launched. I wrote an awesome Supporter Contribution for Jean Trounstine of Justice with Jean fame. It’s about the Gideon v Wainwright Ruling, and how states are trying to get away with denying legal representation to indigent defendants. Here’s the link on her site. There’s also still tons of video on the symposium to get to, plus several other Supporter Contributions and collaboration pieces, still in the mix.

***

Let’s get the tough stuff out of the way first. This video comes from my good friends at SolitaryWatch. There is some dialog, but it didn’t seem worth the effort to caption. What little dialog exists is covered pretty well after the break. Before you click on this bad boy, I should tell you that it’s a pretty tough video to watch. The subject is a mentally ill inmate, and the video contains language and graphic violence.

In the 24 minutes between Schlosser being sprayed and when he can wash the spray off his face, Welch strolls in and out of the cell holding the OC spray canister, telling Schlosser that if he doesn’t cooperate, “this will happen all over again.”

“You’re not going to win. I will win every time,” he says.

Welch says repeatedly, “If you’re talking, you’re breathing,” suggesting that as long as Schlosser was complaining, he was not in serious medical distress. Welch does call for a member of the prison’s medical staff.

At one point, he whispers to Schlosser, “Useless as teats on a bull, huh … What do you think now?” an apparent reference to an insult Schlosser directed at him two days earlier, according to the investigator’s report.

The investigator concluded that Welch’s treatment of Schlosser was personal.

“Welch continues to brow beat Schlosser and it looks like he has made this a personal issue,” said Durst in the report. “There is not one incident of de-escalation and in fact Welch continues to escalate the situation even after the deployment of chemical agent.”

In my discussions and interviews with Glenn Langohr, I have learned that the industrial strength pepper spray cops use, is much worse than what girls carry to ward off stalkers and drunks. The sprayer isn’t some little Binaca tube. It’s about the size of a small fire extinguisher, and it sprays a copious amount of a much more concentrated solution, Glenn told me that at one point, some inmates actually died from it. This officer is standing directly above the man, repetitively spraying right into his face. On top of that, the mask – called a spit mask - acts to trap the noxious substance in his face. When he complains he can’t breathe, I – for one – believe him.

Here’s the link to the SolitaryWatch story. They include a bit more coverage, and a second video of another extraction taken several years earlier.

***

You know how states have nick-names? The Sunshine State, the Keystone state etc.? Well, I’m convinced that Colorado and Texas are in a neck and neck battle for the name, the Nut-job State. This was brought to my attention on Lipreading Mom and Dads Network by Dan Schwartz. According to MailOnline, apparently, Dylan Quick – a Deaf student at a Texas community college – stabbed 14 other students. In a confession, he claimed to be trying to kill them all, but his knife broke before that could be accomplished. At least in prison, he’ll learn how to make a decent shank. Here’s the Brit’s coverage.

***

The SORT Team - CCA's Elite. Click the link to learn more about CCA's SORT teams.

The SORT Team – CCA’s Elite. Click this link to learn more about CCA’s SORT teams.

What would a DeafInPrison.com Digest Post be, without a slam on CCA? Think Progress published this story this week. In Ohio, at the nation’s first completely privatized state penitentiary, government inspectors failed the company on none less than 47 violations, ranging from fire safety to food distribution. Inmates sleeping on the floor, inadequate medical care, poor diet, overcrowding and dirty facilities were but a few of the complaints the auditors had. They added this bit, at the end.

Despite the many abuses discovered at private prisons all over the country, CCA and other industry giants have greatly benefited from cash-strapped states’ attempts to save money. However, recent studies show that private prisons actually cost more than state-owned ones. Undeterred, CCA has started offering states millions to buy state facilities like the Ohio prison. Ohio sold the prison to CCA last year to help balance the state’s 2012-2013 budget, and CCA recently offered to buy another one in exchange for the state’s guarantee of 90% occupancy for 20 or 30 years.

Again, here’s the link to TP’s coverage.

***

At the opposite end of the spectrum, California has been embroiled in a battle with the Federal government over control of their prisons, and in particular their inmates suffering from mental illness. My nemesis – the Gray Lady – has been covering the story for quite some time now. Here’s their latest update. Briefly – before I go get knocked around the ring for the next hour – the overcrowding situation and the use of semi-permanent solitary confinement forced the U.S. government to step in, assuming control of California’s prison system. Jerry Brown – Governor – has been appealing the decision via the courts. You really should go to the Times, and read this article. It’s an important case, and could have landmark implications.

Well, that’s it for me.

Peace. Out.

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.

 

Digest Post – 4/5/13

By BitcoDavid

Well, our post-a-day streak was broken yesterday, but before you go thinking I dropped the ball, I want you to know I was busy drumming up some Supporter Contributions that will be going up this week.

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

In keeping with our editorial priority list, the first order of business in today’s digest post is a brief update on Felix’s case. From Pat Bliss:

Felix had a video interview by a
reporter from a major Florida newspaper, this week. His clemency
action is on track. He is now living in the Faith Dorm and is doing
quite well there.

I do wish I had a little more to report. Unfortunately, that’s all Ms. bliss sent. We have picked up a few new signatures on the petition site. This petition is still a necessary and powerful tool to help persuade Pam Bondi and the other members of Florida law enforcement – including Governor Scott, that Felix deserves the justice that has eluded him for the past 30+ years.

Attorney General Pam Bondi

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Please click the link – here – or on either of our sidebars, and sign this vital petition. Felix Garcia has served a lifetime in prison – a Deaf man – for a crime he has long since been proven not guilty of.

Again, here’s the link to our petition to grant Felix a full pardon.

***

In life – I believe – everybody searches for their own personal title fight. You go toe to toe with whoever or whatever comes along, but your end game is always that big fish. Everybody wants to bag the elephant. I use this to explain my ongoing love-hate relationship with the venerable Gray Lady - the New York Times. Now – I go to the Times for sources on posts, but there will come a day, when the Lady herself will not print a story without first checking DeafInPrison.com.

Anyway, directly from herself , comes this update on the Clements case.

But weeks after Mr. Clements’s killing, investigators are still trying
to sort out whether the death was in fact a gang-ordered hit or the act of a lone gunman whose years in solitary confinement may have nurtured paranoia and a hatred of prison officials.

One of the school's administrators - OJ Keller with the tools of the trade. Photo: White House Boys

OJ Keller holding his only two friends. Photo: White House Boys

They make mention of the fact that Clements was working on eliminating the use of solitary confinement in Colorado’s prison system – a fact that I find staggering in its irony. In every report I’ve read, Clements is described as a tireless reformer who has dedicated his career to making prison more humane for the inmates – the very opposite of a fire and brimstone – law and order type such as  O.J. Keller of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. An infamous, vicious torturer, and corrupt administrator.

In quoting James F. Austin, a consultant who worked with Clements in his efforts to improve Colorado’s prisons, the Times wrote, “This has just never happened before in the history of corrections,” Dr.
Austin said. “What would be the value of the gang doing that, except to
bring incredible heat both on and off the street?” He added that the gangs “like to do their thing without much attention,
especially with a director who is doing everything he could to make the
prison safer and more comfortable.” — NYT

But law enforcement officials said on Thursday that they could not rule out the possibility that Mr. Ebel — who died after he was wounded in a shootout and a chase with Texas police officers and sheriff’s deputies northwest of Dallas on March 21 — was acting on orders from the leaders of the 211 Crew.

A search is continuing for two members of the gang known to have had contact with Mr. Ebel recently, said Lt. Jeff Kramer, a spokesman for the El Paso County sheriff’s office in Colorado. He called the men, James Lohr, 47, and Thomas Guolee, 31, “persons of interest” but stopped short of saying they were suspects in the case. Both are also wanted on warrants for unrelated crimes, Lieutenant Kramer said, and are thought to be armed and dangerous.

Even in this great shot of the accident scene, no sign of a truck – or a trucker. Photo:NYT

And still, no word on the trucker whom Ebel t-boned in his 100mph escape attempt in Texas. A guy climbs into his rig one morning, and out of nowhere a psychopath driving what passes nowadays for a Cadillac, creams him. I’m just sayin’, it’d be nice to give him just one line, in the reams of coverage this story has gotten.

Here’s the story as covered by that other news source – the NYT.

***

 

Finally, a reminder that this coming Wednesday, H.E.A.R.D. will be hosting their public meeting at Gallaudet. Here’s the PDF embed.

 

This event is listed on our Events Page, and here’s a link to the above embed.

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

Last Post for March – Digest Post

By BitcoDavid

English: New York, New York. Newsroom of the N...

Just one of the many offices here at DeafInPrison.com Plaza. I’m lying. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Our month long birthday celebration draws to a close. It’s been a phenomenal month for DeafInPrison.com – and for me, personally. As well as attending the stellar, Symposium for the Deaf and the Justice System, I gave birth to BitcoDavid’s BoxingBlog, attended a reunion show by one of the bands I used to mix back in Boston’s indie music heyday, built a great little single ended practice amp for a guitarist friend, and posted and wrote like Hemingway – without the monosyllabic words and general life sucks then you die, style that made him one of America’s great authors. All this, and I still got in all my ring time.

Ernest Hemingway in Milan, 1918

By the way – Hemingway was a Boxer, too you know – and nothing happened to his brain.

Anyway, tomorrow I’ll go into depth about all this in the March at DeafInPrison.com  recap post. Following that, we’ll be back to covering the Symposium. I still have about 4 hours of video left, and I’m working on getting hold of the PowerPoints and other active content that we shared, explored and discussed at this unique and informative conference.

Now, on to today’s Digest Post.

Marsha Graham sent me this via e-mail.

Long Prison Term Is Less So Thanks to Judge’s Regrets

From the New York Times:

When Denise Dallaire was arrested at age 26 on charges of selling a few ounces of crack cocaine here a decade ago, she was sentenced to prison for more than 15 years. Last month, shackled inside the same court and facing the same judge, she received an apology and was set free.

The reversal by Judge Ronald R. Lagueux highlights how mandatory sentencing guidelines, though struck down by the Supreme Court eight years ago, continue to keep hundreds of small-time offenders behind bars for longer than many today consider appropriate.

To see the rest of this article, go to the New York Times.

NY man cleared, free after 23 years in prison

 

Pat Bliss sent me this link to the story of David Ranta, the New York man who was wrongfully convicted of killing a Hasidic Rabbi, and just recently freed after 23 years. The story is interesting because he was not cleared by DNA evidence. This particular link is to NBC’s PhotoBlog on the story. Lots of great pictures, as well as some good reporting, but the story has gotten coverage throughout the media.

Finally, we have the following from the ACLU, via – again – Marsha Graham:

Prisons’ Outdated Technology Prevents Those with Disabilities from Communicating with Their Loved Ones

Imagine that someone you love is in prison. And, the only way she has to communicate to the outside world – family, friends, attorneys – is through Morse Code. Tap each letter out, one word at a time, painstakingly slowly … and try to understand the response that comes back in Morse Code as well. To add insult to injury, she will be charged a dollar for each minute she is tapping away.

This is essentially the situation for prisoners who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have speech disabilities. They cannot use the standard pay phones in prison, and the only means of accessible telecommunication to the outside world is through a Text Telephone (TTY) machine. This machine has a modified keyboard, specific rules on how to use it, and it transmits each letter and word slowly.

When it was invented 50 years ago, it was useful. But its technology is so outdated that most deaf and hard of hearing households have never seen a TTY machine, much less used one.

You can click on the above link or here, to get to the rest of this story.

On a related note, one of the guest speakers at the Symposium was Massachusetts State Representative, Paul Heroux. Prior to his seat in Congress, he worked in the Prison system here in Ma. After his speech, I had a few minutes to talk with him, and I brought up the idea of using Video Relay for Deaf inmates, rather than the cumbersome and antiquated TTY. I will be reporting on our discussion as part of the upcoming coverage of that event.

Well, that about wraps ‘er up. Thank you all for helping me make March a truly awesome month, and for all your support. And thanks for all the Likes and Follows that we’ve received, as well as all the support on Twitter and FaceBook. See you in April.

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.

DeafInPrison Nominated for Liebster Award

By BitcoDavid

Wow! When it rains… We have 6 days left in our month-long Birthday celebration, and we’ve been nominated for 2 awards! This most recent, comes from Hands Talk Toothe Liebster Award! We are grateful to Dholiness and Hands Talk Too for nominating us.

The Liebster Blog Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Liebster is German for favorite. Hands Talk Too

Step 1) Answer the following 11 Questions:

1. What are your 5 favorite books?  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, Number 4 would be Les Miserables, also by Hugo, and Number 5 – Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

2. Where would you like to live? The Enterprise.

3. Winter or summer? Summer.

4. Do you enjoy blogging? Yes, I do.

5. If you could change something in your blog, what would this be? Instead of having papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post as sources, I would rather be the major source for them. “Hey BitcoDavid, we have a deadline coming up, and we wanted your take on…”

6. What do you despise? Stupidity, ignorance, the Idiocracy. 

7. If you could spend half a day with a famous person, who would you choose and why? Beethoven. I figure Beethoven was probably a pretty cool dude. He liked to party, enjoyed the company of women, and wrote some of the most compelling music of all times. Plus, he was deaf (small d), and his music is about pain.

8. What do you do to relax? Work. Write and fight – not necessarily in that order, but I do like bashing it around in the ring. No, really. I’m most relaxed doing what I do.

9. Homemade or store-bought? Definitely homemade. Preferably, actually invented.

10. If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be? Oh, come on. I’d be rich – bitches. I mean, Romney Rich. 

11. What language would you like to learn and why? I have a tiny bit of German, I picked up from studying the Holocaust for the past 3 decades – and yes, one can learn too much about certain things. I’d like to learn ASL, partly because of my involvement with the Deaf, and partly because it’s a non-verbal language so it lights up more gray matter. 

Next, I have to tell you 11 facts about me:

1. I’ve been clean and sober since 1989.

2. I’ve been on a high protein, low carb diet since I was diagnosed with Diabetes in 2006. I’ve controlled the disease so well, that I’ve been medication free for the past 4 years, and my endocrinologist no longer classifies me as Diabetic.

3. When I’m not writing or fighting, I like bike riding and running in 5K races.

4. I used to be a rock and roll soundman during Boston’s Independent Music heyday. I’ve mixed bands that have gone on to become cult legends.

5. I used to teach college level analog electronics. I was one of the more popular teachers – until the particular college gave me the opportunity to teach elsewhere.

6. At one time in my life, I could roller skate the length of Boston in about 30 minutes.

7. My wife and I are set to celebrate our 20th anniversary, this April.

8. I’ve been homeless for 3 different periods during my life.

9. Years ago, I knew this guy who used a tow truck to punch a hole in the wall of a convenience store, and steal their ATM machine. I swear to God, it wasn’t me. Anyway, he wrapped the hook around the machine and plucked it right out of the store. He then drove it up to New Hampshire, where he had a shop. Now, this guy – a master mechanic and experienced welder, couldn’t open the machine. He ended up tossing it into a river up in N.H. As far as I know, it’s up there still.

10. I’m finding teevee to be devolving to a state of even greater abysmal-ness than it used to be.

11. Speaking of teevee, there’s this commercial where a woman is telling us that her neighbor lost everything in a hurricane. The woman goes on to say, that in order to help her friend, she recommended DirecTV. I’m thinking, wouldn’t you have done her more good if you… oh I don’t know… let her use your SHOWER?

Finally, I have to nominate 11 sites:

1. BitcoDavid’s BoxingBlog. I know where my bread is buttered.

2. Moorbey’z Blog. Out of gratitude and mutual respect and assuming they don’t already have it.

3. A Public Defender. Believe it or not, some lawyers actually can write.

4. C’mon People or Sheeple? I think their name says it all.

5. Carpenter’s Cabin. The Misbehaved Woman‘s husband’s blog. I’m told their dog has a site too, but I haven’t seen it.

6. UndergradWoman. Pinky Stanseski is our newest contributor, and we’re anxiously anticipating some great posts from her.

7. Just Cruisin 2. JC-2 has been following us for a while now. He likes dogs and cars. What else does one really need?

8. Lorelle on WordPress. Blogging is 50% your cause, and 50% Geekspeak. Lorelle offers some great tips on the tech end. This award however, is for sites with less than 200 followers, so she might not make the cut. She’s got a zillion (but it’s a metric zillion, so don’t be intimidated).

9. iPhonePhotoBlogging. Marsha Graham’s other site.

10. Glenn Langohr’s Memoirs in Print, Audio & Kindle. Glenn Langohr’s busier than a death row chaplain. Just Kidding! Oooh! You can hear a pin drop! (I’m goin’ to Hell for that one.) He writes for us, has a plethora of books out, and runs about 4 different blogs. This is one of them.

11. WaywardSpirit. WaywardSpirit has also been following us for quite a while. She offers an upbeat and positive message, which is the Yang to our Yin.

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.

Former Prosecutor Unloads on NYT

By BitcoDavid

Paul Butler is a former Federal prosecutor who (guilty of Driving While Black) learned firsthand what our punishment-crazed culture is all about. He now writes about Justice System reform, and is best known for his excellent book, Let’s Get Free – A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice. He did a beautiful op-ed piece in the Times, about the Gideon v. Wainwright case, which we discussed in You Have the Right to an Attorney… FAIL!

Two things should be clearly understood at the outset of this post. 1) The supreme court believed so strongly that all defendants deserved legal council, that they voted unanimously in the ruling. 2) Butler was a Federal Prosecutor when he found himself up against the lynch-mob mentality that is modern prosecution. If he had his rights trampled on, what chance do you or I have?

Mr Butler:

FIFTY years after the Supreme Court, in Gideon v. Wainwright, guaranteed legal representation to poor people charged with serious crimes, low-income criminal defendants, particularly black ones, are significantly worse off.

Don’t blame public defenders, who are usually overwhelmed. The problem lies with power-drunk prosecutors — I know, because I used to be one — and “tough on crime” lawmakers, who have enacted some of the world’s harshest sentencing laws. They mean well, but have created a system that makes a mockery of “equal justice under the law.” A black man without a high school diploma is more likely to be in prison than to have a job. — NYT (Emphasis, mine.)

In Harper Lee‘s timeless classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is asked to defend Tom Robinson, a Black man accused of raping a White, teen-aged girl – in the deep South. Finch faces huge opposition from the townspeople, but gives Robinson the best defense available – struggling between his belief in right and wrong, and his devotion to community. But the poor in America today, don’t get Atticus Finch. They get an overworked, underfunded Public Defender who merely makes a vain attempt at plea-bargaining the case down. And that’s if they’re lucky. Budget cuts and tough on crime elected officials are making it more difficult for the poor to get any representation at all.

More from Butler’s piece:

A poor person has a much greater chance of being incarcerated now than when Gideon was decided, 50 years ago today. This is not because of increased criminality — violent crime has plunged from its peak in the early 1990s — but because of prosecutorial policies that essentially target the poor and relegate their lawyers to negotiating guilty pleas, rather than mounting a defense.

After Gideon, things got better for poor defendants in the short term. Thousands who had not had lawyers at trial were released from jail. Many states and localities created public defenders’ offices. But political and legal developments soon eroded those achievements.

The so-called war on crime greatly expanded criminal liability. A prosecutor can almost always find some charge: there are over 4,000 crimes on the federal books alone. Recreational drug use is one of the more popular activities in America, but racial minorities suffer the brunt of drug-related convictions. –NYT

You can read the rest of this brilliant assessment of our current state of Justice for the poor, here.

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 Injustice of Permanent Punishment

By BitcoDavid

English: Logo of the .

Logo of the Food Stamp program (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1996 – under Clinton, by the way – the U.S. decreed that people convicted of drug related criminal offenses would never be eligible for Food Stamps or other government assistance. Up until 2011, almost a full quarter of states disenfranchised their ex-felon population, even after those individuals had served their sentences and paroles. Still, those rights are not restored automatically. The ex-convict, having expressed a desire to vote, must complete a process to have his suffrage rights restored. Virgina and Florida are still obtrusively intransigent. barring for life, anyone convicted of a felony, from voting.

The Washington D.C. office of the American Bar...

The Washington D.C. office of the American Bar Association. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many industries also ban ex-felons from working in them. For example, the American Bar Association will not allow ex-felons who successfully complete law school, from ever practicing law. That applies to civil law as well as felony law, so an ex-felon can not only never become a defense attorney, she can never practice any form of law. She can’t even be a clerk in an existing firm. Or, after serving a decade in prison, helping out in the infirmary, Prisoner number 01716S decides she wants to go to medical school. Well, she’s welcome to take all the classes she wants – but she’ll never be a doctor.

Now, let’s get back to the idea that incarceration serves as a societal disincentive against commission of criminal acts. Prisons were created in America, so the law biding could tell the non-law biding, if you do this, you’ll go to prison. Proponents of the death penalty – wrongly – rely on the deterrent argument. Theoretically, A person would think twice before committing an act so heinous as to result in execution. This being the case, since most felons go through life, blissfully unaware that they will never again be allowed to vote or get on the dole, I fail to see how disenfranchisement can serve as a deterrent.

Whether the purpose of prison is to deter, to punish or to rehabilitate, one overarching fact remains. The very definition of justice states that once an individual has paid his debt to society, the punishment stops. Once the time is served – the time is served. The guy’s square with the house again. He or she should be allowed to pick up the pieces of their broken lives and start anew. This should apply to working – in any field, to voting – a Constitutional right – and to receiving government assistance. And especially so, to Food Stamps. Would you starve someone just for having made a mistake? Surely, that comes under the heading of cruel and unusual.

You can learn more about this issue by going to State Felon Voting Laws (ProCon.org), Felony Disenfranchisement (Wikipedia) and Unfair Punishments (New York Times).

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.

You Have the Right to an Attorney… FAIL!

By BitcoDavid

Constitutional Amendments 101

Constitutional Amendments 101 (Photo credit: Village Square)

Back in 1963, the SCOTUS ruled that you have a right to an attorney regardless of your ability to pay for one. The ruling was unanimous – one of the few unanimous rulings in the history of the Court. That’s how important the Justices viewed this particular Constitutional right. A half a century later, judges, lawyers, advocates and poverty level inmates all agree, that right is seldom secured.

Any courtroom activity other than a felony is exempt from the ruling, so poor people often go into court for Civil proceedings, such as lawsuits, evictions, family and custody disputes, and small claims cases, without the protection of legal counsel. The results can be disastrous. Cases exist, of abusive parents being granted custody, the elderly being evicted from rent-controlled apartments and individuals being dragged into court by large corporations for billing disputes.

hi, you are my public defender for a shoplifti...

hi, you are my public defender for a shoplifting case (Photo credit: ellesmelle)

During the recent bank foreclosure debacle, many families lost their homes when they shouldn’t have, due to the fact that they couldn’t afford representation. Your bank is attempting a fraudulent and illegal foreclosure, and they get away with it because they have huge legal staffs, but you’re eating cat food and can’t afford a lawyer.

The government created and funds an organization, the Legal Services Corporation.

They exist to provide legal services to people below the poverty line, in civil litigation. According to them, some 60 million Americans qualify for their services, but 80% of them never actually make use of the service. American trial judges were surveyed, and they – overwhelmingly – stated that they are seeing more and more cases of individuals acting as their own attorneys. These people are shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to courtroom procedures. They don’t understand how to present evidence, how to interview witnesses or how to submit documents. The machine rolls over them like an army tank, and they don’t have a clue as to what to do about it.

Percent and number below the poverty threshold...

Percent and number below the poverty threshold for the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even in felony cases, the poor can suffer from a lack of representation. For example, a court appointed attorney – public defender – isn’t assigned until your case actually goes to trial. You don’t get even that paltry defense during the arraignment. Bail gets set, and you don’t have anybody to step up and ask the court to waive bail. You go to jail where you sit and wait – sometimes months – for a trial.

In this age of wrongful convictions, hyper-punishment, the school to prison pipeline and the creation of huge and powerless criminal class, it is essential that we do all we can to insure that everyone receives all the Constitutional protections due them, regardless of race, creed or net worth.

To learn more, check out these 2 links from the New York Times.

Right to Lawyer Can Be Empty Promise for Poor, and Needed in New York: Better Legal Defense for the Poor

 

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.

Follow Up Letter in NYT About “Drug Courts”

By BitcoDavid

On March 2nd, we published a post about Federal judges working to institute Drug Court programs in several states. The Times recently published a follow up letter from an attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Here’s that letter as it appeared in the NYT, on March 10th.

Outside Box, U.S. Judges Offer Addicts New Path” (front page, March 2), reported on the benefits of drug courts and their increasing popularity. But enthusiasm for replicating drug courts should be tempered with a healthy dose of caution.

Drug addiction is best treated by health professionals, separate and apart from the criminal justice system. Drug court programs are inherently coercive and typically require defendants to plead guilty (and forgo their trial rights) before they participate in the program.

Drug courts also require participants to be subject to frequent drug testing as an indicator of success in the program. If a person relapses, he is sent to prison.

It is important to question whether the drug court model is best suited to dealing with the particular issues posed by drug addiction. Drug relapses should be met with more intensive services rather than be a pathway to incarceration.

There is no silver bullet for the complex problems posed by drug addiction, and there is no substitute for nuanced, comprehensive and evidence-based drug treatment, however tempting drug court programs may appear to be.

THESHIA NAIDOO
Senior Staff Attorney Drug Policy Alliance
Berkeley, Calif., March 4, 2013

Again, here’s the link to the original piece in the NYT.

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.

March 10th Digest Post – NYT

By BitcoDavid

First off, The Times filed this under their Weddings and Celebrations column. Michael Morton and Cynthia May Chessman are newly-wedded man and wife. Morton however, was just freed from a Texas state prison facility, due to exoneration by DNA – thanks to the efforts of the Innocence Project. He had served 25 years for the beating death of his former wife – a crime actually committed by a man named Mark A. Norwood. As we wrote earlier this week, Texas holds the national record for wrongful convictions, and the Innocence Project has freed over 300 people. You can go here, for NYT’s original coverage.

***

Poor dude. I guess gullibility is a crime in Argentina.

Denise Milani. Photo: Chew the dirt.com

English theoretical physicist Paul Frampton.

From the Sunday Magazine section – this is really sad and tragic. It appears that a university physics professor, Paul Frampton, met the girl of his dreams on an online dating site. The girl – many years his junior – claimed to be an international bikini model – Denise Milani. The two began chatting online, and finally arranged to meet at a photo shoot in Bolivia. After several false starts and travel complications, Frampton was contacted and asked to deliver a suitcase to a new rendezvous site, by Milani. Following his heart more than his brain, he agreed to meet a total stranger in an alley in Buenos Aires – to take delivery on the suitcase – from one of Milani’s friends. I shouldn’t have to tell you where this is going. Frampton ends up sentenced to 4 yrs, 8 mos.  in an Argentinian prison, for smuggling Cocaine. Milani – the real one – when contacted, said she had no idea as to who he – or the individual claiming her identity – was.

What’s the moral here? I don’t really know. Carefully screen your online dating contacts? Don’t travel? If you do travel, don’t do it in South America? Certainly, don’t pick up suitcases in alleys, and bring them to airports. But I think the real issue here is, let’s stop the War on Drugs. Guys like Frampton suffer enough just getting their hearts broken – and getting laughed at by their friends. They don’t need prison time on top of all that.

The original piece is here.

***

A vacant lot in the Harbor Gateway area of Los Angeles will be turned into a park, forcing out paroled sex offenders. Photo: NYT

A vacant lot in the Harbor Gateway area of Los Angeles will be turned into a park, forcing out paroled sex offenders. Photo: NYT

This story appeared in the U.S. News section.  Cities and towns across this country are building tiny little parks, some no bigger than a single family home, in an effort to force registered sex offenders out of their communities. Zero Tolerance laws in most states deny registered sex offenders housing near schools or public parks.

Statistics show however, that sex offenders are more likely prone to recidivism if they don’t have stable housing. Furthermore, they are harder to track. So although this activity may appear safer for these communities, it might in fact, be resultant in an increase in sex-crime.

Sex offenders in America are thrice punished. They’re sentenced. Behind bars they’re victims of unparalleled abuse, violence and even homicide. And upon release, they’re forced to register and subjected to discrimination from all sides.

I’m certainly not defending them. I think abuse crimes – especially those perpetrated on children – are the most heinous. Although, I would advocate treatment rather than punishment. And I’ve always held dear the belief that once you’ve served your time… well, you’ve served your time.

Here’s the Gray Lady’s article.

***

Ben Spencer. Photo: NYT

Ben Spencer. Photo: NYT

Also in the U.S. News section – and also in Texas, Ben Spencer was proven not guilty of a 1987 murder – for which he had served over 20 years -  in 2008. Texas however, has refused to release him, even after the judge’s ruling. He was originally convicted on the testimony of a jailhouse informer who has recently recanted, and a witness who admitted that she was seeking reward money. The prosecution is arguing that although the evidence convicting him was faulty – it falls upon him – and his attorneys – to find new evidence as to his innocence. This flies in the face of innocent until proven guilty. Ahh, Texas.

Here’s what the less sardonic NYT has to say.

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.

Canibal Cop Case Closing (Sorry)

By BitcoDavid

McDonalds

(Photo: Sean MacEntee)

This case is so weird, I just had to write about it. Apparently, Gilberto Valle – a NYC cop – likes thinking about, writing about, talking about and even Web-surfing about eating Women – and not in that way, either. However, his attorney maintains that the closest he’s come to actually eating a woman, was a recent visit to McDonald’s. And since nobody really knows what’s in their food – we’re asked to give him a pass.

Mmmmm! Tastes like pork! Image: CantonFirst

Mmmmm! Tastes like pork! Image: CantonFirst

According to the NYT – that stalwart bastion of American journalism, the Gray Lady – while the prosecution is charging that Vale conspired to commit kidnapping, and illegally gained access to a law enforcement database, his defense rests on the fact that no woman was ever kidnapped, and it isn’t illegal to fantasize.

Vale’s attorney acknowledges that his fantasies were a bit (ahem) off beat, but that, in and of itself is no crime.

The case has involved numerous instances of Vale breaking into tears, and so many grotesque and macabre videos and other evidence, that the judge had to rule to stop having them shown.

Face it. Innocent or guilty, the guy’s clearly a broken toaster – a couple of tacos shy of a combination plate.

The 28 year-old cop has been under suspension from the force and the trial has lasted for 2 weeks, thus far. If found guilty, he could serve anywhere from 5 years to life. The attorneys made their closing arguments yesterday, and the case is in the hands of the jury, now.

English:

Welles in an iconic shot from Citizen Kane. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But wait. It gets better. The defense attorney likened his case to the Orson Welles radio classic, War of the Worlds, and the prosecution dredged up the old fire in a movie theater homily about freedom of speech. The jury, after asking for a flip chart to organize their thoughts, went home undecided.

I’m sure however, that stately and staid standard bearer of the 4th estate will keep us posted on this story. They might however file their updates in the cooking section.

My gratitude to the New York Times for this article.

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.

Judges Opt for “Drug Courts” in Non-violent Cases

By BitcoDavid

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Bu...

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building in Washington, D.C., headquarters of the United States Department of Justice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout the United States,  Federal judges and prosecutors are proscribing prison for drug-addicted, non-violent offenders in favor of treatment programs and community service. Unofficially known as Drug Courts, this is an effort to avoid overly punitive and destructive sentencing. Moreover, the Justice Department has backed this idea, allowing courts to dismiss charges in certain cases.

This is a Federal approach to a program that his been highly effective in numerous state level prosecutions. States are finding this method preferable to incarceration as it is less expensive and more effective than prison for many recidivist, drug dependent offenders. Recognizing this, the Federal government is now espousing it as a solution.

English: Cannabis plant from http://www.usdoj....

Cannabis plant. Image is credited to DEA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following states, many of whom already had such a system in place, have been chosen for the Federal program:  California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. So far, approximately 400 potential prison inmates have been spared incarceration and have begun treatment under the Drug Court program.

This is a win-win. Drug Courts focus on helping addicted users receive treatment and rehabilitation, and they save taxpayers the huge expense of warehousing inmates. It’s not an end to the inane and destructive drug war, but it can be seen as a Christmas Miracle cease fire.

Federal Bureau of Prisons (seal)

Federal Bureau of Prisons (seal) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Defendants agree to accept responsibility, sign up for drug treatment and community service, and allow judges to track their success. If they complete the program and stay out of trouble, they receive a commuted sentence. Violation of any of these conditions will result in their receiving the full sentence they would otherwise have gotten. Drug Courts are not available to defendants who are accused of violent crimes, high value drug traffickers or gang members.

To learn more, go to this NYT article.

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.

Black Incarceration Rates Finally Beginning to Drop

By BitcoDavid

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Sentencing Project, prison sentences for Blacks dropped significantly, from 2000 to 2009. Whites and Hispanics however, have seen an increase in that same period.

+ Midyear 2009 Incarceration Rates by Race and...

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

This change in the makeup of the prison population is most significant among Black women, down 30.7%. Black women who were 6 times more likely to be incarcerated at the turn of the century, are now only 2.8 times so. Black men were 7.7 times more likely than their White counterparts to be imprisoned. Their rate has dropped to 6.4 times that of Whites.

White incarceration however, is up by 47.1 percent for women and 8.5 percent for men. Latinos are down by 2.2% but Hispanic women are up by 23.3%.

Jailer to the World, America’s current prison population is approximately 38% Black and 34% White. Women – who are commonly incarcerated at twice the rate of men for similar offenses – now number over 100,000 inmates.

English: A visual representation of states in ...

A visual representation of states in the United States by number of imprisoned persons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This isn’t as good of news as it appears to be. Essentially, although one social group who has traditionally been ill-served by the Justice system is seeing a small improvement, others are seeing a harsher backlash. Incarceration is an industry in America, and no hotel ever succeeded with empty rooms.

It is also important to bear in mind that these data reflect the number of prison terms meted out during this past decade, and do not reflect the numbers of existing inmates, previously sentenced and still serving time.

Data for this article came from the NYT. Here’s the link.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/us/incarceration-rates-for-blacks-dropped-report-shows.html

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

[This is our last post for February - our awesomest month yet. Next month is our birthday. I'm looking forward to bringing our "A" game for March. Until then, thank you all for reading and supporting DeafInPrison.com. I love you all! -- BitcoDavid]

Why Did This Happen?

By BitcoDavid

Here’s the story. A train had pulled into the station in a Brooklyn, N.Y.  subway in late January,  and the usual throng of waiting passengers pushed and jostled to get on board. A 55-year-old man, was one such passenger, as were two teenage girls. Apparently, one or both of the girls pushed past the 55 year-old, in a somewhat violent manner. Enough so anyway, that when Charles Bunn finally got on board, he mentioned to the two girls that they could have at least said, excuse me.

According to Bunn,  the two girls jumped up from their seats and began screaming at him. He stood up to respond, and the screaming broke into a melee.

A cellphone video shows the two girls tag-teaming Bunn with a flurry of punches. Bunn, a parolee, was in the duck and cover position, unwilling to punch the girls back – partially due to the fact that they were indeed girls, and partially due to his parole status. This event could have resulted in a violation and a return to prison. Finally, as a last resort for his own defense, he began throwing some punches of his own.

It turns out, one of the girls, Chantelis Solano, 18, was pregnant – and on her way to a sonography appointment at the time.

The fight – on the train – had broken up, but all three had the misfortune of having to disembark at the same station, where after more taunting by the girls, the fight resumed. Police arrived, arrested the two girls for assault, and sent Bunn to the hospital with minor injuries.

Arraigned, the two girls spent a weekend in jail, and now face felony charges. Solano lost her baby. Charles Bunn received treatable injuries to the head and body, and an incurable blow to his pride and his masculinity.

Embedded below is the cellphone video courtesy of NBC New York.

Here’s their link: http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Teenage-Girls-Attack-Man-4-Train-Subway-Fight-Assault-Arrest-188305481.html and here’s a link to the New York Times’ coverage of the story: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/nyregion/in-fracas-on-train-parolee-found-that-hitting-back-was-a-risky-option.html

***

In researching this story, I came across a number of comments from readers of the different sites where it appeared. I was stunned at the number of comments that blamed Obama, and at the number of comments suggesting that Bunn should have availed himself of his Second Amendment Rights.

OK. First off, what on God’s green earth could this tragic tale have to do with the current Administration? No, really. A fat and smelly cigar to the first person who can show me a link between this idiocy and the Obama White House.

Second off… a gun? Really? A gun? You’d shoot these two girls? I’m not defending what they did. Obviously they need help, and perhaps punishment, but would you really end their lives? For this? Bunn is on parole. That’s why he didn’t hit the girls back. P-A-R-O-L-E. Maybe you should read some of the articles you’re commenting on. And what if he were to miss? In a crowded subway, he’s playing Lone Ranger, and he accidentally takes out someone’s Grandma.

Sheesh.

Everybody’s a victim here. Everybody was in the wrong – and perhaps nobody was. Women fight back now. Sadly, there isn’t always a good reason to fight back. He posed no threat to them. Conversely, his having fought back could have meant a return to prison – a double edged tragedy in itself. Tragic that he couldn’t fight back, and tragic that he had to.

This story has been eating away at me since I first learned of it. We just don’t live in the world I grew up in. Maybe its time we faced that fact.

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.

What, No Digest Post?

By BitcoDavid

The New York Times reported on February 20th, that attorneys are seeking a Federal appeal for Death row inmate, Augustus Howell. Apparently, all death penalty inmates are to receive one final - Federal - appeal, a Habeas appeal, before the sentence can be carried out. Howell however, never got his because his original attorney missed the filing deadline. The court is being asked to rule that negligence by an attorney is sufficient grounds to waive the deadline.

This all stems from a law called the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Quoting Wikipedia,

Other provisions of the AEDPA created entirely new statutory law. For example, before AEDPA the judicially created abuse-of-the-writ doctrine restricted the presentation of new claims through subsequent habeas petitions. The AEDPA replaced this doctrine with an absolute bar on second or successive petitions. Petitioners who attempted to bring claims in federal habeas proceedings that have already been decided in a previous habeas petition would find those claims barred. Additionally, petitioners who had already filed a federal habeas petition were required to first secure authorization from the appropriate federal court of appeals. Furthermore, AEDPA took away from the Supreme Court the power to review a court of appeals’s denial of that permission, thus placing final authority for the filing of second petitions in the hands of the federal courts of appeals.

According to Howell’s current attorneys, his original  lawyer was compromised by a conflict of interest. If Howell wins the judgement, some 30 other Death row inmates – who also were not granted Habeas appeals – would be eligible for the same benefit.

Howell was convicted for killing Trooper James Fulford in 1992. Apparently, Trooper Fulford encountered Mr. Howell in a routine traffic stop. In the car at the time, was a homemade pipe bomb intended for use in a drug related retaliation. Fulford discovered the bomb, and when he tried to open the container it was in, it exploded, killing him. Howell, who was already up on charges for other drug related crimes, ended up getting the death penalty.

The attorneys are arguing that Florida Governor Rick Scott, shouldn’t want to go up against Federal law in terms of carrying out executions.

Here’s the NYT‘s link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/us/lawyers-seek-final-appeal-for-man-due-to-be-executed.html

***

The New York School for the Deaf in White Plains N.Y. has a championship basketball team, but the best player on the all boy team – is a girl.

This story also came from the Times. Holly Marschke, 14, is the youngest member of her team. She’s also the shortest, and the only female. She was mainstreamed until age 12, when she transferred to the White Plains facility. According to her parents, she was born deaf.

Holly plays along side the boys, and receives no special treatment. She averages 14 points a game, and plays the point guard position. According to the Times, she loves the show Switched at Birth, and says she will never give up basketball because she wants to be famous.

Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/sports/holly-marschke-sparks-boys-team-at-school-for-the-deaf.html

***

Explosion in ASL may do more harm than good. Mia Engle is a sophomore at Goshen College in Indiana, majoring in American Sign Language Interpreting. In a recent OpEd for the Times, she points out some of the problems faced by volunteers helping the Deaf in countries other than the U.S.A.

As readers of this site are well aware, ASL is a complex and complete language, and merely learning a few signs is not sufficient for communication in an immersion environment. Moreover, it is but one form of sign language and more closely parallels French sign than it does British or Australian.

Engle covers these points well, and advises goodhearted hearies to make sure they’re fully conversational in the sign applicable to the country in which they wish to volunteer.

What I found most interesting however, in her NYT piece, is that ASL is becoming so popular amongst the hearing. She says for example, that many parents are teaching their children sign from DVDs, even before the children are learning English.

Boy, the Grey Lady’s gonna owe us big time. Here’s another link.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/opinion/global/helping-hands.html

***

Finally, a non-New York Times piece. After 30 years as the ranking Blackwater of the Penal system, my favorite evil empire – CCA – has a baby sister. The GEO group claims 73,000 beds, and 18,000 employees around the globe. It even runs prisons in South Africa, although that’s not something I personally, would brag about. Here’s a pic of their corporate offices.

According to their Web site, the stock’s dropping. Too bad. I guess you’ll have to make those prisoners work a little harder in the tire factory.

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.

Law Enforcement Incentivized to Lie in Drug War

By BitcoDavid

Michelle Alexander has written a book that has received mention on these venerable virtual pages -  The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. She recently wrote an OpEd for the NYT, on the propensity of police officers and other law enforcement to lie on the stand in regards to drug cases.

According to Alexander, in 2011, in New York alone, hundreds of drug related cases had to be dismissed, due to police lying on the stand or mishandling evidence. A state Supreme Court Judge has condemned what he referred to as a widespread culture of lying and corruption in the [police] department’s drug units. “I thought I was not naïve. But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.” –NYT

The case of Annie Dookhan speaks to the fact that law enforcement has been incentivized to fabricate evidence and purger themselves in order to maintain high conviction rates.

In her piece, Alexander goes on to say that:

In September it was reported that the Bronx district attorney’s office was so alarmed by police lying that it decided to stop prosecuting people who were stopped and arrested for trespassing at public housing projects, unless prosecutors first interviewed the arresting officer to ensure the arrest was actually warranted.

She adds:

Police departments have been rewarded in recent years for the sheer numbers of stops, searches and arrests. In the war on drugs, federal grant programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program have encouraged state and local law enforcement agencies to boost drug arrests in order to compete for millions of dollars in funding. Agencies receive cash rewards for arresting high numbers of people for drug offenses, no matter how minor the offenses or how weak the evidence. Law enforcement has increasingly become a numbers game. And as it has, police officers’ tendency to regard procedural rules as optional and to lie and distort the facts has grown as well. Numerous scandals involving police officers lying or planting drugs — in Tulia, Tex. and Oakland, Calif., for example — have been linked to federally funded drug task forces eager to keep the cash rolling in.

To see this eye-opening article in the Times, click the link below.

www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/opinion/sunday/why-police-officers-lie-under-oath.html

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

Digest Post – Sunday 1/13/2013

By BitcoDavid

Truthout reports today, that the infamous supermax, Tamms, is officially closed.

The solitary confinement maximum security facility in Illinois closed on January 4th. DeafInPrison.com would like to thank Solitary Watch for alerting us to the story.

“There is not a single man left behind. The era of the notorious Tamms supermax prison is over,” reads the Facebook page of Tamms Year Ten, the activist group working to close the prison. “We are going through stages of relief, disbelief, celebration and reflection.” — Truthout

Among many roadblocks to the closure of America’s First Supermax, was a lawsuit by the Prison Guard’s Union. During its History however, the prison was scrutinized by the ACLU, independent activist organizations and even the United Nations. Tamms stood as proof that solitary confinement is torture.

Maybe they can do what Massachusetts did with Charles Street Jail, and convert it into an upscale hotel. What ever they do, Tamms certainly will not be missed.

Here’s Truthout’s coverage:

http://truth-out.org/news/item/13880-reform-advocates-celebrate-supermax-tamms-prison-closing

***

In an upcoming case, the SCOTUS  will take up the issue of  whether or not to reverse their decision allowing judges greater sentencing power. The 2002 ruling by the Court gave judges the ability to add time to mandatory minimum sentences, but said they could not exceed mandatory maximums.

The language in the new ruling – should it pass – would again enable juries to decide whether or not a convicted felon would have time added to her sentence.

The story came to us via the New York Times Op-Ed page. Here’s the link:

www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/opinion/sunday/restoring-due-process.html

This will be an important ruling, because it will restore 6th amendment rights to the accused. A foundational tenet of the United States’ legal system is for the Government to do everything in its power to keep people out of prison - not the other way round. Living in a free society, we as citizens take a certain risk that not everyone will abide by the Social Contract. Those who don’t are punished, and this is as it should be. But when those essential safeguards against punishment are minimized, we all sacrifice our precious freedoms.

***

Kim Gilmore wrote an amazing piece for HistoryIsAWeapon.com, called Slavery and Prison – Understanding the Connections. I found 0ut about it from PrisonMovement’s Facebook Page. Albeit a long article, it’s a great read and very well cited.

In the past decade, several influential studies of this period have revealed the relationship between emancipation, the 13th Amendment, and the convict lease program (Lichtenstein, 1996a; Mancini, 1996; Davis, 1999). Built into the 13th Amendment was state authorization to use prison labor as a bridge between slavery and paid work. Slavery was abolished “except as a punishment for crime.” This stipulation provided the intellectual and legal mechanisms to enable the state to use “unfree” labor by leasing prisoners to local businesses and corporations desperate to rebuild the South’s infrastructure. During this period, white “Redeemers” — white planters, small farmers, and political leaders — set out to rebuild the pre-emancipation racial order by enacting laws that restricted black access to political representation and by creating Black Codes that, among other things, increased the penalties for crimes such as vagrancy, loitering, and public drunkenness (Davis, 2000). As African Americans continued the process of building schools, churches, and social organizations, and vigorously fought for political participation, a broad coalition of Redeemers used informal and state-sponsored forms of violence and repression to roll back the gains made during Reconstruction. Thus, mass imprisonment was employed as a means of coercing resistant freed slaves into becoming wage laborers. Prison populations soared during this period, enabling the state to play a critical role in mediating the brutal terms of negotiation between capitalism and the spectrum of unfree labor. The transition from slave-based agriculture to industrial economies thrust ex-slaves and “unskilled” laborers into new labor arrangements that left them vulnerable to depressed, resistant white workers or pushed them outside the labor market completely.

As I said, this is an extremely well written and extensively researched article, and is certainly worth a look. Here’s the link:

http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/gilmoreprisonslavery.html

***

Lastly we have this. We have written extensively on the failed War on Drugs, and everybody knows of its massive number of victims on a global scale. But few may know of this:

The Washington Post reports that Mexican drug traffickers are practicing torture techniques on dogs. Patricia Ruiz runs an animal sanctuary in Mexico City which – through donations alone – has managed to shelter and provide aid to these helpless victims of this insane war. I viewed these pictures with tears in my eyes.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/01/12/mexicos-drug-traffickers-practice-torture-techniques-on-dogs/

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

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