8 January 2012
Dear Governor Scott:
Audism Free America (AFA), is a grassroots advocacy network and we are writing to beseech upon you to release Felix Garcia. Mr. Garcia is a partially Deaf man who has been imprisoned for nearly 30 years for crimes his Hearing brother has recently confessed to committing. As a result of being partially Deaf, Mr. Garcia did not have full access to his original trial and lawyer and no suitable reasonable accommodations were made for him. As a prisoner in various jails for the past three decades, he also has been denied access to full information and services – this includes the use of the telephone.
In the time needed for you and your staff to review Felix’s case, it is imperative that the state of Florida equip the Tomoka correctional Institution (or anywhere he is moved to) with a videophone and relay services and that his case be properly investigated. The Americans with Disability Act title II covers the judicial system and prison facilities. Reasonable accommodations to ensure effective communication are a right that Mr. Garcia has been denied.
You can learn more about Felix’s case in “The Silent Treatment” article by James Ridgeway in Mother Jones. http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/deaf-prisoners-felix-garcia?page=1 (see pages 2-3 also).
Audism is attitudes and practices based on the assumption that behaving in the ways of those who speak and hear is desired and best. It produces a system of privilege, thus resulting in stigma, bias, discrimination, and prejudice—in overt or covert ways—against Deaf culture, American Sign Language, and Deaf people of all walks of life.
Would you take a moment to envision if you were in his shoes and stuck in prison unjustly in another country? What if you were innocent and did NOT do any crime. Suppose they won’t provide any access or translator for you to be able to speak out for your rights in your language and neglected you for many years while in prison. Imagine if you did not understand guards and other prisoners’ language and you just did your best to understand. Imagine getting raped and assaulted. Imagine being put in isolation and the lack of love from your family when your family members falsely accused you and others looked the other way. Imagine being utterly abandoned by your family and your suffering innocent soul locked within the prison while other prisoners are treated with full language rights and access. That is what your judicial system is doing to Felix Garcia, an innocent Deaf prisoner. Deaf people are human beings who deserve equal treatment in prisons.
AFA, along with other Deaf individuals and Hearing allies, recognize the story of Felix Garcia as a story about cruel and unusual punishment as well as denial of basic rights….because he is Deaf. We know of many Deaf prisoners who have experienced a lack of communication, assault and neglect in prisons. Mr. Garcia is innocent and did NOT commit the crimes for which he has been unjustly charged and sentenced. Also, Mr. Garcia never had full access to information during his arrest, his trial, and imprisonment. We urge you, Governor Scott, to ensure that Felix be provided full access in prison and that he be released as quickly as possible. FREE FELIX now because it is the right, just, wise and valid thing to do.
Let Freedom Roll,
Karen Christie, Patti Durr and Ruthie Jordan on behalf of Audism Free America