Columbus Day 2016


We all have basic needs. Clean air, clean water, clean food, clothing, shelter, safety, security, good health and a healthy social environment. We all have wants. Social environments become toxic when we permit the wants of some to interfere with the needs of others.

524 years ago, a group of people from Europe crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of things they wanted. Their basic needs were adequately met at home, but they wanted more.

When the European group arrived, led by Christopher Columbus, they discovered other people living on the lands they explored. That contact was fatal for many, because it led to an exchange of microbes. This exchange affected both groups, but the effects were devastating for the indigenous peoples. They lacked immunity to some of the diseases that spread, and in many communities it killed most of the people living there. This effect, for the most part, was accidental and unplanned.

This massive loss of life made it easy for the Europeans to move in and take whatever they wanted. The indigenous people fought back, as was their right. They had a right to their resources, their way of life, their system of meeting needs.

The European desire to fulfill their wants was fine. There’s nothing wrong with wants. It was only when they began deliberately destroying what remained of the indigenous people – their warriors, their homes, their independence, their means of living – that the wants of the European visitors became toxic.

And despite knowing it was wrong, they rationalized it for centuries. They still do. Not only the Europeans, but all of us. We exploit others to meet our wants and we rationalize it. It’s not exclusive to Europeans, or the West.

All living things have needs, and all those who wish to survive do what they must to meet those needs. Work, steal, fight, cooperate, trade and exploit – they’re all strategies seen throughout the animal kingdom. We’re part of it.

One of the things that makes humans unique is that we’re aware of the difference between needs and wants. We recognize that when we say “My right to swing my fist ends at your nose.”

Our right to use force ends where other people begin. We do it anyway, of course – we always have. That doesn’t make it right.

524 years ago, one group of people used force to satisfy their wants. In the process, they largely destroyed what remained after disease ran its course. They not only rationalized it, they *celebrated* it. They still do. It’s called Columbus Day.

In the past few decades, the awareness that it was wrong has spread. The indigenous peoples always knew it was wrong. Their descendants know it was wrong. Peoples in other lands recognized it was wrong.

The descendants of the Europeans are very late to this understanding, but they’re coming around. There is – justified – bitterness at how long it’s taken for this to happen. But it is happening, and that’s progress.

But not in Standing Rock, North Dakota.

We have one group of people with power and wants, and another with existential needs, including clean water. The indigenous peoples are fighting to protect their resources, and the group with wants and power has deployed it in the form of attack dogs, pepper spray and lawyers.

So here we are again. We can rationalize this and seize what belongs to others, or we can respect the needs of people living in Standing Rock. The power is there, as it was before. The ability to rationalize it is always present. It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now.

If we really wish to celebrate something this day, let us celebrate a new approach. Let us leave the people of Standing Rock in peace and meet our energy needs elsewhere. Let’s harvest the sun and the wind. Let’s stop pouring poison into the atmosphere we all share. Let’s meet our needs and wants in ways that respect the needs of others.

Let’s acknowledge that we are all in this together. Let’s exercise enough discipline over our endless desires to live with self-respect. Let’s cultivate the ability to live without making excuses for bad behavior.

Achieving that – learning from our mistakes – would make Columbus Day worth celebrating.

Kevin McLeod


Felix.Pat 2017

Hello to all of Felix’s followers and supporters!  It has been many months since my last post, not much had changed except for the fact Felix got a job cleaning the bathrooms and a class opened up in horticultural. It was something new, he enjoyed learning to plant seedlings and take care of his little plot of land. Other than that, the normal operations of daily life in prison remained the same minus the violence, fighting and yelling he experienced in Florida. His dorm is treated differently due to disability prisoners housed in it.

 Life also got better for him when he was given a new counselor, Ms. Smith, who had a profound impact on him. She shared with him much wisdom and treated him with much respect. It changed his thinking, for that I am most grateful. Felix wrote a long email a couple weeks ago and lot of it he said he wants to share with you all – about Ms. Smith, what he has learned in VA and other thoughts: “I have a counselor now, Ms. Smith, who treats me like a person. She looks at me as a person and she talks with me and not at me. She does it all with authority but does not push her authority around. She is a people person. That in itself can make a deference in the decision a person makes on a day to day bases especially when confronted with such harsh place. Friday, March 24 I had my yearly review and she told me I have improved scene I arrived here and I am doing really good. She gave me a plan for the next couple of years to accomplish with me also entering the reentry program and finally being released. That is hope. That does not mean it will happen, but it can. Most important that tells me, Felix you are somebody, we care and we are going to do everything possible, from our end, to make that happen.

She sat and spoke with me like a person telling me that I allow other people, staff included, to determine my actions and decisions based on what they said or did. Meaning someone would say or do something and I would react or respond when I did not need to. She said Felix you allow other people to control your actions and it does not have to be that way. Stop and think, before you respond or react. You must think of the consequences of you decisions before making them.

I told her that is exactly what I am learning now. Here in Virginia I can do that but I had to learn how to, this is what they thought me. But most important they removed the violence and gave me breathing room to clear my mind.

34 years in Florida decisions had to be made in a split second just for survival and consequence never came into play. It was life or death, everyday and all at the orders of guards. Virginia is doing right to help its prisoners must also be known. The ADA here is outstanding, Mr. Marano really cares about the deaf and blind people and helps in every way possible and the interpreters are here all day everyday, I mean they are really here. Not like Florida, thanks to the wonderful staff here at Greensvill today is my last day of medication, that’s how much I progressed. My headaches are gone also, my stomach problems gone. As of this day I take no medication for anything.

Here in Virginia I have not seen a single fight in one year, why because of the professionalism of the staff. I am not saying things don’t happen, just not in the impaired pod and nothing on the scale of Florida. There are some problems but nothing like Florida. If I could rate the two states from 1 to 10, I would give Virginia a 10 and 2 thumbs up and Florida a negative 2 with a shame on you.

It also helps with a good support team like I have. Pat, you’re the best, I would not be alive today if you were not a part of my life, and the same goes to so many others. I truly owe my life to you all, thank you for believing in me when no one else did.”

However, working with his new counselor Ms. Smith has ended as Felix has been transferred to Powhatan Correctional Center to take a job, full time, in the Silk Screen Plant, making signs and labels. He is so excited. These are Felix’s words as to what he was told about Powhatan: “The best part mom, what do you think it is, i get to pet a cow, that’s right, that is the place where the milk is taken from the mama cows and put in machines and then bags, I am going to love this, plus they have a print shop, a wood shop, a screen print shop and tag plant and many others and the place is very small, that is the part i love and very clean and respectful, plus Mr.  Marano is going to be there.”

Remember the post I did where Felix said he wanted to pet a cow and that he had seen a real horse? That was at Marion CI in FL about 4 years ago. Well, that request to pet a cow may soon come true. The little things in life we take for granted is truly a big deal in Felix’s life. By the way, Mr. Marano is the Virginia ADA Coordinator. I have been in contact with him numerous times and he is truly a caring, patient person for the job.

 Felix’s new address is: Powhatan Correctional Center, 3600 Woods Way, State Farm, VA  23160. Don’t forget his DC# 1805390.  I know he will like to receive some mail at his new home. This is a new phase in his life, a new venture, but to always remember this is still prison. In his 35 years as a innocent man, Felix does not give up. He has found a new venture to better himself and prove to people in general, the parole commission/clemency board specifically, he can be a productive citizen and worthy of being a free man. I will keep you all apprised of any new developments in the legal area of this case.

 Before closing there is one thing I would like to ask everyone, is there such a thing as communities for the deaf – apartment housing for the deaf, a neighborhood where many deaf live and work?  And if so, will you email let me know where? This is for general knowledge too, because many deaf are getting out of prison around the country and not all deaf returning to society have families to go home to and need someplace with other deaf to start a new  life again. Really appreciate anything you might know about.

 I wish everyone a fun, safe and blessed summer.

 Pat Bliss

Deaf Inmates’ Basic Human Rights


Budgets must include funds for interpreters to provide communication access for Deaf prisoners in all area of prison life.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons are hurting Deaf inmates by forcing them to obtain cochlear implants in order to save money on interpreting service costs for Deaf inmates.

Those Deaf individuals born with ASL as their first language have the right to choose their natural language. Parents are permitted to make choices for deaf children, but Deaf adults have the right to choose for themselves.

American Sign Language is a choice of language for communication. That choice, and the freedom to make it, is a basic human right for Deaf Adults.

“Death Access to Justice” Must Be a Mistake


I got an email and noticed something wrong with the logo. It says:  “Death Access to Justice.  It was supposed to say “Deaf Access to Justice”.  It often happens that people wrongly pronounce and write death or dead when they mean Deaf. It’s a play on words.


I had an idea about a Halloween design and I had to wait until October. I drew it on the digital computer.  I drew a zombie hand, so it was perfect for Halloween

Maria Dollhopf

Should We Coin New Phrases for Our Deaf Community?

I am honoring and memorializing the list of names William Odom, Errol Shaw and Roger Anthony, as black Deaf victims of use of deadly force by the police officer. The Deaf community welcomes Darnell Wicker who is deaf in one ear and Terence Crutcher who has hearing loss.


The buttons represent the eyes which receive visual information – the nature of visual communication with ASL is a natural choice for language among Deaf people.

The zipper personifies the common misunderstanding that ASL communication equals “Not speaking”.

“Deaf” on the hat correlates to deep intrinsic knowledge of the identity and abilities of Deaf people.



Gloves display the tool used to express language.






Anticipation of positive future with justice whereby black lives matter and whereby everyone lives in peace and harmony.

“Black Deaf Lives Matter” could be viewed as a cliché or controversial, however it is still an important concept.

Maria Dollhopf

Deaf Returning Citizens


In the District of Columbia, there is an office known as ORCA – Office of Returning Citizens Affairs – that aids in the transition from prisons to a new life. The old-school terms ‘ex-con’ and ‘ex-prisoner’ has been discarded in favor of the more welcoming term ‘returning citizen’. The warmer, more positive phrase is now preferred.

This program and others like it around the country provide assistance for finding work, housing, and ongoing support to stay out of trouble.

Deaf returning citizens don’t have these support services. They are forced to rely on the kindness and patience of friends and family, and those sources of support are not always available. This leaves deaf returning citizens with limited options.

The path to personal improvement lies in becoming integrated with the community – having a new chance, a fresh start, and a positive outlook. One chapter of the returning citizens’ life has closed. A new one opens, and access to new opportunities is needed to succeed.

Deaf people are especially challenged because the Deaf population is typically spread out and thin. There are clusters of Deaf people in major cities. These are where the best support opportunities exist.

An important consideration is funding. Because these communities are spread out, it’s not clear whether support services should be locally, state or federally funded. This is question for discussion, but the need for the deaf returning citizens is clear, and the benefit for the wider community is also clear – working, productive returning Deaf citizens is in everyone’s best interests.

Support programs can be community-based or centralized at a specific location, but the most important element is communication access. ASL instruction should be available for ASL users, and alternatives, such as captioned videos, can work for Deaf people with no knowledge of ASL.

Deaf returning citizens have rights, but without advocacy they struggle to exercise those rights. For example, minor offenses can be removed from their records, but without assistance navigating the legal system, they may not be able to do this. Clear instruction and support help erase stigma and remove barriers to employment.

According to DC’s Office of Human Rights:

“During the application or interview process, the law prohibits employers from asking job applicants about:

  • Arrests;
  • Criminal accusations made against the applicant that are not pending or did not result in a conviction; or
  • Criminal convictions.

However, an employer may ask about criminal conviction(s) after extending a conditional offer of employment (the employer can never ask about arrests or criminal acusations that aren’t pending). An employer who properly asks about a criminal conviction can only withdraw the offer or take adverse action against the applicant for a legitimate business reason that is reasonable under the six factors** listed in the Act. If a job offer is revoked or adverse action taken, employers should provide the applicant with a Notice of the Right to File a Complaint. Job applicants can also request their interview and hire-related records, including any criminal background records obtained, from the employer using the Request form or any other method.”


Deaf returning citizens need the same services already available to hearing returning citizens, but in many places these services simply don’t exist. This urgent need deserves prioritization, funding and focus – everyone benefits from safer communities.

– Kevin McLeod

Legal System


My name is Maria Dollhopf.I want to inform you all of a demonstration march that is being organized called, Deaf Access to Justice Rally.  We hope this march for next spring.

The goals for this march are as follows:

  1. Raise awareness about the inequities that continue within each area of the legal system for Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled and Hard of Hearing people.
  1. Provide a platform for returned citizens, family members of incarcerated people and others to share narratives about their own experiences.
  1. Start & speed up reform (change) to end injustice in the legal system from first encounters with law enforcement all the way through reentry for our community.

In the months leading up to the march and at the march, there will be a great opportunities for all people who are impacted by the legal system to express themselves and share their stories with one another.  We will be teaming up with some amazing individuals, coalitions and organizations who also are focusing on issues of injustice within the legal system.

We are asking that people who feel comfortable sharing your stories about your encounters with the legal system please share. The world needs to hear your story and this is your chance to be heard. Use #DeafAccesstoJustice when sharing these stories so we can share them as well.

If you want to send your story, videos, etc., directly to me, you can send them to and we can post them in our social media streams and help with creating a transcript.

Finally, I am hoping for at least three more volunteers to help organize and coordinate this effort. Please send an email to the same address if you are interested in volunteering.

Thank you in advance for your support of this effort and for sharing your story. I look forward to seeing you at the rally in the spring!

Maria Dollhopf

Another Move Another Home For Felix

You sometimes wonder “will the moves, the accusations, the disruptions ever end for Felix?”  Well, here we are again having to have Felix moved from his “home camp” of Marion Correctional to protect his life.

Remember, we had to move him fast when he was at Tomoka C.I. because he divulged to authorities some criminal activity going on and his life was threatened. He was temporarily sent to Marion C.I. to await his parole hearing results.

After the parole hearing, Felix was moved to Wakulla C.I. to start special programming as mandated by the parole commission. But that went sour when he needed a sign interpreter and they would not give it to him – presumably because of cost and inconvenience. He kept grieving for one but bad things started to happen and we had to move him out fast again.

The attorney and I conferred with the parole commission in Tallahassee to send Felix back to Marion C.I. as it had interpreters for the deaf and special programming. And he liked it there. He was in the faith dorm. But that did not last either. Before he left Tomoka C.I. his special radio that works with his hearing aide was stolen. He did not see it again until back at Marion C.I. where he saw a gang member had it. He asked for it back, but told in essence to get lost. He reported it to his classification officer (C.O.). Staff members approached the gang member, he said Felix sold it to him. They put this gang member in lock up. Friends of the gang member then threatened Felix’s life and someone else threatened to knife him. He was put in protective custody.

Being in confinement is the same place whether it is for punishment or protection. He was there for 28 days. There was no recreation, all meals served in his cell, saw no daylight (confinement under a building) unless sent to medical. No church, no interaction or conversation with any deaf, could not understand what the hearing inmates were talking about to each other, nor could make out what the guards were saying at a distance. It was driving him crazy. I kept in touch with his C.O. on a regular basis, she went to see him often. She was undoubtedly the nicest most caring C.O. I had ever interacted with. Felix was blessed to have her.  However, with no ending to the ongoing investigation, the Warden decided to transfer Felix elsewhere.

Felix had 6 moves, taking 23 days, before landing at Columbia Correctional Annex. This camp was one of the choices by DOC in Tallahassee, noting it will take care of Felix and his hearing disability, and have the special programming as well. The attorney and I respectfully disagreed but hopefully, they will have interpreters for the special programs and a workable TTY phone for Felix to call me and others. Unfortunately, he also arrived without his tennis shoes, cane, ADA lock and combination lock, his head shaved in retaliation asking for an interpreter, no shampoo or lotion. They were all taken from him. I called property at the one location where all but the shoes were taken from him. Nothing could be found.

Felix lives in a vacuum, he said it is like being under water all the time. He pleads to have some normalcy in his life, to be left alone and his life not constantly disrupted, he yearns for a sense of tranquility, stability but that has never happened, never! August 10th marked his 34th year in prison innocent. As his defacto mom, my heart grieves for my son. He deserves some peace and a taste of freedom.

I talked with his new C.O. and she had a nice 2 hour meeting with Felix. They communicated by writing notes back and forth. She knows what he needs to complete any classes or programs. She liked the notes so she can go back to them to assure Felix’s needs are met. This is positive news, that he again has a caring C.O. on his side. She said he is doing fine.

Perhaps you, as supporters of Felix and his cause, will write and give him encouragement that he is not alone, people do care. That will make his day after what he has been through the past couple months   Thank you all from my heart.  Pat Bliss


New Address:

Felix Garcia #482246

Columbia Correctional Annex

216 S.E. Corrections Way

Lake City, FL 52025-2013

By Pat Bliss


Deaf Access to Justice – Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf

Deaf Access to Justice is a supportive organization for anyone who needs access – at a hospital, with law enforcement, at school, We’ve teamed with HEARDHelping Education to Advance the Rights of the Deaf. Our mission – educating public services of their responsibilities to deaf people under the law.

We invite you to check out HEARD for yourself and see the kind of work they do.