A Word on Police Militarization

By BitcoDavid

On May 18th, President Obama signed an Executive Order, effectively banning the transfer of military equipment by the Federal government, to community police departments.

This is a step in the right direction, and will help to end what has become nothing short of a war between the police, and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.

But during the past week, I have learned something. I know that police militarization is a problem – and it’s one we’ve discussed before on DeafInPrison.com. I also know that the number of shooting incidents involving police on citizens – and police on dogs – has increased exponentially over the past 40 years. Furthermore, these incidents are overwhelmingly racially skewed. Of the total number of civilians shot by police since the year 2000, 75% have been Black.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

None of this is news. Simply open a browser, and you’ll be treated to a smorgasbord of carnage and death – almost entirely White police officers on Black civilians.

In many cases, the officers are justified. In others they’re not. But what stands out – regardless of color or race – is the huge number of violent attacks and counterattacks on mentally ill citizens. And this is where I had my epiphany.

The root of the problem is far simpler than the media, or law enforcement itself, would lead us to believe. In the 1980s, President Reagan closed all the federal and state funded mental hospitals. This caused a river of drug addicts, abuse victims, disabled vets, homeless and other mentally ill – with no place to go but the streets. The burden of their care – or at the very least, handling – was shifted from Social Services, to the police.

But police are not trained, or even capable of handling this new responsibility. In the eyes of a cop, you’re either an innocent or a perpetrator. There’s no middle ground, and there are no policies in place for how to deal with any of the other possibilities. Police have one basic skill, and it’s a difficult skill to master – and one that deserves respect. They know how to arrest people. They don’t know how to counsel people. They don’t know how to determine if someone is mentally ill. They don’t know what to do with someone who is. In my years interacting with cops, I’ve seen them do things I never thought possible. I’ve seen a single cop insert himself into a gang rivalry, and prevent a war. I’ve seen cops rescue children from abusive parents. I’ve seen cops rescue animals from abusive owners. But I’ve never seen a cop help a bag lady get her stolen shopping cart back.

In our rush to austerity, we’ve tasked our police forces with the job of handling every social disorder and societal problem, that we’re too cheap to pay for, and they’ve responded the only way they know how – with nightsticks and bullets. Then, we armed them like the Green Berets.

Always refreshing to see cops who don't look like this! Image: Asmag.com

Always refreshing to see cops who don’t look like this! Image: Asmag.com

So the fix? Well, it ain’t gonna come cheap. We need to allocate sufficient funds to rebuild the Social Services department, and we need to make a commitment to helping our weakest and most infirm citizens. We need to start taking conditions like PTSD seriously, and make treatment – and even hospitalization – free and readily available. We need to find ways to get our homeless off the streets. We need to end the useless War on Drugs, and develop policies that will help addicts get treatment – not jail.

And, while we obviously can’t disarm our police forces, we need to stop arming them like they’re going to war in Afghanistan – and above all, let them get back to the job they’re supposed to be doing. Protecting us from those who would knowingly violate the social contract. A job they do with handcuffs – not machine guns and street-tanks.

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.

Castaways: A Documentary

By BitcoDavid

I got this video from Littlethings.com via Facebook. I had to go through some machinations in order to convert it to a format you could see embedded on DeafInPrison.com.  I’ve linked to the original. We’re not about stealing anything here, and generally we only publish our own original content, but this is a subject very much near and dear to my heart. If I didn’t think this was as important as it is, I wouldn’t have gone to this much effort.

All the same, a full fledged double++ thank you to Littlethings.com for allowing us – after the fact – to use it.

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 Victimless Crime?

By Supporter Contributor Matthew Gilbert

A few days ago, I saw a post by someone who was grieving for a loved one lost to drug overdose. They made the point that there are victims to drug use. I was not about to argue with a grieving person and I am not now going to. How could I? Nothing you do in this life, won’t affect other people and things. They say butterflies beating their wings in China cause earthquakes here.

Many hearts get broken over drug use. This is a sad fact of life. I’ve also had my heart broken by women I loved, and they’re walking around free as birds. My parents divorce affected me deeply. Divorce is legal, however. If you have someone in your life – on drugs – I’m sure you would rather see them in treatment than in jail. In jail they get no treatment and statistically, come out worse than when they went in.

It’s easy to say, blame the dealer, but that argument won’t get you far in court. Besides, someone deals to the dealer, and so on up the ladder, ’till you get to the people who are rich enough to avoid prosecution. As long as there is a demand, there will be someone willing to risk all by filling that demand. So it comes back to getting the user off drugs. Many users are afraid to come forward for fear of prosecution. If you are on probation for any crime, you are legally forbidden to use drugs, and they always have access to your doctor as a condition of probation. You can also lose your job, your children, your house, etc, as a direct legal consequence of admitting to drug use.

An out of control user will likely lose these things eventually anyway, which is why we want them in treatment. I say out of control drug user because the majority of the population can be prescribed – or simply use – drugs occasionally, without succumbing to addiction. Only about 12% of the population, is prone to become addicted. That’s a book in itself, so, I’ll close by reminding my readers, that countries like Portugal have decriminalized drug use. They have seen their rates of addiction, overdose, and drug related crimes, drastically reduced from what they were when they punished people for addiction. Addiction is legally defined as a disease in the USA. People should not be prosecuted, or persecuted for being sick. They should be helped.

Matthew Gilbert is a guitarist and music teacher in the Boston area. He has spent years struggling with drug abuse and addiction issues, and has written numerous articles on methadone maintenance programs. His perspective on the War on Drugs comes from on-the-street experience.

The Making of the Film “Love is Never Silent”

By Joanne Greenberg

I wrote the book In This Sign, parts of which were made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame production.

 MAY 20 1963; Joanne Greenberg scrubs up Son Alan, age four; She finds room for literary career on Lookout Mountain.; (Photo By The Denver Post via Getty Images) Credit: The Denver Post / contributor


MAY 20 1963; Joanne Greenberg scrubs up Son Alan, age four; She finds room for literary career on Lookout Mountain.; (Photo By The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Credit: The Denver Post / contributor

The book had been out for some years and had won an award for its portrayal of Deaf people and their hearing children. Because my husband and I had become part of the Denver Deaf community – he had been a rehab counselor with a deaf clientele – I had come to know some professional Deaf people and actors in the Theater of the Deaf. This wonderful group had brought classical and original drama on tour to Denver every year or so. That year it was Parade, an original drama about the deaf experience and culture. It was funny, moving, and profound. I went backstage after the show to congratulate the actors. I learned that they had one day to tour before they continued on to their next city. I joined the tour the next day. In a mountain town where we went, a grandmother, whose deaf daughter had been part of the theater’s summer program, was delighted to see the troupe and opened the town to the cast, calling ahead to make the off-season closed places open and welcoming.

Coming back on the bus, someone mentioned that I had written In This Sign and I asked my seatmate if she had read it and if she liked it. She had read it. “Did you like it?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“It had Deaf people who were poor and ignorant, and I don’t like that presentation.”

I disagreed. “My characters are heroic. I define a hero as someone who takes the yard of cloth he or she is given and makes a suit and two pairs of pants out of it.” We talked about other things and I left the bus. The woman I had spoken with was  an actress in the theater and her name is Julianna Fjeld-Corrado.

She called me a week later by relay, and said that she had read the book again and had seen what I meant about heroes. She asked if I would option the book to her for the making of a film.

“Have you ever made a film?”

“No, but I want to make this one.”

I liked the idea and spoke to my agent, who laughed at the whole thing. Julianna asked me if she might meet with my agent, bringing an interpreter. I said yes. Later, my agent called and said she had been strongly impressed. We optioned the book for one dollar, for the first year, to increase by fifty cents each year there after. [This is not a typo. In order to facilitate this important project, Ms. Greenberg took no payment for her book rights. — Ed.] We signed a contract.

For ten years, Julianna went from production-company to script-writer to film-maker to advertising-department of various corporations. She was rebuffed at all of them until Warner Brothers said thy would make the film, and then changed its mind. Hallmark got interested and said they would make the film, but the TV channel nixed the idea because – among other things – Julianna and I had specified that the film have Deaf actors to play the roles of the Deaf characters – a first. The interpretation of the Sign wouldn’t be captioned, but would be made integral within the script, unobtrusively echoed by hearing characters.

Year after year it went. I was so unhappy at all her thwarted work that I listened to her stories of refusal with growing sorrow and irritation. All that for no reward: “Are you so deaf that you don’t know what no means?” She only grinned and said, “I guess not.”

 

A second try at Hallmark and this time, they said yes. Two top actors from Theater of the Deaf – Ed Waterstreet and Phyllis Frelich – were signed on as leads and other bit parts were also played by Deaf actors. The hearing bunch included Sid Caesar, Cloris Leachman and Mare Winningham. Julianna played a bit part, as well as being co-producer. All of that was a first on theater or TV.

The film covered the second part of the book. I had been challenged by the problem of how to render translation to give a flavor of Sign without making a literal translation, which comes off sounding unlettered. The decisions made in the film honored that. It was a good film. Darlene Craviotto Directed. We got an Emmy.

[Editor’s note: I would love to screen this film, on DeafInPrison.com. We couldn’t post it permanently, but we may be able to get Hallmark to allow us to show it – in its entirety – for a brief interval. In order to make that happen, I would need to show them an interest. Please comment here with the hashtag, #LoveisNeverSilentScreenCampaign. Share on FaceBook and Twitter. If we can generate enough interest in this beautiful and historic film – the first film to have Deaf actors in Deaf roles, one year before Children of a Lesser God – we can convince Hallmark to allow us to screen it. — BitcoDavid]

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.

Outcasts and Angels: Stories featuring the Deaf

By BitcoDavid

Nadine Gordimer and David Grossman

Nadine Gordimer and David Grossman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As many of you know, for about the past 3 weeks, I’ve been working to translate and caption the video “What is ASL?” by Deaf activist and Signing whiz, Lilcoco Love. But she’s a native Signer, and I’m… well… I’m me. It’s an awesome video, and she’s got a lot to say. About ASL, Deaf culture, and the belief by some English speakers and even some Deaf, that ASL hampers English and reading development. We’re friends on FaceBook now, and I’m hoping that not only can I get her help with the video, but perhaps I can get her to write a piece for us, or even to record a new video. I’ll keep you posted, either way.

In the meantime, there’s this:

I originally posted this on ASL Learners by DeafInPrison.com – our FaceBook group – and received some interesting comments. my comment was about how the girl in the video, sits down with an ASL book, spends one night in the diner, studying it – and is a Signing genius the following night. In my post, I said that I’ve been struggling with immersion level learning, for at least 2 years now, and I’m not as good as this girl, after a night of cramming. I go on to say, that I thought I’d have this knocked out in about 6 months, and my tutor, Randy Tweedie, tells me that I’m still looking at about 4 more years to become conversational.

ASL in family

ASL in family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again, let me stress that ASL is a language, and just as you wouldn’t attempt to learn German, or Japanese – from a book, overnight – nor can you learn ASL that way. Furthermore, since ASL is not a spoken or written language, it’s actually even harder for 2nd language users to learn.

But, I’m a cynic.

On the other hand, I also received a comment that really hit home. This commenter simply asked, “Why doesn’t the Deaf kid ever save the Hearing kid?”

Really. Why are there so few strong Deaf leads in literature and film? Well, there are. You just need to know where to look for them. Enter “Outcasts and Angels – The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature. This book, edited by Edna Edith Sayers, features short stories written around Deaf characters. And best of all, our publisher, Joanne Greenberg has 2 entries. She’s joined by such names as Ambrose Bierce, Isak Dinesen, Nadine Gordimer, Flannery O’Connor, Juozas Grušas and Julian Barnes.

It is available through Amazon, or from Gallaudet Press.

But wait. There’s more. For those of you who follow us on FaceBook, you might get a kick out of Jack’s new page. That’s right. Everybody’s favorite Internet Rock star and Dog-about-Town – Jack – now has his very own FaceBook page. There’ll be no living with him now.

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.

SI5S Provides the Ability to Write in ASL

By BitcoDavid

Can you read this

 

It’s written in an ASL finger spelling font, that is available for free download, from Gallaudet via LifePrint. This is useable as a novelty font, allowing the user to write English in the ASL finger spelling alphabet. But what if Sign actually had its own alphabet – or Digibet, if you will?

For 12 years now, Robert Augustus has been working to create a universal and reliable writing system for ASL. He calls his system si5s. The digibet consists of 80 characters as well as diacritical marks and grammatical symbols.

Some argue that ASL is not indeed a unique language, because it has no written form. There have been several attempts at creating written Sign language, but these tend to be hieroglyphic, and have not been widely adopted.

I’m not a neurobiologist. All I really know about brains, is that they taste great, sauteed in olive oil. But in order to understand this concept, you need to know that spoken language takes place in a part of your brain, aptly named the language center. The more spoken languages one learns, the more brain area is occupied. This forces the creation of new pathways, and makes learning non-language sciences easier. In short, the more spoken languages you learn, the higher your I.Q. becomes.

But ASL is not a spoken language. It’s a visual one. So it takes place in a different area within the brain. In native signers, this visual center creates innate links to the language center, but those of us who learn ASL as a 2nd language have much more difficulty forging those cerebral links. This is why learning Sign is so much harder than learning say, French or German. It’s easy to memorize vocabulary, but we still need to translate internally, that vocabulary back into an auditory form. We need to sub-vocalize, much as we do when we read.

This character is manually expressed by the image on the front cover of the book. Image: si5s.org (edited for size and color by BitcoDavid)

This character is manually expressed by the image on the front cover of the book. Image: si5s.org (edited for size and color by BitcoDavid)

But this system, si5s, can change everything. Writing is the basis of teaching, and learning. Writing is how Mankind records his thoughts and ideas. Writing is how we convey information without having to relay it directly to our audience. Writing is the foundation of the Internet, and without it, computers as we know them could not exist. Even the computer itself, speaks and internal numeric language, and that language is internally recorded in a text format. If a written form of ASL could be adopted, and taught in Deaf schools alongside of traditional Sign, it would have untold benefits.

It would facilitate faster learning for both Deaf and Hearing ASL users. In fact, if Deaf children were taught ASL and si5s in conjunction with English reading and writing, we’d raise a generation of non-aural geniuses, who would probably go on to develop things like Warp Drive and personal teleportation. Maybe even time travel. Who knows?

si5s Logo

The logo includes the symbol that represents the handshape used to sign “3D”, alluding to the three-dimensional nature of this language and the need for the written system to express that nature.

Here’s a link to Augustus’ page:

http://www.si5s.org/

You can order the complete textbook here:

http://www.si5s.org/store/

You can download his font package in .zip format, but it unzips to a series of .gif images, and you won’t be able to use it as an embedded Truetype font. That doesn’t matter however, because using this system is not writing in English. In the above example, I wrote an English sentence (Can you read this?) in finger spelling font. Using si5s would be beneficial in learning – and writing in – ASL, but not for writing English.

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.

Short Survey Helps HEARD and Deaf Inmates

By BitcoDavid

Modern TTY with acoustic coupler for text-to-speech. Image - Wikipedia

Modern TTY with acoustic coupler for text-to-speech. Image – Wikipedia

The Internet has been a huge boon to the Deaf Community, and it can be leveraged into a great asset for Deaf inmates as well. One major problem facing the Deaf in prison, is access to telecommunications. There are numerous factors that go into this problem. Numbering among them are, time required to place calls, cost of calling out, and availability of useable technology.

About 75 years ago, a system was invented by which the Deaf could use the telephone. That system was known as TTY. TTY stands for Teletypewriter. This is a device with a QWERTY keyboard, and a LED or LCD readout. The system translates voice into text, for the Deaf user to read. The receiver must also have a TTY terminal. TTYs have a separate number, and the Deaf user can only call other TTY machines. The ADA states that TTY phones must be made available to Deaf inmates, and most facilities do have them.

The problem is that most modern Deaf, can’t use them. People raised with ASL as a first language, may not be able to read – or read well enough to utilize the machine. Even well educated Deaf – those with a Baccalaureate reading level, or above – are not likely to be familiar with – or to use – these machines. You may be an excellent driver, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to drive a Model “T” Ford.

The analogy is apt. We’ve had generations to become accustomed to automatic transmissions, electric starters, fuel injection and even turn signals. The Model “T” had none of these.  So, a law stating that you are entitled to your own Model “T” will be of little benefit to you.

The modern equivalent of the TTY system, is Video Relay. This system works by utilizing an interpreter to read the Deaf caller’s Sign, and translate it into English for the Hearing receiver. It is slightly slower than normal full duplex communication, due to the time required by the interpreter, but by comparison to TTY, our analogous Model “T” becomes a McLaren Corvette.

If the caller and the receiver both Sign, then Skype and other Internet alternatives would be even better.

OLPC: XO internet access

OLPC: XO internet access. Image – Wikipedia

The problem is that most jails and prison facilities in this country, don’t have VR, and don’t allow Internet access. To the Deaf, this is tantamount to Solitary Confinement. Even if a Deaf inmate can learn to master the clunky, unreliable and inaccurate TTY system, he is charged at the same exploitative rate, as his hearing counterparts. But a TTY call can take up to 10X longer. The cost of such a call, can be staggering.

HEARD has been working for several years now, on getting Corrections Departments to begin using VR, and so has DeafInPrison.com. Beyond that, I would like to see Deaf and Hearing inmates alike, allowed limited Internet access. They’ve been doing just that, in Sweden for a decade now, and it has worked out very well. Classes, support groups and even social networks could be established that would greatly benefit inmates, and in so doing, benefit society as a whole. And for the Deaf, it would allow them the same freedom in communication with family and friends, that is afforded the Hearing. It could also be used to take control away from exploitative Telecom companies, and reduce the cost of making or receiving calls, behind bars.

Most people are aware of the high currency value afforded cigarettes, in prison society. But what many do not know, is that phone time holds a similar value. The price gouging Telecoms set this situation in motion. Inmates are commonly victimized – beaten, robbed or even killed – for their phone cards. Free Internet access could change that.

I have included a link below, to a short survey by HEARD. I took it. It only takes about 15 seconds to complete, and the aggregate data will help HEARD in their work with the FCC and other organizations responsible for prison Telecommunications.

http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=5ef6628ab98fb3b95eaa08a7a&id=4a471a595e&e=7c38cfb9e6

or

http://goo.gl/hnWnvk

I urge you to take this survey, share it on FaceBook, Twitter and other social networks, comment and write to some or all of the organizations listed on the site. We need to address these problems if we’re ever to attain inmate equality.

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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