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.

Felix Case – Some Important Links

By BitcoDavid

Here’s the link to Fox 13 Tampa Bay’s video. It’s a surprisingly accurate and well made piece, and tells Felix’s whole story. Well worth watching.

http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/29033415/after-30-years-advocates-seek-new-trial-for-deaf-man#.VVIQvxy0EhQ.facebook

You can see their FaceBook page here. Check out the comments on Felix’s video.

https://www.facebook.com/FOX13TampaBay/videos/vb.159207208524/10152912739548525/

And lastly, here’s a link to Felix’s original testimony, in PDF format.

http://content.foxtvmedia.com/wtvt/html/misc/Garcia-testimony.pdf

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.

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.

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.

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.

FlNewsServ

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:

http://www.newsserviceflorida.com/

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 DeafInPrison.com 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.

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