Enhancing Court Access

“It shouldn’t rest on me:”

Providing meaningful language access and avoiding the use of children as interpreters 

The use of certified or qualified interpreters and certified bilingual officers is considered a best practice for language access provision. Using unqualified interpreters, family members, children or bystanders as a means for communicating with individuals with LEP can significantly reduce the accuracy of the interpretation, undermine victim privacy and confidentiality, result in conflicts of interest, and cause interpretation errors that may exacerbate language barriers and misunderstandings.

These barriers can, in turn, jeopardize an investigation and even put the safety of the victim and community at risk. The use of children as interpreters during law enforcement interactions is especially problematic. Interpreting in high stakes situations, particularly when the life, safety or well-being of a loved one may be at risk, is an enormous responsibility that can generate feelings of anxiety and stress, particularly in children, and compound the trauma that these children are already experiencing. Moreover, children’s limited understanding of adult issues and terminology may result in interpretation errors, summarization of events in which necessary details are omitted, and additions or paraphrasing that may significantly impact the information that is being relayed (Flores, 2005; Juckett & Unger, 2014). 

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