If Parents Don’t Speak English Well, Will Their Kids Get Locked Up?

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Vera Institute of Justice

Youth in the juvenile justice system with limited-English-proficient (LEP) parents have a higher chance of being prosecuted and detained.

This Vera Institute of Justice report details the consequences of language barriers in the courts and what measures could be taken to alleviate related issues.

The report explains that parents who struggle with English may dig deeper holes for court-involved youth. Parents may miss critical hearings in which decisions regarding their child may take place. Miscommunication with police officers and judges can affect the court’s decision on how to deal with juveniles.

According to Vera’s research, officials tend to view lack of proper parental participation and unclear communication as indications of the youth’s unstable upbringing and a home not fit for supervision, thus pushing the courts to incarcerate youth who could have had less severe punishments or diversion programs.

The report recommends conducting further research on juveniles and LEP parents to observe how language barriers can lead to certain court decisions; establishing a national language access technical assistance project for juvenile justice agencies; and creating an interpreter bank demonstration project to assist in high-quality interpretation throughout a case.

Free, 22 pages. Download.