In a case involving Juan Garcia who at age 15 was found guilty and is serving 99 years for the murder of Jesus Veliz (age 22) that appeared in the Houston Chronicle, Sunday, September 9, 2012, p. 1, A1, A12-13), reporter Claudia Feldman analyzed Texas’ “broken program” for juvenile offenders. She states that Juan Garcia is one of almost 1,900 other Texas inmates have been locked in state prisons at age 17 or younger.
Feldman interviewed University of Houston law professor Ellen Marrus. Professor Marrus stated that she believes that juveniles should have lawyers with them when the police questions them. Currently, in Texas magistrates meet with juveniles and explain their Miranda Rights before the police questions them. Law Professor Marrus was quoted as saying, “Common sense tells us children don’t understand (their right to remain silent) even if they say they do.” She opposes teens being tried in adult courts and also opposes long prison sentences for teens.
Deaf juveniles charged with crimes too face difficulties with Miranda, being tried in adult courts, and facing long sentences. But deaf youths have even more complex issues because of the communication, language and access barriers they face in the juvenile justice and adult justice system. For example, I tested two juvenile sex offenders in the northeast part of the U.S. in a high security facility. I found both boys to be profoundly deaf since birth, both have cognitive and learning disabilities, read on the average of 2nd grade, and had histories of childhood sexual abuse by teachers and neighbors. At this state penitentiary for youth offenders, the deaf youths were only provided interpreters for five hours a day but not for their in-between class activities, after school or dorm activities.
Most disturbing was that no sign interpreter was available for their weekly Sexual Offending program so they could not participate in-group discussions. Neither boys had the reading skills to read their textbooks (written at the 9th grade reading level) nor did they have the writing skills to do the homework required such as writing their autobiographies to describe the “trigger behaviors” for their sexual offending. Because the rehabilitation portion of their incarceration was not available to them, what a senseless placement this was.
- Lawyers: Polk County guards abused teen inmates (miamiherald.com)
- What I Learned from a (Deaf) Baseball Player – From Lipreading Mom (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Callous Young Killers (psychologytoday.com)
- Proposed Muskegon County juvenile center: More treatment services, less locked detention (mlive.com)