How the Criminal Justice System Fails the Deaf Community
The criminal justice system violates the rights of the Deaf frequently. By law it is required to have an ASL interpreter on the scene if a deaf person is involved, but this rarely happens. Without a means of communication, those who are deaf have no way to defend themselves nor do they have the ability to understand all that is taking place. This is why Talila Lewis founded the nonprofit organization HEARD (Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf). HEARD aims to ensure that deaf people have the ability to participate in the legal system to their fullest rights. Oftentimes, lawyers and judges don’t realize they are violating rights at all. Without access to interpreters, wrongful convictions and misunderstandings are all to easy to occur. For example, a deaf man from Florida, Felix Garcia, was sentenced to life in prison for a crime his siblings later admitted to committing. He, to this day, is still in prison because of his lack of knowledge on how to go about the process to get out. HEARD is reaching out to the deaf to give empowerment and a voice in a justice system that often fails them.
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