This makes me so angry!

10 05 2007

Unfortunately I haven’t found the opportunity to be involved in the Deaf community or use my ASL skills much since leaving college, but I do try and at least stay informed as to what’s going on, and I’m still looking for connections up here in the city (I could be trying harder 😦

I became very passionate about the Deaf community and the issues and opportunities it faces at Goshen. I had a professor who was amazing and highly connected and encouraged us to be as well. One of my favorite classes at Goshen was Deaf Culture.

So it makes me very sad and angry when I hear stories like this one from Communication Access Now.

To Whom It May Concern:

I hope that you can/will assist us in stopping the mistreatment of deaf people by various local law enforcement officers/agencies. It has been brought to our attention that many deaf citizens experience similar challenges with officers We need your assistance in conveying to the law enforcement and to the deaf community that they do have civil rights and should speak out about such encounters. If you’re interested, we would like to discuss these and others issues with you in detail. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

We are requesting a full investigation of the law enforcement agencies/officers involved in the following situation. This client remains devastated and believes that a number of her Constitutional and Civil rights have been violated.
· Failure to provide effective communication
· Sexual abuse/harassment
· Unlawful imprisonment
· Misuse of authority
· Cruel and unusual punishment
· Failure to assist during an Emergency

A 19 year old Hispanic deaf woman who was assaulted by her brother who was drunk. She uses sign language to communicate and does not speak. She tried to summons help by calling 911. As indicated by the police report, she was crying when she dialed 911, then hung up the phone.

Shortly after, PD arrived. Her brother told officers that “she is crazy. ” He told officers that she tried to stab him with a knife. The client was still crying her bedroom. When the officer came into her room, she tried to communicate what happened to her. Meanwhile, the brother was yelling that “she is crazy”, and said she tried to stab him. She began motioning to the officer to get her an interpreter so she could explain. The officers did not try to communicate with her, they believed her brother (who is on probation and previously ID by the police as a member of several gangs). The officers cuffed her hands behind her back. She was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. She said she became more frantic and tried more vigorously to communicate, but could not because her hands were behind her back.

She was taken to the police station. Once there, she said she kept trying to indicate to them she needed an interpreter but no one would communicate with her. She said she was stripped naked in the presence of 3 male officers and one female officer. While the female officer straddled her body and retrained her hands. The older male officer performed a cavity search. The client said that he put on a glove and inserted his fingers into her vagina. She became very upset.

She was then moved to the County Jail, again she tried to convey to them that she needed an interpreter, but no one addressed her communication needs. police Officers reported to jail staff that she (the client) is crazy. She says her clothes were taken from her. She remained naked in a jail cell where there was no bed and she had to sleep on the floor. three days later, she was moved from the isolation cell and placed into another cell with a bed.

When I met with this client on Thurs. April 12, 2007, she was very depressed. She said on Wed. the 11th, a psychiatrist came to talk to her with an interpreter. She says has been asking jail staff for an interpreter, but no one will call one. One trustee has minimal “finger-spelling” skill and is very difficult to understand. When I asked her what she spends most of her time doing in jail, she says she tries to think of different ways to kill herself. She appeared to be very depressed. She indicates that she is very hurt and angry. She said she called 911 so they could come to help her, but instead, she was arrested and put in jail.

She says that its been one week since her arrest and detention and she still has not been provided effective communication, nor has she ever been given an explanation as to why she was arrested and does not know when she will get out. As she explained her situation to me, she showed me the bruises on her arm from where she had carpet burns as a result of her brother throwing her on the floor. I asked if she had shown the bruises to the officers when they responded to the 911 call. She said they would not listen to her, therefore, she did not have an opportunity to show them the bruises. She asked me how long she had to stay in jail. I told her I would find answers for her.

Shortly after I left the Jail, I called the social worker for people with disabilities, at the jail. I asked if I had understood the deaf client correctly: “was she naked and placed in isolation from Thursday to Sunday?” She said yes I had understood correctly. When I asked why, she said it is because “she has psychiatric issues.” I asked how was that determined, she said the police told her. When I asked if she had spoken with the client, she said no she had not—the deaf clients’ detention is on what police reported about the client. The social worker quickly added, “last time she was here, we kept her in isolation for 5 days.” I asked her why, she said because the client refused to talk with her. I asked if she (the social worker) knew sign language, she said no. I asked if she tried to communicate with the client using a sign language interpreter. She said they didn’t need an interpreter because —at that time there was an inmate who knew some sign language and they used her….and the client still refused to communicate. She added that they now have a staff person who signs.

That same afternoon, I met with the District Attorney (who requested my assistance in seeking resources for this client). I asked how long the client would be in jail. She said she had no idea, but the client had been appointed an attorney. I informed her that no one from the police department or the County Jail had ever spoken to the deaf woman about why she called 911, nor has she ever been provided effective communication. After discussing these issues with the District attorney, I suggested the charges be dismissed based on my 3 hour conversation with the client. She agreed. Again, I asked when she would be released. She said not until she had a place to go. I asked if all women were detained in jail until they had a place to live. She said no. I reminded her that she could not be detained in jail because she will not be returning home and happens to be deaf. The next morning the charges were dismissed and the client was dismissed from jail.

Detra Stewart
Advocate for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing
VP – 713-807-1176

Brian Determan
Deaf Advocate for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing
VP -713-807-1176


When will we learn to respect one another regardless of our differences? When will understanding one another become important?




3 responses

12 05 2007

That poor girl. That poor, poor girl. That is just appalling.

16 05 2007
bindi nestor

Hi Stephanie, what a pig of a brother. If family can’t advocate for the deaf who is there? You are quite justified having a rant over this one. Thanks for drawing our attention to it.

18 05 2007
The Ace Of Spades

I kinda skimmed through this here but got the jist of the story and saw the most horrid parts of it. That’s fucking sick and those officers should be fired, and her half-ass excuse for a brother should be in prison.

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