Court interpreters, legal translators and language translation services play an essential role in juvenile courts. A basic question in juvenile law is “If the parents do not speak English, will their kids get locked up?” Although this may seem like a ridiculous question, anyone familiar with how juvenile law works will know otherwise. Often the issue of whether or not a child will be locked up is based on the active participation of the parent(s) in the child’s life. Thus, if the parent cannot speak English and convey his/her participation in the child’s life, then officials will often believe they have little choice but to detain the child.
A study by the VERA Institute of Justice has found that:
- parents who cannot read court documents that are only available in English may not show up for important meetings and hearings during which decisions to detain or incarcerate their child take place;
- a parent’s limited English proficiency may prevent him/her from understanding the benefit of agreeing to adjust a child’s case through an out-of-court agreement;
- a police officer may decide to leave a child overnight in a detention center because neither parent could speak English and respond to questions.
With the help of foreign language interpreters in juvenile courts, not only will the child be given foreign language translations of court documents, but the parents – who play a unique third party role – must also be provided the necessary foreign language translations.
To read our legal language interpreting and translation blog post “Translation of Court Documents in Judicial Proceedings Instituted by the United States”, click here.