Few people are truly aware of America's corrupt prison system, however fewer are aware of the violated rights of Deaf inmates. Being Deaf in a hearing “world” already poses many challenges, however being thrown into a corrupt institution where human rights are already violated on a daily basis proves even more challenging for Deaf or Hard of Hearing inmates. In prison, inmates are allowed phone calls to friends and family members, but Deaf inmates are denied this key aspect of communication with their family and the world outside of prison. Within the Deaf community TTY’s are used as a form of communication, they stand in the place of a phone call. Most prisons however do not purchase or maintain this form of communication, thus violating the rights of a Deaf inmate. Due to the lack of family communication, the mental health of said Deaf inmate decreases.
Photo: Jo Hilton on Unsplash
As far as communication within the prison goes, it is extremely limited. Sign language is banned in prisons, because it is often mistaken for gang signs (which are also forbidden within the walls of a prison). By taking away a person's only way to communicate and forbidding them from using their language, their mental health continues to be effected. Even when there are multiple Deaf inmates in one facility they are unable to communicate with each other, presenting a new form of isolation. Deaf prisoners often experience “prison within a prison” due to the frequent isolation, and this is only perpetuated by being put in solitary confinement. Inmates with mental health problems are already at a higher risk of suicide and when put in solitary confinement the risk of suicide or developing further mental health problems significantly increases.
The counseling and health care provided to Deaf inmates is extremely different than the care hearing inmates receive. Prisons are almost never equipped with qualified interpreters, leaving Deaf inmates without the medical and mental attention they need.
Prison is significantly more dangerous when you are not able to hear. Hearing inmates take advantage of the fact that Deaf inmates can not hear. Due to the fact that their official language is banned, Deaf inmates are more likely to get in trouble by guards for not following the rules simply because they were unaware they existed. Guards are not trained to have effective communication with non hearing inmates which greatly impacts the lives of the Deaf inmates.
For additional information about America's corrupt prison system I highly recommend the documentary on netflix called the 13th.
Hi, my name is Gali, I'm 17 years old, I would like to major in Journalism while minoring in Gender Studies along with Critical Race Studies, and I love to travel.