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Many Deaf Inmates Can’t Phone Home

Did you know that in prison, deaf people have a hard time making phone calls home?


According to deaf prisoners, the technology needed for phone calls isn’t available in prison. The only technology that is used is the TTY communication system. That’s it. Deaf inmates struggle to find ways to reach their deaf family members and friends. Many deaf people no longer use TTY and have switched to videophones.


Since 2010, eight states have been sued by deaf people for lacking access to phones. 5 states have videophones in their prisons, including Kentucky, Idaho, Maryland, Virginia and Florida. Inmates in Virginia had positive experiences with videophones in their prisons. Making phone calls in prison can be expensive. It could cost $1 a minute. Many deaf inmates weren’t able to keep in touch with their families, because some of them couldn’t write. Talila Lewis, a founder and director of a non-profit organization called Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf communities, known as HEARD, stated deaf people are suffering due to lack of access. Prison officials are concerned with the costs of the systems. However, what prisons are unaware of is that the Video Relay Services systems is free to use.


Talila also stated, “It’s unconscionable that we haven’t figured out to make sure all systems are accessible, when we’re asking for videophones that cost nothing.”


Do you feel all 50 states should step in and provide access for deaf inmates? Share your thoughts.


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