This is very cool.

deaf asl program
Credit: Annie Flanagan for Truth Out. All rights belong to Truth Out.

Louisiana Department of Corrections has started a revolutionary program allowing inmates to earn a certificate as an American Sign Language interpreter for the deaf.

Truth Out reports on the program which has been called “one of a kind” in the U.S. prison system. The program teaches inmates ASL, which then allows them to possibly earn jobs after incarceration or become “offender interpreters,” or interpreters for other inmates.

While the program has a lot of supporters, it hasn’t come without criticism. Deaf advocates have complained that offender interpreters are paid too low a wage or nothing at all. But this is a common trend among many prison work programs (if not all), and is certainly not unique to offender interpreters.

But graduates of the program speak highly of it. Scott Huffman, one of the first graduates of the ASL program told Truth Out,

“Not only do we lead the world in incarceration, we have a unjust system, especially for these deaf, deaf-blind, deaf-disabled, hard of hearing prisoners. They live in a prison within a prison, so not only are they incarcerated, but now they’re extra incarcerated because they don’t have communication.”

asl
Credit: Annie Flanagan for Truth Out. All rights belong to Truth Out.

He added that during his five-year sentence, he noticed that deaf inmates were “easy targets” for sexual abuse by other inmates and physical abuse by the guards.

After getting released, Scott has used his new understanding of deaf culture to become an advocate and help ensure that video systems that allow deaf prisoners to call home are installed, as required by law.

Rights for the deaf and incarcerated may still be severely lacking, but this is certainly something bright. And while the Louisiana Department of Corrections has a amend for, this is one tiny step on the right path. Finally.

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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel (by far!), but when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her hanging with her kitty Tom or tweeting at Sen. Chuck Schumer.

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