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Language Access is Equal Access: How to Serve the Multilingual Communities Effectively

Room 303: 11:15 AM to 12:30 PM

Language Access is fundamental to the fair and speedy administration of justice. The US Constitution, among other rights, guarantees due process (5th Amendment); a speedy and public trial (6th amendment); to be informed of the nature and cause of an accusation (6th amendment); to confront witnesses (6th amendment); and, equal protection of the laws (14th amendment). For defendants and witnesses who do not understand English sufficiently to meaningfully participate in court, these Constitutional guarantees cannot be realized without language access. Yet, lack of awareness of existing laws and regulations surrounding the right to language access and effective communication, as the gateway to several other civil rights, and the ongoing challenge of finding qualified interpreters - and paying them sufficient compensation to compete with other work - hampers the fair and efficient administration of justice.

The panel will focus on describing the obstacles faced by Spanish speaking inmates, the laws surrounding language access and the best practices when language is a barrier. You will hear the perspectives of an academic Social Worker, two language access advocates, and one language interpreter.


  1. Carol Velandia, Equal Access Language Services 
  2. William Rivers, WP Rivers & Associates
  3. Caroline Long-Burry, University of Maryland School of Social Work

Moderator: Angus Debryshire, Maryland Legal Aid