Deaf Parent; Incarceration; What Would You Do?

Deaf Parent; Incarceration; What Would You Do?

~~ Originally published in my column “Beyond The Comfort Zone” within NCRA’s Journal of Court Reporting, JCR
By Monette Benoit, All Rights Reserved

What would you do if someone you love is charged with an alleged crime?

What if a family member is handcuffed and quickly removed from your home -without any notice?

What would you do if you are unable to hear?

What would you do if equal communication offered late in events is not the mode of communication that you need?

Would you raise your voice, scream – or would you bow your head, not wanting to upset anyone?

This story is true. As I write, many individuals are unsure where the allegation, legal process will end.  And when. And what will remain on a minor’s record… cha-ching (my term).

Let’s say charges are read to the parent after the minor has been arrested, handcuffed, removed from the home, seated in a squad car and charged with an alleged offense.

As police explain details, the parent has to stop the officer, leave the room to get the hearing aid… one that was “off-duty that late hour.”

The hearing dog had alerted the parent to heavy knocking on the door.

The child is driven off into the night, without a parent, without full communication with legal counsel, then the child, minor, is incarcerated.

Stunned and shocked as the parent, your world has now changed.

If you are unable to hear, will you stomp to defend your loved one, or will you make nice to avoid upsetting anyone – anyone who may bring your loved one home – one day or one moment sooner?

Let’s say this experience is your first one within the legal system.

You never visited anyone in jail. You don’t know any attorneys.  Your child has never ‘been in trouble’ – no records.

Now, to begin communicating with your child, you have to be cleared through security, counselors.

Now, your hearing aid is on-duty; you focus to understand each word, which is a struggle at best.

You hope for early release – a new term in your world.

Also new: Will your minor be tried as child or as an adult?

Most likely you will not qualify for free attorney aid; legal counsel is required you are told. The paper also stated this when you are unable to read the person’s lips through the thick plastic glass.

Your reaction could be “This can’t be happening!”   It can. It did.  It is.

Attorneys requiring compensation, often substantial fees, will need to defend a minor incarcerated without bail.

Also new in your world: Minors are not granted bail. Oh?  What will you now do for attorney’s fees for an alleged offense?

Let’s say there’s no prior history to prepare this family.

If this is not your family, perhaps one could think “this is our legal system; it protects all of us.”

But what if your child is placed behind secure walls, visits are limited. No physical contact is permitted.

Detainees are required to earn points to earn rights.  Your child must earn the right to communicate with you – the person with hearing loss.

All communication is shared behind a wall with a small metal circle, thick dark screen.

If you rely on hearing aids and read lips, your opportunity to ‘hear’ is drastically reduced. No one at ‘jail’ will interpret and assist you.  “We can’t,” you are told.

As you struggle to understand words, learn details, to check on your minor, and to learn about the legal process and allegations, what would you do if you could not see the lips of your loved one or hear each word – or some words?

As court reporters we know that fact-finding trials are held. But when a person is held behind a wall, what then?

I know Deaf prisoners in San Antonio – all prisoners often live within a horrible world in jail.

Deaf prisoners cannot be mainstreamed. They cannot hear anyone behind them, so they, Deaf, deaf, HOH, lose the ability to defend themselves.

Deaf are typically mandated to infirmaries. This may appear fine for hearing, but deaf are now constrained to a tiny area. Social contact is limited.

One of the greatest gifts people can give deaf (and deaf community) is to visit deaf prisoners. Deaf are isolated, alone. Alone. A lot.

If your loved minor is detained, they could be placed into foster care – an option decided by the court.

If the parent is deaf or has a hearing loss (aka: hearing impaired), trust me, the parent worries about losing rights to their child because of the parent’s deafness.

Yes, it does happen. Is it fair? No.  Hell, no.

Deaf parents have lost parental rights “in the best interest of the child.”

If that child is not able to fully communicate with their parent, then that child experiences further trauma.

This CODA child (named after an international group called Children of Deaf Adults) will know the parent’s visit is approaching and that communication is limited prior, during, and after each limited noncontact visit. CODA children grow up fast – they say.

Legal facts will unfold with time – but not fast enough for the parent and loved one – in a country where everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Stress will ripple to others involved and exacerbated because of the parent’s hearing loss.

Powerless, frustrated, scared may now describe you.

Scarred may describe the minor. How will these events affect the minor’s future life?

Limited visitors, who are approved in advance, can be removed at the discretion of parole employees and counselors.

Only attorneys and clergy are exempt. Visits are limited to two a week. Detainees have new rules, regulations.

If the parent has a hearing loss, how does the child share this new bewildering world that has few privileges, mandatory lights out, few books and pencils (if any), and permits only limited communication?

During visits, if you are hearing-impaired (self-described term) contact is further limited.

You also notice that everyone else, including the hearing, is finding communication a challenge with the old-darkened screened circle.

And if a hearing is held for your loved one – perhaps an odd word for the parent not hearing – and if the room does not have assistive listening devices, CART, or a sign interpreter, if needed, communication is again limited.

When ‘this’ parent with hearing loss requested assistance, the parent was informed only “a sign interpreter could be supplied.”

Great, but this adult does not communicate -using sign language.

Since no law states a parent need be present for legal proceedings of his or her child or police interrogation, this will be a huge shock, too.

Will your loved one know when to volunteer information – or – perhaps will your child simply shut down, alone, isolated, and in fear?

If the fact-finding trial has evidence to move forward, perhaps the next phase is a jury trial.

Or, will a plea bargain be accepted because of earlier facts?

Attorneys cost money, incarceration is bleak. Decisions are often made on these factors. Trials take time; trials are pricey.

I was a court reporter in Miami’s juvenile public defender’s office many years ago, and I am still amazed by the information I reported and witnessed.

So, are you at the mercy of the legal system, the court?

Would you “bite your tongue” to avoid stirring any problems, hoping your loved one comes home one second sooner?

Will you struggle to remain un-angry [sic] knowing that if any person involved in the legal process takes a holiday or a sick day during the process, this will cause further delays, postponing justice.

And if an experienced juvenile lawyer says this “is a zoo,” what would you do?  Really.  What.  Would. You. Do.

I wrote to the parent that I was outraged CART (communication access realtime) captioning was not being shared.

I requested permission to write this article in my NCRA  ‘JCR’ column.

The parent, in response to my “how are you,” replied with details and “Thank God for warm furry things that sleep in your arms, snuggle.”

As I finish writing this article, the hearing was delayed – again.

Facts surrounding the alleged incident were shared again, claiming this was a “minor event” – a repeated fact officially shared for many weeks now while the minor remained incarcerated.

And if your child was incarcerated well over one month, including Thanksgiving Day with no visit — and Christmas — no visit — without the ability to fully communicate with his or her parent, and the parent with hearing loss is praying, praying, praying, I ask you, What would you do?

—- Monette, named the Court Reporting Whisperer by students, may be reached:

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Monette Benoit, B. B.A., CCR, CRI, CPE, Paralegal, CART Captioner, Instructor, Consultant, Columnist

Since 1990: Multiple Title Author of Books & Purple Books Test Prep for the Court Reporting, CART Captioning Profession

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About Monette Benoit:    As a 30+ year court reporter, CART captioner, author of NCRA and State test-prep material, instructor, public speaker, Monette Benoit has taught multiple theories, academics, all speed classes, and 225-homeroom within NCRA-approved schools and a community college. She understands challenges many adults face in our industry.

In 1993, she began to CART caption to a large screen for a Deaf mass, San Antonio, Texas.  Wonderful opportunities then presented from Big D, Little D, Oral Deaf, HOH consumers -each with special moments.

Monette Benoit has worked with thousands of professionals, court reporters, CART captioners, students, instructors. She has helped to create new court reporting training programs, worked with federal grants, and assisted instructors in developing curriculum for both in-class and at-home students.

Her one-on-one tutoring, private coaching, has assisted thousands of students, novice and experienced professionals to reach the next level.

Monette’s Musings is an informative, motivational, and funny blog for busy professionals and students who seek to create their success and who seek to enjoy this special path.


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