By Pat Bliss
Prelude: To those who have been following this tragic case of Felix Garcia’s from his arrest and conviction for something he didn’t do, to reading about the misunderstandings in communication because he is a deaf inmate without access to sign interpreters, to the verbal and physical abuse by prison staff and inmates in the Florida prison system, to the absolute lows in life to end it all, this news of his move to Virginia will be welcomed.
For many months starting in October 2015, the discussion to move Felix to Virginia via Interstate Compact began. One major reason was for Felix to be closer to me, so I could visit more often. The interstate request was sent to Virginia DOC in December 2015, and in February 2016, Virginia accepted Felix. He started the out-going process from FL prison system on Feb. 25, when he left Dade CI in Florida City. From there, he went to South Florida Reception Center, then on to Regional Medical Center in Lake Butler, FL. From there he was picked up and in Virginia custody. Felix was taken to a small airport in Jacksonville, FL on March 10th. According to his first letter after he arrived in Virginia, he wrote there were 2 pilots and 2 state police officers. Felix said he
“could not stop laughing and smiling and it was wonderful. They knew it was my first flight so they made all kinds of turns and went above the clouds.”
He could not hold back his tears, one of the officers asked what was wrong and Felix said,
“Not a thing. Just look out that window. God made that, and its beautiful.”
Upon arriving at the reception center in Virginia, they gave him toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, soap, and warm clean clothes. He thought there was some kind of trick coming. He said FL never did anything like this. For breakfast the next day he had real boiled eggs – something that he had not had for 10 years – grits and 2 biscuits, juice and real milk. Another breakfast he had real grape jelly, real milk and – for the first time – Cream of Wheat. He couldn’t believe it. He said he’s never eaten like that in FL. He has interpreters with him at all times. While at the reception center, he was given all sorts of tests on education level, medical, mental health etc.
Felix ended this letter with saying
“I am so happy to be in Virginia. These people are real respectful and these guys are huge. I am probably the littlest guy here. I cried because I have never experienced such kindness from security. They treat me like a person.”
His challenge now is learning new technology like access to a video phone and even email. He has all sorts of plans to email me every day. About the TTY phone
he said, he has never seen anything like it.
And one more thing that is exceptional – they teach ASL classes. The only sign language he has been taught has been by prisoners. This will be new and exciting for him to learn more about his language.
On March 29, he was transported to his permanent camp. He has been told how safe it is there. There are lots of educational classes, and he will have an interpreter
This is so important to him because he wants to learn. But in the past, he has often become confused and misunderstood what was said. In this environment, he can relax and not worry about retaliation. He said,
“before I was afraid to make mistakes and therefore would get it wrong.”
As you have seen in the many pictures posted on DeafInPrison.com, Felix loves to smile. Since he has been in Virginia, he cannot stop smiling. One of his counselors called me, and told me Felix is smiling ear to ear. The ADA coordinator said Felix is smiling and so happy. We all know why, but it is still good to hear. Hence, Felix is nicknamed Smiley by his fellow cellmates.
This is Felix’s new address and DOC number. I am sure he will enjoy hearing from all of you.
Felix Garcia #1805390/HU4-221
Greensville Correctional Center
901 Corrections Way
Jarratt, VA 23870-9614
Felix’s clemency attorney, Reggie Garcia, and I will continue working on his clemency action and parole. When the time comes he is released it will be here in Virginia, not in Florida. His hopes are high, and he has a whole new outlook on life. Even though it is still prison. This move, and the vast improvement in his treatment have caused his perspective to change, for the good.
Thank you all so much.
Pat Bliss is a retired paralegal in criminal law. She continues to do legal work for indigent prisoner cases showing innocence. She is a Certified Community Chaplain, Certified as a volunteer for CISM (Crises Intervention Stress Management) and involved in community events.