Another Move Another Home For Felix

By Pat Bliss

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 behalf 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)

You sometimes wonder – will the moves, the accusations, the disruptions ever end for Felix?  Well, here we are again having to have Felix moved from his home camp of Marion Correctional to protect his life.

We had to move him fast, when he was at Tomoka C.I., because he divulged to authorities some criminal activity going on, and his life was threatened. He was temporarily sent to Marion C.I. to await his parole hearing results.

Image depicting member of MS13 gang. Work of t...

Image depicting member of MS13 gang. Work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Public Domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the parole hearing, Felix was moved to Wakulla C.I. to start special programming as mandated by the parole commission. But that went sour when he needed a sign interpreter and they would not provide one for him – presumably because of cost and inconvenience. He kept grieving for one, but bad things started to happen and we had to move him out fast again.

The attorney and I conferred with the parole commission in Tallahassee to send Felix back to Marion C.I., as it had interpreters for the deaf and special programming. And he liked it there. He was in the faith dorm. But that did not last either. Before he left Tomoka C.I. his special radio that works with his hearing aid was stolen. He did not see it again until back at Marion C.I. where he saw it in the possession of a gang member. He asked for it back, but was told in essence, to get lost. He reported it to his classification officer. Staff members confronted the gang member. He said Felix had sold it to him. They put this gang member in lock up. Friends of the gang member then threatened Felix’s life and someone else threatened to knife him. He was put in protective custody.

2013 photo of Felix with Pat Bliss. Image credit Pat Bliss

2013 photo of Felix with Pat Bliss.
Image credit Pat Bliss

Being in confinement is the same place whether it is for punishment or protection. He was there for 28 days. There was no recreation and all meals were served in his cell. He saw no daylight – as confinement is under the building – unless he was sent to medical. He had no church, no interaction or conversation with any deaf. He could not understand what the hearing inmates were talking about, to each other, nor could make out what the guards were saying at a distance.

It was driving him crazy. I kept in touch with his C.O. on a regular basis.  She went to see him often. She was undoubtedly the nicest most caring C.O. I have ever interacted with. Felix was blessed to have her.  However, with no end in sight, to the ongoing investigation, the Warden decided to transfer Felix elsewhere.

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

Image courtesy of Pat Bliss

Felix had 6 moves, taking 23 days, before landing at Columbia Correctional Annex. This camp was one of the choices by DOC in Tallahassee, noting the camp administrators will take care of Felix and his hearing disability, and they have the special programming as well. The attorney and I respectfully disagreed but hopefully, they will have interpreters for the special programs and a workable TTY phone for Felix to call me and others. Unfortunately, he also arrived without his tennis shoes, his cane, an ADA lock or a combination lock. His head was shaved in retaliation for seeking an interpreter, and he had no shampoo or lotion. They were all taken from him. I called property at the one location where all but the shoes were taken from him. Nothing could be found.

Felix lives in a vacuum, he said it is like being under water all the time. He pleads to have some normalcy in his life, to be left alone and not have his life constantly disrupted. He yearns for a sense of tranquility and stability, but that has never happened. August 10th marked his 34th year – an innocent man in prison. As his defacto mom, my heart grieves for him. He deserves some peace and a taste of freedom.

Sachs Media Group

Sachs Media Group

I talked with his new C.O. and she had a nice 2 hour meeting with Felix. They communicated by writing notes back and forth. She knows what he needs to complete any classes or programs. She liked the notes so she can go back to them to assure Felix’s needs are met. This is positive news, that he again has a caring C.O. on his side. She said he is doing fine.

Perhaps you, as supporters of Felix and his cause, will write and give him encouragement that he is not alone; that people do care. That will make his day, after what he has been through the past couple months Thank you all from my heart.  Pat Bliss

New Address:

Felix Garcia #482246
Columbia Correctional Annex
216 S.E. Corrections Way
Lake City, FL 52025-2013

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.

Deaf in Jail – Mistreatment of the Deaf.

By Supporter Contributor Melisa Marzett

Deaf people belong to one of the most vulnerable layers of society for obvious reasons. They cannot hear. Deaf people in jail are even more insecure. Some might say that if a person is in jail, this person deserves it and deserves the mistreatment, despite any physical disabilities like Deafness. Prison is a punishment already. God teaches us to forgive and to have mercy. Unfortunately, not many of us follow God`s commandments.

Quite often, Deaf people in prison get poor healthcare. A Deaf person can be easy to frame or wrongly accuse. For a Deaf person, it would be difficult to prove himself not guilty. Such a person may easily become bullied and it is very rare for them to be given any tools for easier communication.

They cannot hear the guards, take classes or know when they have visitors. They cannot inform about being insulted and that makes them even more vulnerable to attack. They may become isolated, either physically, in protective custody or seclusion, or emotionally within the general population. There have been situations where correctional officers even faked sign language. A Deaf prisoner was taken out of his cell for a haircut and when the job was half done, the correctional officer asked to stop the process, poking fun at the prisoner who could not understand what is happening.

Making phone calls is also an issue for a Deaf inmate because this person has to reply on other prisoners or use a special teletypewriter for Deaf people. Some use video calls but their percentage is rather small. Deaf prisoners are also human beings and they have all the rights that people with no hearing loss problem have. They should receive psychological and medical care, they have the right of speech and the right to choose or follow their religion.

Deaf inmates may not hear audio announcements. Then, they are punished for disobeying the general rules. Many correctional institutions have rules, which are rather absurd about batteries and chargers for Deaf, cochlear implants, communication and sign language. Despite a Deaf inmate needing two hearing aids, he or she is allowed to get one only.

There is also well-known form of torture; solitary confinement. It is dreadfully cruel. More so for a person who is Deaf because they may not comprehend why this is happening to them. There are no prisons – or even cell-blocks or dorms for Deaf prisoners only. Therefore, quite often they are put into solitary confinement just because of their hearing difficulty.

Melisa Marzett is the woman behind
She is a talented writer and blogger with an outstanding point of view on things. She is fond of reading, traveling, meeting new people and getting to know new things. She shares gladly with other people through her writings

Jill’s Dilemma

By Jean F. Andrews

In a southern state in a Federal prison, Jill is serving a 10-year term.  While sign language interpreters are provided for her when her attorney comes to visit or during her hearings with the judge, she does not get interpreting services within the prison. For example, she does not fully understand the rules of the prison nor can she read the inmate handbook because it’s written at too high of a reading level and there was no interpreter present to translate it for her.  Jill has coped with this awful situation by teaching Jane – a fellow inmate – basic sign language. So now she uses it to communicate with Jane, when playing cards, or during other leisure activities and in the cafeteria.  Jill also asks Jane to come with her to interpret during medical exams, at the dentist office, and during disciplinary hearings. Jill has relayed to me that she is not comfortable with this arrangement because Jane likes to gossip Jill’s business to the other inmates and this has created humiliating embarrassment.  Jill is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Jill’s case of having a fellow inmate act as her interpreter opens up a Pandora’s box.  There is the problem of professional incompetence, the lack of confidentiality, potential conflict of interest, and perhaps subjecting her to misrepresentation. Deaf inmates like Jill have to resort to this practice because criminal justice officials oftentimes do not understand the critical need for deaf inmates to have certified sign language interpreters. Providing sign language interpreters 24/7, round-the-clock would make the costs unreasonable. However, it is reasonable to expect that interpreters will be provided during time such as the prison intake where important medical and psychological information is collected, during the prison orientation so that the inmate knows the rules, in translation of the prison handbook (many of which are written at the 11th grade or above), and during any GED classes, other educational classes, or religious services that the prison provides.  In addition, if the deaf inmate faces disciplinary charges, then calling in a certified interpreter would be imperative.

It is a myth that if Jane is taught some sign language by Jill that she is now ready to function as a sign language interpreter.  ASL interpreting is a technical skill that comes with professional training in the understanding and production of translating from one language to another. It also involves providing translation to the meaning of the communication if it gets lost or confused or misunderstood.  Interpreters also need to know about Deaf culture and how to work with deaf persons, how to determine the deaf person’s language levels and so on.  All of this entails cultural, cognitive, linguistic knowledge and highly technical skills in producing and comprehending signing. In addition, trained interpreters must follow a code of ethics, confidentiality, and know about current legislation that provides interpreters for deaf persons such as the ADA.

Jill’s dilemma is not just hers but it happens to other prison inmates as well.

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

This is Still Going On?

By BitcoDavid

Since we launched this Web site, almost 3 years ago, we’ve been reporting on cases where the police have beaten or jailed a Deaf person, because they didn’t realize that Sign language is not a threat. We’ve called for training of officers, and tried to post suggestions for Deaf citizens during police interactions. And we’re not alone. Dozens of blogs, activist groups and organizations have also tried to provide solutions to this tragic epidemic.

Yet, it still happens – and almost daily – somewhere in the U.S.

Here’s the latest case.

You’ll probably have to zoom in, to read the full article, as it is a WebCap. Or you can go see the original at:

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 Struggle of the Deaf in Prison

By BitcoDavid

Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

Deep beneath Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain – recently renamed Mt. BitcoDavid – lies the complex. Here, thousands of worker bees  – wearing black suits, dark sunglasses and coiled thingies in their ears – drive around in blacked-out Chevy Suburbans, and labor tirelessly to bring you the best in Internet content.

Recently they received a communique from the Silent Grapevine, requesting a supporter contribution. Here is BitcoDavid’s response to that request:

The Struggle of the Deaf in Prison


All three elements of interaction with the Justice system, directly affect the Deaf in far different ways than they do the Hearing.

1) Arrest: The goal of police during an arrest is to take physical custody of a suspect. Their only concern is discovering hidden weapons, and preventing escape. There is little opportunity for communication during this phase, and an ability of the suspect to follow orders is essential. When a cop holding his gun, yells “get down or I’ll shoot,” you need to get down. If you can’t understand that command, you’re in immediate danger. Many Deaf sacrifice their Constitutional rights, due to lack of understanding the Miranda warning. A written card containing the Miranda rights is useless, because many Deaf have limited reading ability.

The interrogation phase of arrest is equally fraught with communicational failings. Many Deaf, in order to fit in, or to expedite an uncomfortable situation, will respond to questioning by smile and nod. This leads Hearing to believe that the Deaf understand what is going on, even when they don’t. Finally, out of fear and exhaustion, the suspects will often confess to things they didn’t do. After 12, 24, possibly even 48 hours of grueling questions – none of which they can hear or understand – they confess.

2) Court proceedings and trial: Here, an interpreter is essential, but is often denied. An example is the now 33-year-old case of Felix Garcia, the man that is working to pardon. On numerous occasions, the judge would ask Felix if he could hear. For reasons that he himself isn’t completely clear on, he would answer in the affirmative. In the end, all they did was turn the speakers all the way up, causing Felix great pain, but not aiding at all in his ability to hear the accusations and evidence against him.

If a Deaf defendant is at all likely to have the benefit of a qualified ASL interpreter, it is during the trial phase. However, interpreters cost money that states are loath to spend. They will invariably try to find cost cutting methods of getting things done. Why add to an already expensive trial if you can prove that no interpreter is required?

3) Incarceration: It is here that the Deaf suffer most. It is here as well, that competent interpreters are most necessary, and least often made available. There have been cases reported of Deaf inmates not reporting for Count, because the order is verbal. Failure to report for Count can result in serious punishment such as Solitary Confinement. The same situation exists with Mess. Often, Deaf inmates go without being fed, because they are unaware that it’s time to eat.

The biggest problem for the Deaf in America’s prisons is violence and rape. Deaf people cannot hear whispers and muttering. They can’t hear people coming up behind them, and they have difficulty in reporting such activities. They struggle receiving medical care, because they can’t hear the doctors and nurses, therefore may not be as able to take part in their therapy, or in filling prescriptions, as can their Hearing counterparts. Conversely, they are less able to describe symptoms or to otherwise aid in their diagnoses.

The number of prisons and jails that offer onsite interpreters for these situations is relatively small – even in these days of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Furthermore, even if interpreters are available, the inmate must request one before the appointment.

Guards often see Deaf inmates as troublemakers. Nothing gets under a Corrections Officer’s skin, as much as a special request or need. When you’re in charge of 1000 or more individuals, the last thing you want to hear is inmate XYZ needs an interpreter.

We can address and eliminate these issues with a small amount of effort.

Every police cruiser in this country is equipped with onboard computers and WiFi. Police should learn how to use video relay via the Internet. Deaf suspects can be brought to the cruiser, where they would be able to offer a defense against arrest, and at the same time, be informed as to why they’re being arrested and what is expected of them.

Detectives need to conduct interrogations with interpreters present. If costs and availability were an issue, again, Internet interpreters and video relay would do the trick.

The responsibility for determining a defendant’s ability to aid in his own defense should no longer be the purview of judges and attorneys. The court should consult with an audiologist if there is any question as to a defendant’s competency.

Prisons and jails would need to make three significant changes. First, interpreters should be full-time on all shifts, and available. Inmates shouldn’t have to go through official channels to request an interpreter. Secondly, institutions need to house Deaf inmates in separate dorms, fully equipped to meet their needs. Finally, Deaf and bilingual (English/ASL) guards would be greatly beneficial.

Lastly, of course, if ASL were offered in all public schools, colleges and trade schools, individuals – law enforcement and otherwise – would be able to communicate with the Deaf, and would be able to reap the many advantages of learning Sign.

Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

My gratitude and appreciation to Silent Grapevine for this opportunity.

Also, don’t forget that the #KeepASLinSchools video is done and can be seen here and here. Felix’s case is garnering much needed attention, thanks to the efforts of Sachs Media Group who is still maintaining their petition, here. Please take a minute to sign – even if you’ve already signed ours. It is critically important. And thank you all, for your continued support.

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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Rockstar Talila Lewis Gets Op-Ed in Major Newspaper

By BitcoDavid

Talila Lewis from HEARD, wrote a piece that was featured in the South Florida Sun Sentinel. It’s an important article, because it singles out Tomoka – which is where Felix Garcia is unjustly serving time. Although this article refers to some horrible mistreatment of Deaf inmates, Felix has reported that he’s actually much happier there, than any of the other Florida institutions, at which he has been held, over his long 30 year incarceration.

Pat Bliss has informed me, that an unnamed Florida paper will also be covering Felix’s story, but that article has not yet been printed. She assures me that will be the first to know, when it finally is published. In the meantime, be well Felix, we’re all behind you – and thank you so much Talila for this awesome op-ed. You rock!

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.


Deaf – Blind Inmates: Are They Being Served Appropriately in Jail?

By Jean F. Andrews

According to a recent newsletter by HEARD, as of March 31, 2013, there are 407 deaf and deaf-blind prisoners in 38 states, Washington, D.C. and in the Federal Bureau of Prisoners. Within these numbers, we do not know exactly how many are deaf-blind or deaf and visually-impaired inmates there are in prison.

Deaf-blind and deaf-visually impaired inmates are most vulnerable to human rights abuses and often do not receive adequate accommodations in jails and prison. Take for example, the case of Ms. Jones, an African-American deaf-visually impaired woman who has been incarcerated numerous times, mostly for misdemeanors. Ms. Jones is profoundly deaf , has limited vision in both eyes, uses American Sign Language (ASL) as her primary language, and reads at the second grade level. To effectively use a sign language interpreter, the interpreter must sign very close to Ms. Jones’ face. She can use a videophone but she must be situated very close to the screen to see the signs of the other person.

At each of her arrests, Ms. Jones was not provided with an interpreter. In her last arrest, she was charged with possessing drugs but none were ever recovered and she did not have an interpreter during the arrest to tell her side of the story. While in jail, she was not provided an interpreter during the booking or during the medical intake. She was not able to explain that she was diabetic and took insulin, and spent three days in jail without her insulin. While in jail she was given a copy of the inmate handbook and a number of forms to sign but she could not read them given her low reading level of second grade. No interpreter was provided to translate these documents. Consequently, she did not learn about the rules she was required to follow while in jail but instead had to depend on another inmate who had rudimentary fingerspelling skills. Upon release, she frequently violated her probation because she did not understand the fees and regulations she had to follow. Because she did not understand the rules of her probation, she violated them and was subsequently jailed.

Ms. Jones’ story points to the inequities of the criminal justice system particularly for those inmates who have more than one disability. Ms. Jones’ deafness, visual impairment, and diabetic condition combine to make special accommodations necessary in order for her to have her rights as designated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Policy  in jails and prisoners need to reflect awareness of these unique needs of deaf, deaf-blind, and deaf and medically fragile inmates,  and include training for jail officials in order to ensure deaf blind inmates are given their Constitutional Rights.

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

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