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…show more content…
When an interpreter is not provided by the police – which is a violation of the law – then the police again cannot explain the Miranda rights in a way that the person being arrested understands (Vernon 2005). McCay Vernon, a pioneer in deaf education who wrote many articles on the topic, also said that the practice of laws such as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and numerous other laws protecting the rights of persons with hearing loss who encounter the criminal justice system are often misunderstood or ignored by professionals in the system mainly because of a lack of knowledge of the communication issues facing persons with hearing loss.
Trial is another problem for a deaf person. A large percent of deaf people who face criminal charges are convicted and sentenced without understanding the legal proceedings that led to their conviction (Vernon 2005) because an interpreter often is not provided or there is a high likelihood the client being prosecuted is illiterate, is considered Linguistic Incompetent or has PPD. Another problem deaf clients have during the trial is the lack of a qualified interpreter to do legal interpreting, meaning one who is familiar with legal terminology and expansion, which is the act of explaining an unknown concept in detail by finger spelling, examples, pictures and miming.
Prison provides many challenges and obstacles that the deaf have to face, oftentimes alone. First
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