The Third Branch
Grant to help evaluate interpreter needs
By Carmel Capati, Court Interpreter Program Manager
The Director of State Courts Office has received a State Justice Institute (SJI) grant totaling $24,390.00 from the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to conduct a needs assessment throughout the circuit courts. Grant funding will be used to evaluate video and audio technology capabilities that may lead to implementation of remote interpreting pilots in selected counties.
The project is currently underway and in the pre-assessment phase. The Court Interpreter Program assembled a working group to create a survey questionnaire, which was disseminated to the clerks of court on Feb. 7. The purpose of the survey is to gather information from the counties that will allow the Director's Office to:
- Assess the county-provided hardware, software and connection capabilities existing in the courthouses that could be used to provide access to remote interpreting services.
- Gauge the willingness of counties to explore or in some instances expand their use of technology to provide quality interpreting services.
- Recognize barriers to utilizing technology to provide access to remote interpreting services.
- Identify practical technology solutions that can help reduce the cost of interpreting services in the counties while maintaining the high quality of the service needed to ensure equal access to court users with limited English proficiency.
- Identify potential counties to participate in a remote interpreting pilot project for interpreting services.
The current working group consists of 7th Judicial District Court Administrator Patrick Brummond, Court Interpreter Program Manager Carmel Capati, Dane County Clerk of Circuit Court Carlo Esqueda, Walworth County Clerk of Circuit Court Sheila Reiff, and Consolidated Court Automation Programs Customer Services Supervisor Warren Sveum, along with two NCSC consultants.
Once the survey is closed, the group will analyze the survey results along with interpreter data from the Office of Management Services to determine if remote interpreting is a feasible option in our courts. If so, members will develop an action plan to pilot technology-assisted interpreting services in counties where the existing infrastructure and court culture are amenable to such an initiative.
In 2012, Wisconsin counties reported spending approximately $1,723,657 on interpreter services. During the first six months of 2013, the courts provided interpreting services in almost 60 different languages. Locating qualified interpreters in rare languages who live within a reasonable distance from the courthouse is challenging for courts. Many court proceedings are short in duration. Therefore, bringing interpreters in-person for short hearings is not a cost-effective use of the courts' tight budgets when interpreter travel expenses are high compared to the length of the court proceeding. The use of technology to provide interpreting services will expand the courts' access to a larger pool of certified court interpreters and could result in a more efficient use of financial resources.