Needs and Challenges
Establish data collection and analysis procedures to assist with the identification of need for language assistance at all points of contact.
Identifying the need for language assistance is a fundamental component of any language access program. Jurisdictions should regularly assess the actual and potential need for language assistance to facilitate the development of an LAP and to improve language services. Action Step 1 details three main areas to help states identify the need for language access services: identifying the need for language assistance in the court; identifying the need at all points of contact; and the types of data to collect.
At the Summit, there was a consensus among participants and presenters that a vital initial step toward improving language access services was to establish or improve procedures for identifying the need for language assistance. In their Action Plans, the states detailed proposals to utilize demographic information to assist with forecasting potential language needs and to establish data collection and analysis protocols and systems to review actual language use and services in the courts.
Over the past 5 years, jurisdictions have improved their methods of identifying the need for language assistance, by establishing effective data collections and analysis procedures. States and territories have gone well beyond merely relying on demographic data, they also are establishing case management systems, increasing efforts to work with community organizations to monitor fluctuating populations, and are fully utilizing their internal information available to courts, such as invoices and expenditure reports.
In NCSC’s recent survey, the responses revealed that jurisdictions have employed various effective methods of identifying the need for language assistance. NCSC posed a series of questions to determine the methods jurisdictions have been utilizing to identify the need accurately and efficiently.
The first question asked how jurisdictions identify the potential need for language assistance. The most commonly utilized methods were: data collection pertaining to language assistance requests; invoices and expenditures reports pertaining to language services provided; surveys to judges, attorneys, and court staff; case management systems capture needs, such as coding and flagging; and working with community organizations to conduct demographic assessment. (Fig. Q2.)
In addition to the most commonly used methods listed above, jurisdictions provided details in response to this survey question on other types of methods they use to identify the need. Other methods included, collecting demographic data, maintaining communication, developing case management systems, and program-wide data collection projects. A number of states detailed their use of demographic information, including U.S. and state census data. Demographic data at the county, state, and national levels can assist with planning for anticipated and changing needs. This data can facilitate with planning efforts, including recruitment and training of interpreters or bilingual staff in certain languages and the development for translated materials or signage.
Direct Communication and Feedback
Case Management Systems
The second survey question in this area focused on identifying the need at all points of contact.
Jurisdictions report in the survey that they have established a variety of effective protocols to improve their ability to identify the need for services in all courtroom locations, as well as outside of the courtroom.
Most jurisdictions utilize a combination of methods. States most commonly use “I Speak” cards and telephonic language services. Users will also self-identify by referring to multilingual pamphlets, posters, and online materials. They also use interpreter request forms and the voire dire process.
Q3: “With specific users, how do you identify the need for language assistance at all points of contact?”
In addition to the methods listed above, jurisdictions added additional ways in which they effectively identify the need of LEP users at all points of contact. Methods include: bilingual staff, signs, initial filing documents, and requests from attorneys, friends, or advocates. Some jurisdictions report that because they are decentralized they must employ multiple processes at various points of contact in order to effectively identify LEP users.
Visuals and Signs
Initial Filing Documents
Requests made by Attorneys, Family, Friends, Advocates and Law Enforcement
Data Collection & Tracking Language Services Usage
An important component of identifying the need for language services is tracking the actual use of language services inside and outside of the courtroom. Based on the survey results, we see that jurisdictions recognize the importance of collecting data on the actual use of language services. A majority of jurisdictions collect data on language services. Out of 48 respondents, 43 reported that they collect data that tracks language services usage. (Fig. Q4.)
The top information that jurisdictions collect is the language services needed and requested and also the type of proceeding for which assistance was provided. They also collect data on the location of the event, the services provided, and the length of the proceeding or event.
Q4 “If you collect language access data, what kind of data do you collect?”
Jurisdictions report that they collect the following additional data, which was not captured in the listing above:
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