Why Many Deaf Prisoners Can’t Call Home
Faulty and outdated technology is pervasive, and upgrades are slow in coming.
By Christie Thompson
Calling home from prison is cumbersome and expensive. For deaf people behind bars, it’s even tougher, sometimes impossible.
The technology provided to deaf people in most US prisons is a teletypewriter, a machine developed in the 1960s that requires users to type their messages. The system is rife with problems. Most deaf households have switched to some kind of videophone, which allows users to speak in sign language. But prisons across the country still use the outmoded system, known as TTY or TDD (telecommunications device for the deaf), leaving many deaf inmates cut off from loved ones.
This article was published in collaboration with WIRED.
“Right now, most deaf detainees and prisoners have absolutely no telecommunications access,” said Talila Lewis, volunteer director of the nonprofit Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf communities (HEARD), which has been working to improve conditions for deaf people in prison since 2011. “This completely violates federal disability laws left and right, all day every day.”
TTY messages are sent through telephone lines and are either read by a relay operator who speaks them to a hearing individual over the phone, or appear on a small screen at the top of another TTY device. Users of TTYs say the process is incredibly slow; it requires the caller to be fluent in written English (instead of American Sign Language or other sign languages) and familiar with 50-year-old technology.
The calls are often garbled and easily interrupted. Prisoners report that the machines are frequently broken or unavailable. The relayed call is sometimes blocked entirely, or charged as a long-distance call even if the ultimate recipient is in the same town. The text-based phones not only make it difficult for deaf prisoners to call family members, but also to contact legal services or crisis hotlines.
Janet Lock, a deaf prisoner in Texas wrote to HEARD to say that the TTY technology was hardly worth the trouble, even when it worked. “The unit I am on is equipped with TTY phones, however calls are limited to 15 minutes, by the time the connection is made [plus] the time it would take for me to type and receive messages, using a TTY phone is counterproductive,” she wrote. Hers was one of over a hundred letters HEARD collected in 2013 to submit to the Federal Communications Commission. “The possibility of miscommunication…is high,” Lock said. “The cost of the phone call is to [sic] high for such limited conversation.”
If deaf inmates are trying to reach their deaf friends and family, the person receiving the call must also have a TTY to answer. But most deaf individuals have switched to video relay in the last several years, leaving prisoners no way to call.
“I have deaf brothers and some deaf friends and they all use video phones, they no longer use TTY. Relay won’t accept to talk between two deaf people,” Mary Ann McBride, in prison in Michigan, wrote in a letter to Lewis. “I really need to talk to my family because I am serving a long indeterminate sentence.”
Some prisons are installing videophones, but typically only after lengthy litigation. Since 2010, at least eight states have been sued for their lack of phone access for deaf prisoners. Prison officials in Idaho, Virginia, Florida, Maryland and Kentucky have settled and agreed to install videophones; lawsuits are still pending in Michigan, Illinois and Massachusetts. Organizers with HEARD persuaded Louisiana to install videophones in its state prisons without going to court.
States “always lose in the long run and the taxpayers foot the bill,” Lewis says. “And deaf people and their families are suffering.”
Prison officials often cite concerns over costs and security. Videophones rely on internet connections, to which officials are wary of giving access—although the phones don’t allow users to surf the web. The systems themselves can be provided free by the makers, and calls through a video-relay service are paid for by the FCC out of a fund financed by a small tax on people’s phone bills. What costs money is the Internet connection, and any equipment the prisons buys to record and control video calls.
“First an institution calls up and says we need VRS (Video Relay Services). Then that same organization has a security team that says, are you crazy? You’re letting in an unrecorded, wide-open portal to the world?” said Chris Talbot, CEO of Tidal Wave Telecom, which sells prisons security technology to record and control video calls. Recorders cost around $5,000, Talbot said. “We’ve had recordings where inmates have exposed themselves to interpreters. It’s inevitable. [And] they’re worried about nonverbal communications, if they’re wearing a bandana or subtle markers.”::::::::https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/09/19/why-many-deaf-prisoners-can-t-call-home?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share-tools&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=post-top
This 7 September 2017 Dutch language is by the Animal Rights organisation. It is about animal abuse in a slaughterhouse in Izegem.
Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:
Again footage of animal abuse in Flemish slaughterhouse
Again, images have been published of animal abuse in a Flemish slaughterhouse. The animal rights organization Animal Rights has published a video showing how cattle are being abused in a slaughterhouse in Izegem. In April Animal Rights published footage of cruelty at a pig slaughterhouse in Tielt.
The images from Izegem, made with a hidden camera, show how employees of the slaughterhouse systematically administer electric shocks to cattle. This method is only legal in exceptional cases according to the regulations. In order to get the animals in the area where they are killed, they are being abused by stabbing in sensitive areas, inter alia by puncturing them in the anus.
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