Black and deaf, Junius Wilson was 28 years old when he was jailed, charged with assault with intent to rape. He was declared insane and sent to North Carolina's mental hospital for blacks. Then he was castrated.
That was in 1925. Decades later, the charges were dropped, but Mr. Wilson remained in a locked ward.
Now 96, Mr. Wilson was finally moved on Friday into his first real home in 68 years.
"Decades later." The charges were dropped five decades later. Yet the institution kept him locked up for almost two decades more. What caused a reassessment of his case when he was in his 70s?
I'll have to wait for the book, by Susan Birch and Hannah Joyner. But as Dis Hum announces, Susan Burch will be speaking about Wilson in Columbus, OH, in mid-November. Check Penny's post for the details.
Sadly, Wilson's problems as a deaf person with the criminal justice system are neither rare nor something that just happened decades ago. I don't have access to the entire article, but an abstract for a paper on "Obstacles Faced by Deaf People in the Criminal Justice System" by Vernon and Miller reports:
Deaf people, especially those who are not well educated, are at risk for serious injustices when they enter the criminal justice system. The present study describes these risks at all stages of the legal process, including arrest, trial, probation, prison, and parole. These dangers are greatest for those who are poorly educated, read at a fourth-grade level or lower, have poor communication skills (American Sign Language and English), and lack awareness of their legal rights. Primitive personality disorder (PPD) is the term mental health professionals use to describe this set of characteristics. The risks that the segment of the deaf population with PPD faces when its members run afoul of the law are described, a case history provided, and some relevant legal and interpreting issues are discussed. A case is made for applying the concept of linguistic incompetence to deaf individuals with PPD.Not that Wilson was necessarily poorly educated -- he may or may not have been -- but he was also a young black man in North Carolina during Jim Crow.
I can't stop thinking about him.