Written by Anonymous Deaf Community Member
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).
The day and time the officer arrested me, July 30, 2013 at or around 11:30pm, was to me like a day I fell in hole and when I cried for help, every passenger would not hear me or heard me but ignored me. Only a Good Samaritan would have saved me but there was none. When I was asked something like “what happened” by the officer, I replied in sign language “I am deaf”. The officer seemed no knowing what to do with me. He went to talk with landlord who called the 911 and then to my wife. I could not understand what they were talking about and decided to wait. When they were done with landlord and my wife, who are hearing and hard of hearing respectively, one police wrote down a note for me “Do you have a place to stay tonight?” I could not understand why he was asking me that question but I could imagine that the 911 and all exchanged conversations between the two officers, landlord, and my wife which my ears could not hear because they knew I was deaf made things worse. I replied asking for ASL Interpreter. The officer was like hmm and went to see his colleague. However the other colleague led me outside to his cruise without asking any question not informing me what was going on. He then handcuffed me in my back and drove me to [name of detention center deleted by HEARD Blog Administrator].
During the ride to detention, I felt like I was drowned in cold lake or ocean because they did not let me even take some clothes to cover my cold nor my wallet. All officers, landlord, and my wife have been exchanging conversation. As for me, I was like in the deep darkness no knowing what they were talking about or what was going to happen to me. They did not even ask me questions because, as the officer who arrested me noted in charging documents that I could not verbally speak and not hear or “DEAF-MUTE,” it was like to him to waste time or someone he believed that I was vulnerable to be charged for whatever in his mind. That I was like to him someone who did not know his/her rights which were not even read at the time of the arrest. I wished to talk in ASL or gesture to the officer who drove me to the detention but I was stuck with my [hands] cuffed in the back. It was like, if I was hearing, they locked my mouth to prevent me from speaking or talk to them or to close my freedom of expression or speech (liberite d’expression). Even if there was an ASL interpreter, still could not able to communicate in sign language due to that chain in my back hands.
At the first night at detention center, the same thing happened. All officers were talking and looking at me like I was to them an animal. Animal can hear what humans are talking about but not understand it because it is not its language of communication. Perhaps it would need an interpreter but it could be hard to find one for it. For me as deaf and human being, it should not be hard for the officer to find and wait for the ASL interpreter in such serious situation as well as keeping him/her until all the work is done. In addition they could schedule or reserve one for frequent meetings when necessary or requested inside the detention. The other worst nightmare I experienced that first night was that I could not able to use hearing telephones in designated areas to inform certain family members or friends about my situation. Whether they would come to get me out on bail bond or know what happened to me. There were not Video Relay Service (VRS) except that I was informed that they would set up TTY in few days that they do not even know well how to set it up. I was not even much familiar with the old fashioned TTY so that I have suggested them to order VRS into their facilities for next deaf generation. The lack of such accommodations made my time to get out of jail by bail bond as soon as possible much complicated and was not fair to others who were able to use inmates’ telephones placed in designated areas inside the detention or jail.
The second day I went to court for the bail bond and other day of August 8, 2013 for my wife peace protective order (PPO) hearing I was able to have ASL interpreter only in the court. I thought that the court always reserved interpreters for all languages because it might know it was following its obligations or laws and orders. I felt it was not fair at the time of arrest where the court would refer to plead me guilt or not as well as in the detention or jail to know ahead of my charges and what is going on inside.
After the bail hearing which was waived in exchange to probation or under pre-trial supervision on 3rd day of August 2, I was asked to contact someone with verified address to be able to be released from jail. I have explained to correctional facilities head who heard about me that there was lack of accommodation for me as deaf. As well as to my pre-trial case managers. They tried to figure it out and all of their answers fell on TTY. However the TTY machine was not there as they told me that they were going to order it from the detention in [name of city removed by HEARD Blog Aministrator] and that it should arrive on next day or so on. Because August 2 was on Friday and formed the week-end, it was like that the offices of pre-trial case managers were closed until Monday, August 5. So it pained me to have unfair treatments in regard to disability accommodations whenever I looked at hearing inmates accessing calls during recreation periods. If I had the same chance as their, it could have helped me to find someone with verified address to get me out of jail early and get enough time to meet freely my attorneys and doing other business while preparing my trial that I found out that it was a kind of serious crime in the [state removed by HEARD Blog Administrator], United States.
In the meantime, when I was admitted into [name of correctional facility removed by HEARD Blog Administrator], I had a chance to read the handbook for the inmates and found out what they used to give new inmates in their first days including headsets radios to catch up the news. It was something a bit relief and morale to inmates who stayed inside almost all days and nights locked in. But, as for me as a deaf person, there was nothing fair to the hearing inmates to give me a little morale and to keep my brains functioning properly. It was a psychological damaging cell for deaf person’s brains who only lived by vision not hearing (Le sourd est un visuel). Instead I suggested the case managers to give me or next deaf inmates a TV in our cell or kind of to watch the news like the hearing inmates who could use headset radio to hear it. I explained to them that as Deaf person I could not hear but could see which meant that hearing people used ears while deaf people used eyes (vision).
During the rest of days until August 8, the same situation happened except that my case managers started to allow me using their computers to text and/or email my family and friends to let them know what happened as well as ask for someone to get me out because they failed to set up TTY and not a chance to download VRS or Purple 3 video relay. It was also a very limited time to use as well as little privacy because I was under watch. The last night of August 7th when I got a chance someone replied to my email to get me out soon, I was having court date next day and was to spend there one last night. However next day after long day in the court and was transferred to detention in Rockville where they were processing my release, I was unable to use telephone to call my friends to come to pick me up in the night I was released. I had to manage myself to walk home with empty pockets that I came with when arrested from [name of detention center deleted by HEARD Blog Administrator] to [name of city removed by HEARD Blog Administrator] where my new address was verified and approved by pretrial services unit. However because God was the only who heard, knew, and watched my long sufferings; got me home safely and peacefully.
In conclusion, experiencing 9 nights and 9 days of darkness in both detention and collectional facilities that a large number of populations contained of hearing people was a waking up experienced I touched on. I wished it could be a world of deaf to bring some morale because of every day communication but since our world is too small so I was the lone deaf to stay there locked twice or trice than hearing people. When I woke up I always wondered what others were talking about and what to do to keep my brains from damaging without any function. I thought it was good to call someone like other inmates used to each time they are on recreation, lunch or dinner time. Or else to watch TV news instead of their headset radios. But none was there for me. It was like my punishment was more than once of theirs.