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.

I Love It Here!

By Pat Bliss

FVStore.com

FVStore.com

In my last post Felix had problems in understanding his classes without an interpreter. It did not get any better so we had to have him moved to a facility that does provide an interpreter. Felix’s new home is Marion CI and here is his new address:

Felix Garcia #482246
Marion Corr. Inst.
P.O. Box 158
Lowell, FL 32663-0158

Marion K9 Team Google+

Marion K9 Team

“I love it here.” Those are Felix’s words upon settling down at Marion CI. He has interpreter access for classes in their special programming and beyond. He is around other deaf and finds it peaceful and non-violent. Yes, he was there briefly late last year and beginning this year but was sent to Wakulla to begin their transitional program as mandated by the parole commission. He tried to make the best of it but would never been able to succeed without an interpreter, they refused to get one, so we had to have him moved.

The other day in the rec yard, Felix saw something he had never seen up close and that is a horse. In fact seven horses, “real horses, mom.”  Felix described what colors they were, eating grass and shaking their manes. In his letter he said,

“I wish they would let me go over there with an apple, where I would get one I don’t know, and let me feed them and pet them or brush them. I would come right back.”

Photo of entrance to horse farm at Marion CI. The equine training program is the result of a partnership between DOC and the TRF. The program will train inmates to rehabilitate retired thoroughbred racehorses for use by the Department of Corrections and other law enforcement agencies, adoption by the general public, and provide life-long retirement for some horses. http://www.dc.state.fl.us/secretary/press/2001/horses.html

Photo of entrance to horse farm at Marion CI. The equine training program is the result of a partnership between DOC and the TRF. The program will train inmates to rehabilitate retired thoroughbred racehorses for use by the Department of Corrections and other law enforcement agencies, adoption by the general public, and provide life-long retirement for some horses. http://www.dc.state.fl.us/secretary/press/2001/horses.html

Felix watched a colt jump and play and enjoyed it so. He said a guy stopped and said “Dude, it’s just a horse.” Felix replied “are you kidding me? Look how beautiful that thing is.”  Felix ended with “this is just awesome.”  He wants to pet a cow too so I arranged for my neighbor to allow him to, when he gets out of prison.

The legal team is continually busy working on Felix’s clemency and parole actions, meetings and media to promote his innocence. There will be a special report on Felix by Craig Patrick, FOX 13, Tampa, FL, May 14th at 10pm. As for seeing it outside the viewing area of FOX 13 it is still being looked into. Will try to keep everyone apprised.

Following is Felix’s revised website http://freefelix2015.wix.com/justiceforfelix. Please check it out. I wish to thank you all again for your interest and support in finding justice for Felix.

Kindly,

Pat Bliss

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

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.

Time.com

DeafInPrison.com

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?”

“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.

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