Picture Glossaries in Jail: Do They Work?

By Jean F. Andrews

"Jail" in Sign Image: LifePrint.com
“Jail” in Sign
Image: LifePrint.com

“A picture is worth a thousand words. ” While this is true most of the time such as in family and nature photography, pictures don’t tell the whole story for the Deaf or ELL (English as a Second Language) offender. To address their language needs, jail and prisons officials are hiring graphic art designers to develop glossy, picture aids to assist the Deaf and ELL inmates. For instance, one jail in the south developed a pamphlet made up of a glossary of 25 terms such as “correctional officer,” “jails,” “pat down search,” “bail bond”—all illustrated with one colored picture for each term, followed by the word presented in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, and Haitian-Creole. These materials I would term “good will” materials as

they show awareness and respect for the offenders’ primary language.

Sign for "Interpret" In ASL, one would add the sign for "person" to signify an interpreter. Image: LifePrint.com
Sign for “Interpret” In ASL, one would add the sign for “person” to signify an interpreter. Image: LifePrint.com

But these pictionaries don’t really provide the access that Deaf and ELL offenders need. During the jail intake procedures and during the offenders’ stay in jail there is a basic need for more in-depth, 2-way communication between the

inmate and the jail officers. Deaf and ELL offenders need qualified interpreters to explain to them the jail inmate handbook as well as the procedures for grievances while in jail. If they are sexually or physically assaulted, they need to know the procedures in getting help.

In short, picture glossaries “look good” to the outsider. But nothing replaces the need for qualified sign language interpreters for Deaf offenders, and other language interpreters for the ELL offenders.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

2 thoughts on “Picture Glossaries in Jail: Do They Work?

Agree? Disagree? Please speak up.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s