“I like it here.”
I hear those words from Felix a lot. He still feels blessed and happy to be in Virginia.
I know it has been a very long time since I have written anything on Felix. While it does mean Felix is doing well here in VDOC – thanks in large part to the ADA Coordinator, Barry Marano – perhaps some of you have forgotten about Felix. Or perhaps you feel like we at DeafInPrison.com have lost interest. I want to convey that Felix and I have not forgotten any of his supporters and that DeafInPrison.com is still fully committed to Felix.
Felix has become a valuable employee in the Silkscreen Plant. He told me that they were not taking contracts for ballcaps, as they didn’t know how to print on the caps and backpacks. So he showed his bosses how it is done and VDOC got an order for 200 ballcaps. That thrilled Felix to know he had a part in it. This is a plant that not only serves as a business employer to inmates but provides the state of Virginia with a service.
Felix started taking classes called Thinking For A Change. It is a year or more program to help inmates prepare for the outside. What makes this even more special is he has 2 interpreters signing the class so he will have a good understanding of the subject. Felix took a lot of classes during those decades in FDOC but never truly understood the context of the lessons due to not having a sign interpreter provided for him. In essence, he still had no deaf education until now. His world is opening up to new reasoning and thinking. The teacher has the class play act on giving and receiving information. He has 2 classes every week. Felix said first it was listening, second respect as to what is taught and third ask questions. He told me, “It is so important for me to change. I must think first.”
Felix was never taught to think before he acts. He lost his hearing in grade school and could not fully comprehend his teachers. He did well in math, however. In prison, Felix survived by reacting to situations and suffering the consequences. Often, he could not understand why he was in this position.
The best part of this story is Felix knows why now and he understands that reasoning and thinking ahead is imperative. This understanding is a revelation, it is opening a whole new world to him. Plus, taking this class is necessary for parole and he wants to do his best at it.
Felix’s pro bono attorney, Reggie Garcia, and I will be attending his next parole hearing in the fall of 2020. We also have a clemency action in process, which could have a hearing anytime – just depends how many cases are assigned to every quarterly docket. We keep in touch, too, as we still have people contacting either one of us about Felix’s story. Without a doubt, Felix is very much on our minds and we all are very much aware that we still have an innocent deaf man in prison.
My last visit was Saturday, August 4th. It is close to a 10 hour round trip drive for me. I stay about 2 – 2 1/2 hours. The visiting room isn’t too accommodating for visitors. Outside of soda and candy, there is no real food available in the vending machines. The Room is small and noisy. For Felix that is not a problem because he can barely hear the noise anymore.
Felix does have some oral skills, but in that environment, I struggled to hear him speak. We communicate by writing notes back and forth. Then we play cards. That is fun.
In closing, please know that Felix’s health is good and he is happy in Virginia.