Prison is a horrible place, and an even more horrible concept. But I would propose that perhaps it is we who suffer most when our friends and loved ones find themselves chewed up in the soulless machine that is America’s Criminal Justice System.
Now, as always – I would preface this article with the disclaimer that sure, some people definitely belong behind bars. Yes, Virginia there are criminals, and yes, there is no place that can serve them better than the cold steel of the Greyrock Hilton.
But where would the world be if Mozart were sent to waste his life behind barbed wire? What a dull, colorless place Earth would be if Picasso were denied paint and canvas, or if Bell were kept from playing with magnets and wires. And to some degree or another, are we not all Mozarts, Picassos and Bells? I put it to you in the purely theoretical. Is it not possible that a cure for Cancer, a discovery of Warp drive, another Jupiter Symphony isn’t rotting in some hell-hole somewhere?
Pat Bliss is an expert on prisons. She does what many of us wish we could. She goes into these places – on a regular basis – and works with the men and women behind bars. Hence, she has learned a great deal about the tangled web of visitation and the virtually inaccessible prisoner trust accounts. Last night on the phone, I broached an idea I had been hatching.
You see, as many DeafInPrison.com readers are already aware, I have set out to learn Sign language. So, while watching the absolutely awesome Al Jazeera exposé featuring Felix Garcia, I saw him signing. I thought it might be a great opportunity for ASL students in the Florida area, to visit Felix over a period of a few weeks. Felix could tutor people in a boot camp immersion environment, via daily visits. In return, people could pay Felix for the service, which would provide him a nest egg for that day when he finally gets his clemency.
So, I needed to communicate with Pat Bliss, to work out some of the logistics of this wicked pissah idea of mine. I grabbed the phone, cranked the crank and hollered into the pipe. “Sarie – get me Pat Bliss.”
Well, it turns out my idea is impossible.
You see, individuals would not be able to visit Felix. Felix is allowed only 2 hours of visitation a week, and that on weekends only, and only by authorized visitors. He is allowed only 1 hour a month for visitation from media types for interviews. He has limited access to TTY, and of course no Video Relay access. He cannot operate or maintain an Internet presence, cannot access social media and – other than the very limited computer training program in which he is already involved, has no access to digital technology. In fact, Pam Bondi has a certain well known undergarment all tangled up in a bunch over the fact that I – and others – maintain a Web presence for Felix, as 3rd parties.
Furthermore, Florida takes issue with inmates getting paid for performing services for private individuals – unless of course it’s slave labor for factory facilities like CCA and other private sector profiteers. It’s OK if United Fruit pays him 50¢ a day, but you and I can’t pay him 50$ an hour to teach us Sign.
Here’s the thing that strikes me about Felix. He’s a downright nice guy. I’ve seen him in so many interviews now, discussed him in such depth with Pat, and written so much about him that I can say that without fear of contradiction. Felix is a nice guy. And moreover, an individual who could make a substantial contribution to society. So it is we who miss out. We are the losers here. Just as we would have missed the glory of the Jupiter symphony, the psychological expressionism of Cubism, and the 2nd naturedness of telephone communication – had those luminaries been cast aside – we are missing all the great contributions that could – at least theoretically – be made by the Felixes of this world.
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.