Deaf prisoners often are denied interpreter services, deprived of access to medical and mental health services, denied access to education and reentry programs, and are cut off from access to even the most basic human interaction. Deaf prisoners miss out on daily activities including meals, counts, classes and recreation because notices in prison are auditory with no complementary visual component. Deaf prisoners are frequently punished for "failing to obey verbal commands," and routinely receive additional time for these "infractions." In fact, deaf prisoners often attend their own disciplinary hearings for these "infractions" but are unable to defend themselves because prisons so frequently deny interpreters and other language access services.
Deaf prisoners are often targeted for physical and sexual abuse, with many deaf prisoners reporting that incidences of assault are the direct result of filing complaints about lack of communication access in the prison. Following these attacks, deaf prisoners frequently are placed in solitary confinement "for their own protection," where their mental health rapidly declines.
Also of concern is the lack of accessible telecommunications that would keep deaf prisoners connected to their loved ones and ensure that deaf prisoners can effectively communicate with advocates and attorneys. Instead, only seven prisons across the nation are equipped with videophones, and thousands of deaf prisoners have absolutely no telecommunications access while living in what advocates call a "prison in a prison."
The Department of Justice can help bring an end to this abuse by providing up-to-date training for departments of corrections and by providing oversight that ensures that prisons are complying with federal laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities, like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
Sign this petition to Attorney General Eric Holder to help bring an end to the abuse.
ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN: Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD) created the #DeafInPrison Campaign to raise awareness about abuse of and discrimination against deaf prisoners across the nation. The Campaign, which officially launches on June 27th, aims to start a national conversation about these concerns and to compel corrective and preventive action.