Inmate Speaks Out on Prison-Dog Program

By BitcoDavid

Image courtesy the Internet sensation, Jack Greenberg.

An attorney who has written for us in the past, informed me that he recently acquired a canine graduate of the prison-dog program in his home state. He tells me that he couldn’t be happier with the dog, who’s well  behaved and well mannered. Further, he relayed to me that not only was there no evidence to his knowledge, that animals are ill-treated or abused, but in fact, he found the entire program to be stringent and scrupulously managed.

It has long been the policy and perspective of DeafInPrison.com to vehemently support these programs. We believe that these programs save the lives of innumerable unwanted dogs, and likewise the psychological, emotional and social benefit to countless unwanted and forgotten humans, is incomparably profound. These programs show results that border on the phenomenal – helping both dogs and inmates.

All that being said, an inmate who has been in mail communication with our author, Pat Bliss, for over a decade, sent me a letter, describing his near 3 and 1/2 years in a prison dog program.

Before I continue in relaying the contents of that letter, I need to advise my readers of the following caveats:

  1.  This is anecdotal evidence. I don’t doubt for a second the man’s credibility. However, we need to remember that none of this information can be – or has been – corroborated.
  2. Even if true, this is one man’s experience, in one state’s program, and in one unique institution. Right or wrong, this article cannot speak for all the prison-dog programs throughout the U.S.
  3. As has always been the case with inmate letters to DeafInPrison.com, there will be no use of proper names, locations, inmate numbers, or any information that may compromise the individual’s safety or anonymity. This of course makes verification and validation even more difficult, but it is necessary to prevent any harm befalling our sources.
  4. The following is a tough read, especially if you’re a dog lover. Portions of this article may seem egregious and offensive. If you’re particularly sensitive to dog issues, you may not want to continue reading.

BitcoDavid needed some dog pix for this article. Being the camera-whore I am, I volunteered. — Jack

The letter opens with a greeting, followed by the dates he served in the program – 2012 to 2015. He goes on to describe the outside trainers – individuals responsible for evaluating dogs for the program. Generally, these people will go to given shelters and obtain non-adoptable animals. These animals are vetted, and cared for by these trainers until a slot opens up in one of the facilities. The trainers then provide support and education for the inmates. This inmate, in his letter stated that these trainers’ personal hygiene was terrible, and that the dogs that came from their rescue were filthy, smelly and never brushed or bathed. He said that he’s seen dogs come into the program with parasites and skin conditions – the kind of thing that comes from their living area being dirty. Typically, the first thing the inmates do with their new charges, is to bathe them.

Here's me, after a bath. Maybe a little humiliated, but lookin' good. JG

Here’s me, after a bath. Maybe a little humiliated, but lookin’ good. JG

The inmate believes that this problem can – and should – be addressed with unannounced and surprise inspections.

Who wouldn't wanna give a dog a bath?

Who wouldn’t wanna give a dog a bath?

A television news source in the area in question, confirms that inmates in the program are first fully screened psychologically. The inmate claims that fact is untrue. He states that he himself was let into the program, and no such screening ever occurred. He goes on to say, that likewise sexual offenders are not allowed in the program. This too, is an untruth. He named, several sex offenders who were working in the program during his tenure. He provided me with not only the names of these individuals, but their inmate numbers. Obviously, I am not going to publish that information, but it certainly adds to the veracity of his missive.

He cites occasions when he witnessed inmates inserting fingers into female canine genitalia, and even using the animals for oral sex.

1st day in my forever home - Aug. 2009

1st day in my forever home – Aug. 2009

His last dog in the program, before he quit, came to him with an ear infection. He spent 8 months dealing with facility officials and medical staff, trying to obtain treatment for the dog. When medicine was finally issued to him, it was either too small a dose, or expired. some of the medicines he received were actually as much as 5 years expired. The dog of course, got worse. What struck this individual even more-so than the neglect itself, was the nonchalance amongst those whose job it was to provide him with support.

He finally managed to get word to the state’s animal services department. They sent 2 agents, who interviewed the staff of the facility, and the outside trainers. A week later, the trainers came and took the dog. The trainers were then told by a program administrator, to get the inmate out of the program for contacting an outside agency. the trainers lied to animal services, and failed to follow up on their recommendations regarding the dog. Instead they sent the dog to another county, outside of the agency’s jurisdiction.

BitcoDavid calls this one,

BitcoDavid calls this one, “Puppy Energy.” I kinda like this one.

He continues in his letter, by telling me of an individual who has a German Shepherd. He has told other program members that if their dogs become aggressive or non-social, he would put the dog in with the Shepherd, to “get his ass kicked.” I have no indication if this has actually occurred, but I would certainly be leery of putting a dog in this person’s care, whether this is joking or not.

The dorms where the dogs are housed, with their inmates, are scarcely populated – often less than a dozen pairs. Therefore, little or no supervision exists. According to the letter, inmates who are unsuited or uninterested will apply for the program, to afford this unsupervised lifestyle. This results in drug use and sex occurring constantly in these dorms.

An individual was seen actually beating some of the dogs, and this individual was called down for the behavior, but staff did nothing. When the other inmates questioned him as to why no punishment, he said that he had too much pull to be removed from the program.

This shot here is from an old blog called

This shot here is from an old blog called “Nu30.” Love me some Greenies.

The inmate has written letters to the corporate program sponsor – who will also go unnamed in this article – but says that he gets his letters returned unopened.

He lists numerous abuses – dogs being kicked in the mouth, dogs being smashed against steel poles or concrete walls, and dogs being physically thrown through the air – all incidents were reported, and there has been no action taken, or even any acknowledgement that a report was received.

In closing, I have no difficulty believing everything he stated in his letter. However, I still have nothing but faith in these programs. While it may be true that abuses exist, and that more conscientious monitoring may be required, I can’t imagine any two groups within our society who are better suited to help each other survive – and thrive – than prison inmates and rescue dogs.

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.

Fox 13 Tampa Bay: Updated Felix Video

By BitcoDavid

Fox Real Time logo on Fox News Channel''

Fox Real Time logo on Fox News Channel” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following links are to the newest extended special broadcast on Felix’s case, by Florida Fox News outlet WTVT Fox News Channel 13, Tampa Bay.

Here’s the link to the video from their page.

http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/29151635/special-report-florida-justice-uncovered

Here’s the video with a transcript by TVEYES media monitor.

http://mms.tveyes.com/PlaybackPortal.aspx?SavedEditID=88450b25-5e00-44c7-87f5-377db74dfa62

And here’s the Vimeo version.

https://vimeo.com/128326681

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.

How Fox News Became Involved with Felix

By Pat Bliss

English: FOX News Channel newsroom

FOX News Channel newsroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The day before Felix’s parole hearing in November 2014, a photojournalist representing FOX News interviewed attorney Reggie Garcia and me, in his office. The next morning at the parole hearing he filmed us both, advocating for Felix’s parole. It was an exciting and dramatic time. There were cameras and microphones everywhere.  After our time at the hearing was up, Frank Garcia’s name was called. Frank’s sister, Tina showed up to speak on his behalf and so did their younger brother Michael (who doesn’t know Felix).

The fact that they did not come to speak for Felix caused quite a stir among the media. Afterward in the lobby, Reggie and I were asked a lot of questions about what had just taken place.  We answered what we could and then everyone left, including the photojournalist for FOX News. All we knew at the time was that the parole hearing and Felix’s case was going to be shown on the local news stations around the State of Florida. We hoped for the best. What we didn’t know was that the story touched the Chief Investigator for FOX News in Tampa.

English: Looking east towards 6th Avenue along...

Looking east towards 6th Avenue along north (48th Street) side of Fox News building on a snowy afternoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The day after the hearing, I drove from Tallahassee – where the parole commission is located – to Marion CI in Ocala, to tell Felix what the outcome was. On the way to Ocala I got a call on my cell phone from Craig Patrick of FOX News. He kindly introduced himself and said he had just spoken with Reggie and he wanted to speak to me about Felix. He wanted to do a video shoot inside the prison.

I told him the procedures he must do. He would need to contact the FDOC media director, download and fill out a form for himself and anyone else attending. That is mainly for a background check, to inform about the equipment that is planned to come in, and an approximate date scheduled. I told Craig that needs to be done first, so he said he will get started on it. We all decided with the holidays coming soon, we will pick up on this after the New Year. I drove home after seeing Felix the weekend after the parole hearing.

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)

Early January we started a dialogue and brought in Sachs Media Group to assist. They are part of our legal team.  We had to get approvals, a sign interpreter lined up, and a date set. The time of an interview is always designated by the FDOC at the institution so to be sure there is a DOC officer available to be in the room when and where the interview is taking place. We chose March 6, 2015 and FDOC chose 9 AM.

Sachs Media Group

Sachs Media Group

I drove back down to Florida end of February 2015.  FOX interviewed me at a station in Tampa.  I was to meet Craig at the prison Friday morning, March 6th, to accompany the team for Felix’s interview.  It went very smoothly, Felix is so likable and impresses everyone that meets him. We were there 2 hours. I visited Felix, as well, both Saturday and Sunday. As always, we had a lot to talk about. He had questions about the interview, and very exited about it. I answered what I could. After our visit Sunday and our goodbyes, I headed back to Virginia. There is a let down after I leave each time, seeing him stand there in line waiting to get shook down and allowed back into the compound as I walk out the door to freedom. Justice for Felix must come soon!

There will be another – and longer – video aired on FOX at 5:30pm May 25th. I will post the link after it is aired.

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.

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.

Change! Fox News Program about Felix

By Pat Bliss

To All Felix’s Supporters:

I had previously stated that FOX News is doing a short segment on Felix’s case at 10 pm May 14th. It has been upped to May 11th at 10pm.

This will be aired again and be tied in with a special on the criminal justice system coming up later by Craig Patrick of FOX. That program will air in prime time. This current segment on Felix will be shown live in FOX owned stations in 17 major cities around the country that night. Those of us who do not live near a big city can view it online after it is aired at: www.mytampabay.com/story/case-of-felix-garcia . This may work as I tried to determine via other news stories listed on its home page, but it should get you there and look for a list of news stories with Felix’s name. The call letters are FOX13 WTVT-TV. Tampa Bay, FL.  If I find out a more precise web address I will try to pass it on but wanted to be sure you all saw the change in date.   As you know this is shown in furthering our quest for Felix’s freedom. Thank you all so much. Pat

Here is one of the promos being shown to advertise the story on Felix.  Press the play button/arrow in the lower left of the video screen.

https://vimeo.com/127325386

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.

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.

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.

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