By Jean F. Andrews
“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.
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.
- Deaf – Blind Inmates: Are They Being Served Appropriately in Jail? (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Probation Forms and the Deaf Offender: A Complex Matter With a Simple Solution (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Lack of British Sign Language interpreters putting deaf people at risk (guardian.co.uk)
- Disabled have rights too (trinidadexpress.com)
- City Settles Disability Case (newhavenindependent.org)
- New Haven agrees to improves services for deaf (newsday.com)
- Deaf people’s linguistic culture is being allowed to disintegrate | Sarah Ditum (guardian.co.uk)