The Injustice of the Deaf in the Criminal Justice System

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The problem faced by the deaf community is the injustice they encounter when in the criminal justice system. Someone who is deaf or hard of hearing has at least a 50 percent loss of hearing in one ear (Ridgeway 2009), and some may be able to read lips. However, only ½ of all spoken sounds can be translated into American Sign Language (Ridgeway 2009), which makes it difficult for the deaf to communicate without using sign language. Because English and sign language are not the same language, many deaf people are illiterate because of a lack of schooling past a certain age. Even those with schooling up to the age of 18 or older are often functionally illiterate, read at a grade level of second grade or below, and have unintelligible speech (Vernon 2010). Furthermore, there is a segment of the deaf population that is incompetent or minimally competent in terms of understanding the legal process; those people are defined as having Primitive Personality Disorder (PPD). Due to all of this, there are those in the deaf community who are deemed as having Linguistic Incompetence, which means a defendant is declared incompetent to stand trial because he/she does not understand the charges made against them (Vernon 2005).
The deaf and hard of hearing are left with few resources when entering the criminal justice system. For example, since law enforcement personnel lack knowledge of deaf people and their culture (Vernon 2005) the law enforcement often arrest those who are deaf like everyone else, with their hands behind their backs, yet if the only way the deaf communicate is with their hands then the police have taken that communication, a basic human right, away from them. Often the police are not educated in sign language; therefore they c...

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...system on deaf culture. Many things are wrong with the criminal justice system and how they treat deaf people, but as a society we can take the first step in learning about our neighbors, friends, relatives and strangers in the deaf community. We can get educated on their culture and partner with them in the fight for justice.

Works Cited

Lewis, T. (2013). Deaf Prisoner Telecomm Injustice. Retrieved from
Ridgeway, J. (2009). The Secrete World of Deaf Prisoners. Retrieved from
Vernon, M, & Miller, K. R. (2005). Obstacles Faced by Deaf People in the Criminal Justice System. American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 150(3), 283-291.
Vernon, M. (2010). The Horror of Being Deaf and in Prison. American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 155(3), 311-321.