Deaf Man’s Trauma in Virginia Prison

Held in Prison Wrongly: Here we go again with another alarming report of a Deaf person being held in prison wrongly (see full article). This time it is a U.S. citizen originally from Ethiopia, with a very basic command of written English, who was held in an Arlington, VA, county jail for 6 weeks, with no American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter access, no videophone, and no understanding of why he was even put into prison in the first place. To add further insult to injury, the accuser who claimed that this Deaf man stole his iPad, later realized that he had actually misplaced it himself.

Discrimination-induced Trauma: Situations like this one happen far more frequently to Deaf people than many of us realize. They trigger acute stress disorder (ASD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. This is a perfect example of the domino effect of trauma. First, the Deaf person is traumatized by the prison experience, then by the difficulties involved in finding ASL-accessible and Deaf-friendly legal help, and then by the frustrating process of finding accessible counseling and psychological services. This is all on top of a lifetime of enduring the effects of oppression and discrimination. HEARD (Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf) is one organization that is working to promote equal access to the legal/justice system for individuals who are Deaf and for people with disabilities.

Outdated Equipment: Too many hearing-run institutions and organizations remain clueless about the fact that TTYs – teletypewriters that allow typed communication by phone – are obsolete. Major David Kidwell, the director of the Arlington County jail that wrongly imprisoned the Deaf man, stated that the jail’s TTY machines are used by Deaf inmates with great success. In 2015, when videophones, emails, and text communication have replaced the old-fashioned TTY, it is distressing to think just how many more uneducated people out there are still championing TTY use and calling it equal access. How is it equal access, when 95% of Deaf people do not even own or use a TTY in this day and age? In our Deaf-centered counseling practice, no TTY has graced our desktops for more than a decade. On a serious note, we need to push for educational trainings not only for prisons, but for all hospitals, agencies, and other organizations.

To cite: Duchesneau, S. & McCullough, C. (2015, March 19). Deaf Man’s Trauma in Virginia Prison. Deaf Counseling Today. Retrieved (date retrieved), from https://deafcounseling.com/deaf-mans-trauma-in-virginia-prison/

Related articles:

Jails and Prisons

Rights of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Inmates

Deaf Prisoners in Florida Face Abuse and Solitary Confinement

Trauma in the Deaf Population by Deaf National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors

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