Advocates call for an end to abuse of Deaf prisoners

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A leading American civil rights advocate for the Deaf is calling on the state of Florida to end the abuse of Deaf prisoners housed in its correctional institutions. Talila Lewis says the abuse experienced by deaf prisoners “defies imagination”. There are more than 400 men and women prisoners in correctional institutions in 38 states and the District of Columbia.

“The abuse and violations occurring in Florida are, by far, the worst that we have seen,” says Lewis, the founder of HEARD (Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf), a non-profit civil rights organization based in Washington, DC that advocates for deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind prisoners across the nation.

“Florida's most vulnerable prisoners — those who are deaf, deaf-blind, blind, elderly and mentally and physically disabled — are the victims of extreme violence and sexual abuse. We have reported these abuses for nearly three years to no avail.”

She says the Department of Corrections has systematically created a culture of fear and hopelessness for disabled prisoners.

“Its failure to provide accommodations for and protections to this population is beyond reproach. Many of Florida's deaf prisoners, fearful of brutal retaliation and assured of prison officials' apathy or complicity, have all but given up hope of living safe from fear of sexual and physical assault.”

Source: Sun-Sentinel