Deaf people at Rikers are not only denied meaningful communication with practically everyone on the island, they are denied meaningful access to their children, loved ones, attorneys and advocates because Rikers, like many other jails and all of New York state’s prisons, has refused to install videophones for over a decade. All of this transforms the violent ordeal of incarceration into a nightmare of extreme language deprivation, horrendous abuse and depressing solitude. As a result, the deaf individuals presently incarcerated at Rikers and those who preceded them have quite literally been punished for being deaf — and as recently as last month have been beaten by guards for reasons that remain unclear to them.
A decade of advocacy with and for several hundred incarcerated deaf people, many of whom tragically have not psychologically or physically survived their incarceration, leaves but one conclusion: The moment a deaf person sets foot in our jails is the moment they begin to die, and rarely is anyone ever held accountable for their descent or death.
Lewis, in their work, has documented both the horrific conditions under which Deaf individuals suffer in prison, and the relative lack of discussion of those conditions not only within the broader media, but within prison reform and abolition movements. As always – READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE.