On September 4, 2012, a response opposing the preliminary injunction arising from the Larry Berke Lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court of District of Columbia by Ronald C. Machen Jr, the attorney representing the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) and Charles Samuels, Jr. in his official capacity as the Director of the Bureau of Prisons.
It was a response that refuted every allegation listed in the Larry Berke Lawsuit. Those allegations, that Larry Berke would lack access to, and be “irreparably harmed” on account of his hearing loss, are as follows:
- Medical Treatment and Rehabilitation
- Interpretive Services for Ordinary Prison Proceedings such as Orientation, Disciplinary Proceedings, Unit Team Meetings, Religious Programs, Employment and Education
- Communication With Those Outside The ADX Camp (video phone)
- Other Necessary Auxiliary Aids to Allow Effective Communication
Mr. Samuels indicated that and explained the reasons why the FBP has changed Larry Berke’s prison assignment from the ADX Camp in Florence, Colorado to the ADMAX Satellite Camp of the Federal Correctional Center (“FCC”) Tucson, located in Tucson, Arizona. The FBP Inmate Locator was checked to see if anything changed with respect to Larry Berke’s incarceration information and no updated information was readily available to the public as of yet.
Moreover, one of the reasons for the assignment change is that it turns out that there is a deaf inmate already serving a life sentence in the FCC in Tucson, AZ. So because there already is a deaf inmate, the FBP states that the Tucson FCC is well equipped to meet all of Larry Berke’s allegations raised in the lawsuit…except for one allegation concerning videophones, more on this later in this post.
The opposition by FBP to the preliminary injunction stated that the FBP will provide outside independent interpreting services from a local organization (side note: there is only one local organization in Tucson, AZ and that is the Community Outreach Programs for the Deaf — http://www.copdaz.org) or even Video Remote Interpreting (“VRI”) for every step of Larry Berke’s prison stay, whether it be medical treatment, rehabilitation, employment, and all activities listed in the lawsuit.
Furthermore, the FBP stated that they already provide these for the deaf inmate already in the system. They said that the lawsuit now has no merit, in no uncertain terms. In order to satisfy all of the Larry Berke Lawsuit Allegations, the FBP will provide the following:
- Email through the BOP’s Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (“TRULINCS”) to specific people
- A TTY (VRSJustice: more on why a TTY not VideoPhone later in this post)
- Access to live qualified ASL interpreters in person or VRI
- Access to visual alarms for fire and other emergency events
- Dry Eraser Boards for non-essential communication with others
- Closed Caption TV in the common area
- Access to a Closed-Captioned Telephone (captel)
- Access to an electronic bulletin board that contains a list of daily activities at the facility (available through the TRULINCS system)
- An inmate companion for assistance with daily living such as unscheduled movements, programs and activities
FBP and Samuels both said that they do provide reasonable accommodations to inmates with specific needs such as Larry Berke. Having said these, the defendants said that the Judge should deny the preliminary injunction and allow the course of Justice flow — with Larry Berke reporting to prison in Tucson, Arizona. I plan to monitor PACER over at the District Court of D.C. at the end of the day daily for any further developments.
Now to the question you may have on your mind — why a TTY? Why not a video phone since this allows for functional equivalency in communication? The response in the opposition explained it very well that even a 3rd grader could understand (meaning that the Judge, if she is not technically savvy, she will understand what they were trying to explain). You have watched many shows on TV where prisoners talked through the glass/plexiglass window to someone on the other side — through a telephone, right? There is a reason for that. Every single inmate conversation with people on the outside is monitored and recorded. With a videophone, the FBP effectively loses that ability to monitor and record conversations, and the recording would require translation services, of which translating may mean one thing for one translator and another for another translator. Too problematic for FBP. They needed a simpler way to monitor deaf inmates’ outside communication.
Cue in…the old dinosaur called “TTY”. FBP can record and monitor all TTY conversations because it is completely in English and they have the monitoring and recording infrastructure in place to capture TTY signals through the telephone.
There is more. Not only that, the FBP asserts that by using videophones, they have to open up their secure computer network to the public. This is forbidden by the Department of Justice. They also stated that if Larry Berke’s family does not have a TTY, they can get one on loan from a local organization in Tucson for their use during Larry Berke’s incarceration.
Again, they were obviously building the case for their defense on using TTYs, effectively removing the final allegation in the lawsuit, leaving the lawsuit without merit.
Opposition to Larry Berke Lawsuit Preliminary Injunction is here
Attachment A in the Opposition (Declaration of Todd R. Craig, the Acting Chief of Security Technology for the FBP) is here