The Injustice of Lonliness as Punishment

[The tagline for DeafInPrison.com is Sentenced to Solitude in Silence. Our contributor JoanneGreenberg sent this in. –Ed.]

Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethlem_Royal_Hospital

The hardest part of being deaf and in prison may not be the rapes, the missing of messages or the misunderstanding in general. It might be the absence of other deaf people. Imagine a Russian or Basque speaker in jail who knows very little English, and suffers the unappeased hunger for simple contact, conversation and communication. This absence, we hear from other prisoners, is what is so biting in solitary confinement.

What I remember from my trips to mental hospitals, before their patents were ditched into our local streets, was the complaint of deaf people there who had been placed geographically, instead of by medical definitions. This was a huge advance for the ordinary hearing mentally ill, because it didn’t discriminate between chronic and acute conditions, thereby allowing the chronic to be simply warehoused instead of being treated. For the Deaf, it was ruinous because they had no way of knowing who else might be there with whom they could communicate.

Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethlem_Royal_Hospital

Now, the prisons have the same problem. If deafness could take prcedence over the type of crime or the length of sentence, deaf people could be housed together and services tailored to their needs could be instituted.

3 thoughts on “The Injustice of Lonliness as Punishment

  1. I wish to give you an example. Felix Garcia was transferred from PCI in Sept of 2010 and sent to prisons with either no or few other Deaf (he could communicate with. He sometimes had another Deaf/HoH around him but they could not sign nor read lips.) Talking to hearing people via lip reading is not the same as talking with a fellow Deaf inmate. He almost went bananas over the lack of communication with another human being. He was transferred to several institutions for various reasons and each one I called classification educating them about their new Deaf inmate and what he is experiencing being without someone to communicate with and how he reacts that may appear being disrespectful but is not. Fortunately this came to a stop when he was by a miracle sent to Tomoka (a year later) where there are many other Deaf. This year the Deaf have all been put into one dorm (with the exception of a few for DOC reasons) and recently have adequate access to TV. Much of this success at TCI is attributed to a couple attorneys, other interested parties and the pro-activeness of Felix.

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  2. The prison in Huntsville, Texas centralizes Deaf prisoners. It offers GED class taught by certified teachers of the deaf.

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  3. I agree. When I am asked to do reading assessments of deaf inmates they mention the loneliness. One coping mechanism is to teach a hearing inmate a few basic signs.

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