It was night of unexpected incident. The July 30, 2013. I thought it was dreams. The dreams that we used to imagine like film. In the morning of July 31 I realized that it was surreal not a dream anymore. It was when the commissioner handed out a signed document that described my charges.
At first I did not understand the meaning of charges. I felt like I wanted to understand crystal clearly. The day after another day, I could not imagine how I was going to get out of the jail or how long I was going to stay in. I thought it was tomorrow or another tomorrow. The commissioner noted a court date for the bail. I only could read but it was not enough. I wanted to talk but no one could hear me. I wanted to use my language, the American Sign Language or ASL, but no one could hear it. I had much to say and to ask in my mind but there was no one to talk to because no one would understand my language (ASL).
It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of a great man. Dr. McCay Vernon is remembered as an amazing thinker, author, mentor, leader, advocate, colleague; and as a kind and gentle spirit.
Notwithstanding six decades of separation, our relationship was valuable beyond words, signs and measure. Having his support and guidance meant the world to me. He modeled for us all, how to build coalitions that seamlessly transcend generational "divides"--encouraging, connecting, affirming and supporting those who come behind us. These relationships provide invaluable guidance, vision, inspiration & hope to "the future," and provide our elders with an important outlet in which to share their wisdom and knowledge (& amazing stories).
I will always cherish the man who stood dutifully by his typed and hand-written letters sent via traditional mail; cherished the Deaf & Signing Community; never stopped searching for knowledge; and left easily discernable footprints in the sand so we could pick up where he left off. One of my favorite letters that the Mac sent was an August 2011 response to my request for him to join the Board of HEARD. It stated, in part: "As I am 82 years of age, there may be some limitations on my capacity to serve, but I look forward to the opportunity to do so.” May we all be as driven, selfless, and compassionate as him.
He was a National Treasure & our Community's Heartbeat. I am grateful to have been touched by his presence and to have inherited a world that was made better because it was gaced by the same. Thank you for your leadership, your knowledge, your encouragement, your letters, your service, your example.
HEARD Responds to FL DOC's Proposed Rule that Bans Prisoners from
On August 12, 213, HEARD submitted a comment opposing the Florida Department of Corrections’ (“FDOC”) proposed Rule 33-602.208, that, if adopted, would ban prisoners and their advocates from maintaining an "internet presence on any website." HEARD stated, in part:
"Not only is this proposed rule unconstitutionally broad, it also sets a very dangerous precedent that encourages retaliation against prisoners, advocates and organizations who use the Internet to inform the public about abuse of prisoners in the FDOC. In June 2013, after receiving consistent detailed reports about abuse of and retaliation against prisoners from family members, advocates, and HEARD, the Department of Justice opened a formal investigation into the Florida Department of Corrections."
PRESS RELEASE: FCC ENDS PREDATORY PHONE RATES FOR DEAF PRISONERS AND THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Talila A. Lewis w (202) 455-9278 w
August 9, 2013, Washington, D.C.– Eight months ago, Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD) launched its Deaf Prisoner Phone Justice Campaign. Through this Campaign, HEARD lobbied the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to bring an end to exorbitant prisoner telephone rates that disproportionately impact deaf and hard of hearing prisoners and their family members.
Today, the FCC adopted an order that, effective immediately, brings an end to these high rates. Significantly, the order prohibits companies from charging fees to deaf and hard of hearing prisoners who use relay services and from charging the same rates to communicate through this despairingly slow technology. Specifically, the order requires that phone companies base their rates on actual costs; provides a safe harbor rate of .12 per minute for prepaid calls and .14 minute for collect calls; and places an interim rate caps at .21 and .25 cents per minute for prepaid and collect calls, respectively.
During the Campaign, HEARD mobilized unprecedented participation from more than forty deaf and hard of hearing prisoners. These comments spoke to the isolating impact of inaccessible technology, sky-high rates, and additional fees being charged to prisoners using relay, that in most cases prevent them from communicating with anyone outside of prison. In addition, HEARD rallied members of the Deaf Community, family members of deaf prisoners and allies to submit comments about the unique impact of inaccessible telecommunications in prison for deaf prisoners and their family members and advocates. These comments illustrated how the absence of videophones and captioned telephones prevent deaf prisoners from connecting to their loved ones. They also illuminated issues related to systemic abuse of deaf prisoners that necessitates communication with advocates via sign language—a language that is unique from English.
Regrettably, this order does not address serious and sweeping accessibility concerns raised by HEARD related to the absence of videophone technology in all but one handful of prisons in this nation. We are pleased with today’s historic vote that ends discriminatory practices that have disproportionately affected prisoners with disabilities for decades, but equality demands more. HEARD again calls on the leadership of Chairwoman Mignon L. Clyburn and the FCC to ensure that prison telecommunication is affordable and universally accessible. Notwithstanding today’s vote, countless people with disabilities across this nation still cannot connect to their incarcerated loved ones.
HEARD’s Deaf Prisoner Phone Justice Campaign will not end until deaf prisoners and their families have equal access to telecommunication in prison.
Click here for the PDF version of this press release.
For more information about the Deaf Prisoner Phone Justice Campaign:
This week, all eyes are on the Federal Communications Commission as it finally moves to issue an order to lower excessive prison telephone rates. I am confident that the Commissioners will ensure that justice will prevail.
With the current rates, hearing prisoners’ telephone calls can cost their family members as much as $17 for just 15 minutes of time. However, deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, speech impaired, and hearing prisoners with deaf family members endure an even greater burden with respect to telephone rates and access due to a number of factors, including (1) telephone rates being applied evenly to TTY and regular voice phone calls, the former of which is much more time-consuming; (2) failure of prisons to install videophones and captioned telephones; (3) security measures that either prevent deaf prisoners from calling relay operators or cause them to incur additional fees by requiring relay services; and (4) security measures that require deaf prisoners to only place collect calls. One deaf prisoner's fiance paid $20.40 for a nine minute local TTY-to-voice phone call at a facility where hearing prisoners pay nothing at all for local calls.