When One Hand Refuses to Wash the Other

By BitcoDavid


I was asked, the other day, why DeafInPrison.com – a site dedicated to the plight of the Deaf inmate – reports on such a diverse palette of issues. We cover the School to Prison Pipeline, Prison Reform, solitary confinement, mental health issues, Women in prison, the drug war, prison gangs, prison rape, wrongful conviction, Deaf culture and even stories about Angela McCaskill and Taylor Swift – to name just a few.

My initial answer was simply, “we need content.” And that’s true. In fact, I could go in a tech direction with this post, and give you 1000 words on why content – any content – is so essential to the success of a Blog site. But, yesterday, I watched a video from Penn Law about pregnancy in prison. It was an eye-opener for me, but less so for its actual content than for what it didn’t say.


What occurred to me, watching this wonderfully crafted and enlightening documentary, was that all these issues are connected. Life doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and one can’t take one specific issue and try to effect change without looking at all the other issues that act upon it as contributors or agonists.

Let’s take for example, the abuse cycle. Although some Deaf would argue the point, abuse does indeed take place in a percentage of Deaf families. Imprisonment follows abuse like the tail on a dog. So in order to effectively address the issue of Deaf imprisonment, we must address the issue of Deaf domestic abuse. And if we’re going to do that, we’re going to end up learning about domestic abuse as a whole.

English: A collage of Deaf people, both histor...
A collage of Deaf people, both historical and contemporary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Deaf community represents a sector of the American population – for that matter, the World’s population – and a significant social group. Therefore it follows that an equivalent number of Deaf would be behind bars. It’s no secret that the prison population has exploded in numbers over the last 4 decades, ergo, the number of incarcerated Deaf has increased accordingly. That’s simple arithmetic. But unless we take a close look at why that population has increased so dramatically, we’ll never be able to offer any assistance or succor to those members who happen to be Deaf. In short, they’re Deaf and they’re in prison, but that situation – and their heightened struggle – is symptomatic, not causal.

English: ASL sign I-LOVE-YOU (wikt:en:ILY@Side...
Maybe we can make a concerted effort to start using this 3 fingered sign for I love you, more often then we use the 1 fingered sign we all know too well. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The problems go much deeper, and effect far greater segments of our population. Poverty, education, abuse, the drug war, our punishment crazed society – all these things and more, contribute to the suffering of the Deaf community lost within the Justice system.

Several of the women interviewed in the above mentioned video said the same thing. “They don’t tell you anything.” I know this to be true. Hearing or not, you’re arrested –  and the first thing you become aware of, is the lack of communication. Nobody in the system ever tells you anything. You’re cuffed up and moved from here to there. You stand (mute) in front of a judge, while a complete stranger speaks in a foreign language. Next, you’re cuffed up again and shuffled off to somewhere else. You can actually go days, even weeks with nobody telling you anything about what’s happening to you. We have reported on this phenomenon as it impacts the Deaf, but again, the issue isn’t one of having an interpreter present. The problem is much deeper. Police, prosecutors, judges, COs and Public Defenders should be far more forthcoming with information. This is true for all of us, and not just the Deaf.

Prison Industrial Complex #occupysanquentin
Prison Industrial Complex #occupysanquentin (Photo credit: @bastique)

It really comes down to what kind of society we want to be. Do we want to be a nation that tortures and abandons its weak, like mountain lions in the wilderness? Or do we want to be a nation that prides itself on its ability to forgive mistakes and rebuild broken people? Once we were known as the system that created the World’s  largest and most powerful middle class. Now, we’re the World’s jailer and we’re becoming known for creating the World’s largest but least powerful criminal class.

I’m committed to the idea of presenting those stories which I believe to be applicable to our stated cause, even where that applicability is difficult to see. I hope that we can serve as a place for education, enlightenment and aid. And I hope that people – Deaf and Hearing alike – can benefit from our work.

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.

16 thoughts on “When One Hand Refuses to Wash the Other

  1. I loved that you broke it down to the question: “what kind of society do we want?” How does it improve ANYONE’S life to have people rotting in prison (people who often times never had a lifestyle other than crime ever presented to them). I don’t feel safer, the person in jail doesn’t get help, his/her family is torn apart, and their community suffers. We need serious reform in this country and it needs to be based on compassion and forgiveness.
    I recently started working with an amazing organization called Defy Ventures which opened my eyes to this segment of the population which I completely overlooked. Here’s a post about it: http://thehesoproject.com/2013/01/13/defy-ventures/


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