This is the 2nd installment in our series of interviews with Felix Garcia. Jim Ridgeway and Pat Bliss did the interview. Mr. Ridgeway owns the copyright. Again, our wonderful interpreter set voice to Felix’s powerful words, and I did the tech work involved in synching and mixing the audio and creating the transcript.
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Transcript is as follows:
FG: I was scared. There was 5 or 6 officers, surrounding me. I think they came to hurt me. I’m thinking – wow, man! Where am I going to go? How am I going to go? At the other camp, when you were Deaf alone – person – you can’t help yourself. And I was scared.
I had just got a letter from my sister, and she was balling me out, and talking, and I didn’t understand – and I was scared.
I got the sheet. And I was swinging. And I’m thinking – I don’t want to do this – but I couldn’t control myself. I know I need help. I’d gone to the psychiatrist. They don’t help you. They do nothing.
And I’m swinging and swinging. And I’m thinking – no… no… not me. I want to get down. And the officer came – there’s 2 officers. And they stood there watching me. Just watching me. I was stuck. I couldn’t get down. And I passed out. And then the next day, I knew it. I knew I had fallen. I hit my head.
The officer was standing there laughing – ha, ha, ha. And I was scared. I was crying. And I didn’t know where to go, so I dove under the bed. And I was trying to hide.
The officer opened the door. He grabbed my legs, and he drug me out. He pulled me out and he dragged me to another room. He closed the door. It was a smaller room. And a prisoner was there. One that knew some sign. They took my hearing aids and my glasses. I couldn’t see. Nothing. And they’re talking, and yelling, and scolding me. They took my clothes – they left me in there 6 days. I was naked.
And finally, 6 or 7 days later, they took me to the lake. The lake’s very, very nice. There’s a doctor there – a psychologist, and he said – you have a lot of problems. They gave me an interpreter. Finally, for the first time. An interpreter.
We talked, and talked, and talked, and he said – I understand. He told me – you’re going to go to a camp with other deaf people. [clapping] And I thought – oh thank God, thank God.
But I didn’t go. They put me on a bus. They took me to the dorm – here. No phone, no interpreter – nothing. It was hard. Really hard. And then finally, the new assistant Warden came. A very, very nice one. He tried to help me. He set up the phone for the Deaf. He did it.
Now, the assistant Warden – Specs. His name is Specs. Ugh. Ugh. He’s against Deaf people. He’s against us.
PB: The assistant warden is? The assistant Warden is against you.
The assistant Warden is against the Deaf.
Wait. Did he say that one of the guards pushed him into killing himself?
Well, you were saying that a woman guard encouraged you to try and commit suicide?
No. It wasn’t a guard. It was a nurse. A nurse, at the [Medicine] Correctional. She brought a sheet. And they put me in a room with the sheet, and they said it’s better for you – to hang yourself, because when we come back, we’re going to kick you right out. And they pulled the can of mace out, and they pulled on it. They pulled on it. And so then – we got your report.
They pulled a what?
He pulled the… you know, on the mace can? A can of mace? It has a security lock… he break it – he broke it. He pulled on it.
Yes. And he pulled on that.
Oh, he pulled on that.
He pulled on that. It’s a can of mace. It’s mace. I was in the room. And I know he was going to spray it. It can hurt you.
All because I wanted a battery for my hearing aid. A battery for my hearing aid! All because of that!
And what happened? He’s put in solitary?
They put you in a room for 6 days, and without clothes on?
Yes. With nothing. Nothing.
They did that to Felix in the County jail – when he was in there.
What about food. Did you get food?
Did they bring you your meals?
Yes. Sometimes. Once a day. It would depend on who’s watching. If… if important people were watching? Oh yes. They’d come, and be friendly, and smile, and say – how are you today? – and bring you your meal… but how are the Deaf people supposed… where’s the support? I have to help myself. You can’t help yourself.
With other Deaf people you have an interpreter. Here, at this camp – they have a nurse… that knows Sign language. And they have an officer that knows Sign language. They refuse to let them help me. They refuse.
Yeah. Yeah. They refuse to let the nurse and the officer help me. And they both know Sign language. Both of them know Sign language.
They both can do that, and they won’t do it?
No. They will. But the people here refuse to let them help me.
…refuse to help you. Even though they can? Even though they can sign – they refuse to help you.
Yes, they can sign good.
They want to help me.
They want to help you – but they’re told not to?
Yes! That’s right! Right!
These are other Deaf prisoners?
Who Signs? Other Deaf prisoners or who?
No. Who is the one that signs?
For me? Nobody.
The people that can sign? Are they officers?
Yes, there’s one officer and one nurse.
And they both can sign
Oh yes! Beautifully! Beautifully!
And they won’t let them help you?
No. I don’t know why. The rules say they must give me an interpreter. For medical.
4/12 is when I arrived here, and this hearing aid was broken. And I tried to get it fixed. They refused to fix it. They refused to fix it.
Wait. What’s he saying? What are you saying?
What are you not fixing?
My hearing aid on this side.
They refused. They refused to fix it for me. My hearing aid. And I went into medical…
Your hearing aid, you’re talking about?
Your right hearing aid.
Yes. This one – the left.
but they refuse to fix it.
That’s right. They refused.
O.K. Tell me something, Felix. Have those hearing aids helped a lot?
O.K. If I’m out on the street, I don’t use my hearing aid. It doesn’t help me. In prison? Oh, you must have something. To protect yourself. The door – when I’m in the room – a two-man room. It’s best for Deaf people. Do you know why? Because the door locks. And the other prisoners can’t get at you. When the door opens… I sleep with my head on the wall. Because it’s hard for me. But I sleep with my head on the wall.
So you can hear the door
I feel it. And I jump up. I have to protect myself.
But it doesn’t ever help you understand words.
No. No, it’s just to help me protect myself.
This door? This is a different kind of cell door?
The cell door
But it’s like what we’d think of as a regular cell door?
It’s an electrical door. It slides open.
It’s like this kind of door.
No. It’s a sliding door.
Yes. Sliding door. It’s an electrical door. It slides.
Is there a window?
No, there’s no window. It’s solid. You can’t see in. If somebody’s coming in… and they want to try to hurt me… they can hurt me.
Officers never walk around. Never. You’re alone. You’re alone. All you have is yourself.
Now, we’re getting back to that. So now, the door itself, has no window?
It has a little window. A little strip of a window.
So an officer can see in.
No they can’t.
They can’t see in?
No. No they can’t. No, nope. Uh,huh. It’s all scratched up. They do that. The other prisoners. Because people like me – they’re Deaf. They can’t hear. They can’t talk. They can’t see. We’re victims. We’re the victims. They do that. They know that.
How do I say this? People like me… I fight for Deaf people. I try to help them. I go to church with them. I teach them about God. And I write a grievance. I learned over the years to go ahead and grieve – and write it down. To help ourselves. And I show other Deaf people – I say you have to do the grievance the right way. And they see me doing that, and they say – no – and they take me away.
It’s like solitary.
It’s just like solitary.
Your room is solitary.
Well, it’s not designated solitary confinement…
It’s open population. But the people in my dorm… they’re H-04s and H-05s. They’re the worst of the worst. Because of my charge. They put me with them. Before, I was in the G-dorm. It was an open dorm, and the officer could see everyone. It was really nice for me. The people couldn’t hurt me. The officer could watch everyone. But now. I’m in a 2-man room. The officer can’t see in. That’s why it’s hard.
But you do not live in a 2-man room.
This thing he’s describing – that was before.
Well, if I’m wrong – tell me. But what you’re describing – that’s because of your Deafness, your hearing, your eyesight – that’s like living in solitary.
Yes. True. That’s true.
Is that what you’re saying? Even though you’re in a cell?
The door opens, and you come out. For half a day you go over to the yard. At the other camps. But not this camp. This camp is only half a day. You go outside. And the rest of the day, you’re locked in your room. And at count time, you’re locked in your room – the door opens – you come out. It’s like that. If somebody wants…
O.K. Let me clarify. You’re not in solitary confinement.
But, you’re in a 2-man cell.
And they still lock you in.
Yes. Sometimes. Oh. Every day. 4 or 5 times a day that door locks. Yes. It just keeps locking.
Is there another person – a second person – in the cell with you?
What did he say?
Is there another person in the cell with you?
Is he OK?
Is he OK?
Yeah. Yeah. The one I have now, he’s a good one. He’s a Black. He’s young. He’s a Christian, now. I tell him about God. We study. We study the Bible. I give him questions. He gives me questions. We study it. Yeah. It’s nice. He’s going home in 4 months. But for me? In 4 months? I see him going in 4 months. What’s going to happen then? Who are they going to give me then?
I have to watch myself then. I have to take care of myself. Can I sleep at night? Things like that. It’s hard. I’ve been lucky.
Say that again.
In 4 months – he goes home… my roommate. So right now, I’m happy he’s with me, but in 4 months? What do I have to look forward to? It’s dangerous. Who are they going to give me now?
So… let me speak to him [JR]. This is one thing about the cellmates. Cellmates are very important. With Felix, when he has a good cellmate it makes life tolerable, but they’re always in fear of getting somebody that’s going to harm them.
I understand that, but is he saying that they always constantly have to watch out for somebody that’s going to attack them?
So he uses his hearing aid to listen against the door?
O.K. For the guard to open up. He wants to know when that door opens up.
Is it because he’s afraid somebody will open it and come and get him? Or not?
O.K. When you’re in your cell at nighttime – or the door is closed…
The door is closed.
…you want to hear when it’s opened.
Yes. That’s why I sleep with my head against the wall.
And the reason is so that nobody comes in to harm you.
Yes. To come in to try to rape me. That’s the only reason.
O.K. Has that ever happened?
Where they just sneak in?
Yes. They try to sneak in. And I’m not fully asleep. And I jump up. Yes. You have to protect yourself. You have to. You have to. Outside, a lot of Deaf people – they’re in the room by their selves and they’re scared. Other people do that. They sneak in. How? How do they yell out? I can talk – because I was born hearing. It’s different for me. But other Deaf people? They can’t say anything. Nothing.