This is probably an unusual study finding that more deaf prison inmates were found to be convicted of violent offenses than the hearing general prison population.
Previous research suggested an unexplained difference in the patterns of offending behaviors among deaf people when compared to hearing people. This study, conducted in Texas, compares the incidence and types of violent offenses of a deaf prison population in comparison to the hearing prison population.
Sixty-four percent of deaf prisoners were incarcerated for violent offenses in comparison to 49% of the overall state prison offender population. This finding is consistent with previous research.
The study goes on to explain varous potential factors as to why there were more deaf prisoners than the hearing prison population, statistically speaking. But what was perhaps not surprising (see my past reports on Deaf Residential schools and rape in Part I, II and III) among deaf prisoners is that they, statistically speaking, committed 3 times more sexual crimes when compared to the general hearing prison population in this Texas prison study.
The most significant difference between the populations was found in the category of sexual assault, which represented 32.3% of deaf offenders in contrast to 12.3% of hearing state prison inmates overall.
And then the study goes on to test deaf inmates' IQ which showed them to be a bit wee "smarter" than the hearing inmates:
In Texas prisons, offenders' intelligence is measured during the intake process using the Revised Army Beta Test. The Beta is a nonverbal instrument that yields an IQ score. Deaf offenders who take the Beta test and do not receive a score within normal IQ ranges (85 or higher) are retested using the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (TONI) or the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale—Revised (WAIS-R). IQ scores were available for 50 of the 64 deaf violent offenders in this study. The mean IQ of the deaf violent offenders was 93.4, as compared to the mean IQ of the total number of Texas prison offenders, which was 91.0 (TDCJ Statistical Summary, 2001). Both these scores indicate that the typical violent offender was of average range intelligence regardless of audiological status.
But don't get your hopes up too high. The study went on to assess the deaf inmates' educational and literacy skill levels which were, in short, atrocious.
About one third of the deaf violent offenders in this Texas prison are actually functionally illiterate even though nearly 70% of the deaf prisoners use sign language to communicate. Should we be surprised about this? Or is this some anomalous quirk? Or is this deaf violent prisoners study on illiteracy and educational skills reflective of those on the outside who are not violent? An accurate portrayal of the Deaf community? Who is to blame for deaf people to commit violent crimes? Society or should these deaf violent offenders be responsibile for their own actions instead and not blame society completely?
The average reading grade level for deaf violent offenders was grade 3.5, which is well below the 4.5–5.5 reading level of the average deaf person upon leaving school at age 18 (Center for Assessment and Demographic Studies, 1996).
The average EA of offenders in Texas prisons was grade 7.4 (TDCJ Statistical Summary, 2001). For the entire population of deaf violent offenders, the average EA was 3.6 (Miller, 2001). However, 34.0% of deaf violent offenders had reading levels of 2.8 or below, which is the federal government's standard for defining functional illiteracy.
Read the rest of the deaf violent offenders study from a Texas prison. A fascinating read. Here's the Adobe Acrobat pdf version for download.
UPDATE: Read "Defending the Deaf Offender" starting on page 10:
Most deaf defendants, however, read below the sixth grade level and have not mastered the English syntax. In their case, phrases such as “the right to remain silent”, “constitutional”, “you have the right to speak with a lawyer and have him present with you at any time during questioning” bear no meaning and cannot be translated in terms they can understand. In fact, in many districts, police officers are warned not to attempt to translate Miranda Warnings. They are required to have an attorney present for the defendant before they even attempt questioning. This is not the case in Arizona. Therefore, as a defense attorney, it may be possible to fi nd that Miranda Warnings given to illiterate or semi-illiterate deaf suspects either orally, in writing, or in sign language could be inadmissible at trial (Vernon and Raifman, 1997).It's interesting but is it accurate and reflective of the general Deaf population?
Before introducing such an argument, it may be helpful to understand the difference between a person who is deaf from birth or early childhood (prelingually deaf) versus a defendant who has lost their hearing as an adult. Prelingually deaf individuals are those who do not have adequate useful residual hearing for understanding speech and learning language. As a result, most grow up with huge information gaps, low educational achievement levels, and limited understanding of the English syntax. It is especially diffi cult for these individuals to identify meanings for abstract or intangible ideas, memories, and/or social mores. According to studies of psycholinguistics and cognition, our ability to code and store information in long and short term memory is closely linked to language.