Appropriate Treatment For Deaf Sex Offenders

By Jean F. Andrews

English: President George H. W. Bush signs the...

English: President George H. W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 into law. Pictured (left to right): Evan Kemp, Rev Harold Wilke, Pres. Bush, Sandra Parrino, Justin Dart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sexual predation is considered to be a heinous crime rather than a disease. In a paper written by Dr. McCay Vernon – the late psychologist who specialized in mental health issues and deaf persons –  pedophilia is a “a curse,” because crimes by sexual molesters arouse so much public anger, and sex offenders often receive severe sentences by judges, juries and the public.

The curse extends beyond public outcry.

Sign, Wapello, Iowa. This was put up in reacti...

Sign, Wapello, Iowa. This was put up in reaction to Megan’s Law. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When a sex offender who is deaf, is sentenced to prison, the programs that prisons offer are often not accessible to them. Prison officials commonly – and wrongly – believe, that providing a sign language interpreter, thus an equivalency of the message will suffice.  Not so. Many deaf sex offenders do not understand the psychological vocabulary that is used in these lectures.  Further, they cannot read the materials.  Many Deaf adult criminal offenders are reading at the second grade level or below, have histories of physical, and emotional abuse, and may have cognitive disabilities as well. They are unable to grasp the concepts in these sessions, or learn how to process the stages in order to gain awareness of their disease.  The textbooks, workbooks and other written materials are often written at the 7th grade or higher, so they cannot read the materials. Further, writing their autobiography and describing the triggers that make them act out sexually with children, require higher skills in English-writing than many of these deaf adults have. The result is a mismatch between the program goals and the literacy abilities of the sex offender.

Baltimore Sun

Dr. McCay Vernon. Image courtesy Baltimore Sun.

What’s more, They also have difficulty interacting with hearing sex offenders, during community activities outside of the classroom.

Their struggles continue upon release.

The deaf sex offender faces insurmountable obstacles to being released into the community, because they have been disowned by family, Deaf friends and the Deaf community.  Even the church and other social organizations are afraid of sponsoring them, or providing them assistance, because of liability issues. Finding a job or a place to live is virtually impossible, because of lack of training and harsh laws that prevent them from living near schools or neighborhoods with young children.

There is a need for specialized programs to be set up for the Deaf sex offender, that are accessible to them. There are professionals in mental health counseling, and deaf education, who can conduct this kind of training.  They have preparation in mental health issues and treatment, related to deaf persons. Furthermore, They are skilled in ASL/English bilingual methods, and visual ways of learning, for the deaf.

How to get these programs into prisons, for deaf offenders, is the challenge we face.  With more Deaf persons becoming knowledgeable of the legal rights and protections provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which mandates equal access to services in prisons, these kinds of prison-appropriate and accessible treatment programs may become a reality.

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

I am a Happy Person

By Pat Bliss

Felix's most recent shot December 2013 Tomoka. Image Courtesy Pat Bliss

Felix’s most recent shot December 2013 Tomoka.
Image Courtesy Pat Bliss

This is what Felix Garcia said to me on a visit recently… “I wake up every morning, and say I am a happy person, because so much evil around. By telling yourself you are happy, the evil around has no effect. You will see God’s blessings that way.” What a wonderful lesson for us all.

I drove down to Florida for 12 days to attend two video shoots, of Felix at the prison, and of course visit him on the weekend. When Felix is telling his story in a video shoot it never wavers. From our first video shot in 2011 – for Mother Jones Magazine – by Investigative Journalist James Ridgeway, to the present, the story remains exactly the same.

And like it was with James Ridgeway, Felix’s story is so compelling – his innocence shows through loud and clear, his pain of being in prison – a deaf man – shows through, loud and clear. The abuses he has suffered, have left permanent scars.

Attorneys Pat Bliss, right, and Reginald Gracia speak to the Florida Commission on Offender Review on behave of Felix Garcia on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Garcia, a deaf Florida man who supporters say was framed for murder by his brother has a chance to get out of prison. Garcia is serving a life sentence for the murder of Joseph Tramontana Jr. during a 1981 Tampa robbery. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Attorneys Pat Bliss, right, and Reginald Gracia speak to the Florida Commission on Offender Review on behave of Felix Garcia on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Garcia, a deaf Florida man who supporters say was framed for murder by his brother has a chance to get out of prison. Garcia is serving a life sentence for the murder of Joseph Tramontana Jr. during a 1981 Tampa robbery. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Felix has entered the special programming classes called Annex Reefs at Wakulla Correctional. He was so eager to get started. They first, put him in a couple of classes called Quest and Business Concepts. Quest is not too hard as it involves improving oneself, but business concepts – for a deaf man with no formal education, no experiences in life to compare to, and no understanding of the terminology – has really frustrated him. And yes, he is without an interpreter. He filed a grievance, and was denied.  Eventually, he was given a finger speller to assist. Felix felt left to learn on his own. He was so upset. I contacted authorities about the need for an interpreter, who can sign properly. Felix needs an interpreter badly, so he can learn and absorb the education he so thoroughly hungers for. The person I contacted, took note and hopefully, there will be an interpreter there soon. Felix was referred to this special program by the parole commission, at his hearing last November. It helps in achieving parole.

Our readers, and Felix’s supporters know, how much he loves computers. His job currently, is at the law library typing documents. He is excellent at it. Right after he was assigned there, Felix became aware of a need, and filled it. He wrote a program for the law library, in Visual Basic using Microsoft Access.

  1. It schedules the court deadlines for the inmates that come to the law library, who have filed cases.
  2. Does a report as to how many copies are made, at any given time.
  3. Reports on where the copies are sent, when, and to whom.
  4. Provides an indigent supply report
  5. Tracks Law Library usage by individual inmates.
  6. Lists all the books in the library, and where they can be found.
Microsoft Access

Microsoft Access (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my opinion, this program should be in every prison library. Felix says, creating these programs comes easy to him. It’s a place where interpreters are not needed to succeed in any project.

There are exciting things coming up, which will be announced as they unfold. But in the meantime, there have been – and will be – weeks and weeks of nothing happening, on his case. But personally, I get phone calls regularly from Felix, as there is always some issue to get resolved. That is standard in any prison, but especially so, in one where there are few to no deaf in the dorms.

Felix is adjusting, and for the most part, likes it at Wakulla. He says the way Wakulla is laid out makes it a safe camp. Safely means a lot to the deaf (blind and handicapped) in prison, as they are generally targeted for robbery and assaults.

He wanted me to let you all know your support means a lot to him. He is humbled by the number of people who have signed the petition, and the letters he gets. I too am humbled by the continual support on this egregious case, and I thank you.

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

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?”


“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 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 – 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.

Latest from Pat Bliss

By BitcoDavid

Pat Bliss sent me the following via e-mail:

Felix arrived at the Wakulla prison yesterday to begin his new venture in Special Programming known as a transitional program or Lifer’s Program. He was sent there by the parole commission at his parole hearing in November 2014. It is an 18 month program. Last we talked, he is looking forward to it so he can prove to the parole commission what he can accomplish. In our talk he also mentioned how much he appreciated the support of those in the free world – a hope someday he will be there too. Here is his new address:

Felix Garcia #482246
Wakulla Correctional Institute – Annex
110 Melaleuca Drive
Crawfordville, FL 32327

Just so you all know, our clemency action is still inline to be heard before the Clemency Board, our approximate wait is about another 3-4 years. However we – the legal team – are still active in tying to get Felix’s case heard early, which is possible under Clemency Rule 17. Hence, all the publicity that was – and will be – coming forth highlighting this case.

In response to the USDOJ investigation into the deaths of 346 inmates – during 2014 – in Florida, Governor Rick Scott has brought on Julie Jones, as the first female Secretary of the DOC, in the state’s history.


According to News Service Florida‘s Dara Kam, Ms. Jones held her first conference with state legislature on Tuesday, January 20th.  In it, she asked for more money, and more gubernatorial oversight. She pointed to an understaffed and besieged DOC, crumbling infrastructure, an overwhelming increase in mentally ill inmates, and private vendors who are failing to fulfill their contracts, as some of the causes for the department’s dysfunction.

Quote Jones:

“Staffing is key to lowering the temperature in these facilities. It’s going to take all hands on deck and it’s going to take a true change in how we look at the role of the corrections officers and also the expectations of what those corrections officers, what services, they deliver to those inmates. Quite frankly, it’s a service. They’re there to keep them happy and they’re there to keep them healthy … and do it in such a way that they enter the facility in the same way that they exit the facility. And we’re not doing that.”

Over the past 4 years, the state legislature has cut over over 1 billion dollars from the budget, and laid off over 1000 COs and employees of the DOC. They have shifted numerous services that were performed in-house, over to private concessionaires – including health care. Jones is looking for about 35 million of those funds to be restored, a return to previous employment levels and for the renegotiation of contracts with outside vendors. She is also seeking new and improved training for COs in dealing with the mentally ill and senior inmates. I found no mention of the Deaf, in the NSF article.

In her comments regarding infrastructure, for which she is seeking 15 million in additional funds, she mentioned one facility that was built in 1913, and is still in use.

Greg Evers With Tractor

Greg Evers With Tractor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Senate Criminal Justice Committee chairman, Greg Evers (R) stated that he thinks “…the legislature has a cross to bear.” He was speaking on the recent spate of corruption charges, the investigations by both the USDOJ, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as well as Whistleblower lawsuits filed by individuals who claimed they were targeted for retribution by prison guards and authorities.

Quote Evers:

“I can tell you how far we will go. We will go to the point that when you go to prison that you will be given the opportunity to enter the Department of Corrections. You will be allowed to rehabilitate yourself … and you will come out alive on the other side and not leave the prison in a body bag,”

Above all, Jones is working to either renegotiate, re-bid or terminate relationships with private health care providers and the private prison industry. She said she believes that private prisons tend to cherry pick inmates and facilities, and that the standard of health care provided by private industry is below state norms.

The Florida DOC health care system, as provided by Corizon Health and Wexford Health Services, has been under Federal Court oversight since 2000, and has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, for a decade prior to that.

To see the original article, go 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.

Pam Bondi, What Say You?

By BitcoDavid

People often ask me why I write so much about the Florida DOC. Perhaps the best answer would be that it’s the single worst corrections system in the United States – and nowadays, that’s the same as saying in Uganda.

Growing up, I was taught that here, in the U.S., we don’t torture, we don’t murder, we don’t wrongfully incarcerate – in short, that we are an exceptional nation. I was taught that we fight our wars with honor, and that we treat our inmates with compassion. I was taught that we were a shining city on a hill. Perhaps that was true once, but it certainly isn’t anymore.

The Miami Herald reports that in 2014 alone, guards and COs. oversaw the deaths of 346 inmates. Some of those deaths were due to aging prison populations, but the lions share result from the use of force by prison employees. The U.S.D.O.J. has initiated an investigation.

From Addicting Info:

One such example is that of Jerry Washington, a man serving life for a variety of charges, including attempted murder, armed robbery and burglary who was found dead after reporting several correctional officers for sexual assault late last year. He had written to his family fearing for his life, claiming that the officers had marked him for death, that he was to be the victim of the next “pick-a-n*****-Friday” to be held, referencing the old slavery term for torturing or killing a slave in order to keep the others in line.

Another case is that of Randall Jordan-Aparo who, in a scene eerily reminiscent of those found during World War II, was forced to strip, thrown into a sealed room, which was then was filled with gas, killing him. The gas in the room appears to have been so thick that he was reportedly covered in orange residue. Of course the officers claimed that filling a room with noxious gas to the point it painted the victim the color of a spray tan had nothing to do with his death, and it was a random fluke caused by an unknown and mysterious medical condition.

Additional abuses include sexual assault, beatings, deprivation of medical services and food, taking of inmates’ clothing and seclusion. Guards have been accused of selling inmates for sex, smuggling contraband in and out of facilities, and theft of supplies.

Florida’s prison system is the 3rd most populous in the country. It’s annual budget is 2.1B, and it houses over 100,000 people. The cliché Southern Sheriff with his infamous – y’all in big trouble now, boy – isn’t a joke, anymore.

Help for this post came from Addicting Info and Miami Herald.

And of course, if you work in Florida, in the DOC or the DOJ, or if you’re Pam Bondi, we here at welcome your rebuttal. Just click our Authors page, and shoot me a piece. I’ll be glad to publish 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.

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: (edited for size and color by BitcoDavid)

This character is manually expressed by the image on the front cover of the book. Image: (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:

You can order the complete textbook here:

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.

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