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DOJ Final LEP Guidance Signed 6-12-02

Billing Code: 4410-13


Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons

AGENCY: Department of Justice.

ACTION: Policy guidance document.

SUMMARY: The Department of Justice (DOJ) adopts final Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons (DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance). The DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance is issued pursuant to Executive Order 13166, and supplants existing guidance on the same subject originally published at 66 FR 3834 (January 16, 2001).

DATES: Effective June 12, 2002.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Merrily A. Friedlander, Chief, Coordination and Review Section, Civil Rights Division, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW-NYA, Washington, DC 20530. Telephone 202-307-2222; TDD: 202-307-2678.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under DOJ regulations implementing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, et seq. (Title VI), recipients of federal financial assistance have a responsibility to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by persons with limited English proficiency (LEP). See 28 CFR 42.104(b)(2). Executive Order 13166, reprinted at 65 FR 50121 (August 16, 2000), directs each federal agency that extends assistance subject to the requirements of Title VI to publish guidance for its respective recipients clarifying that obligation. Executive Order 13166 further directs that all such guidance documents be consistent with the compliance standards and framework detailed in DOJ Policy Guidance entitled "Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964--National Origin Discrimination Against Persons with Limited English Proficiency." See 65 FR 50123 (August 16, 2000).

Initial guidance on DOJ recipients' obligations to take reasonable steps to ensure access by LEP persons was published on January 16, 2001. See 66 FR 3834. That guidance document was republished for additional public comment on January 18, 2002. See 67 FR 2671. Based on public comments filed in response to the January 18, 2002 republication, DOJ published revised draft guidance for public comment on April 18, 2002. See 67 FR 19237.

DOJ received 24 comments in response to its April 18, 2002 publication of revised draft guidance on DOJ recipients' obligations to take reasonable steps to ensure access to programs and activities by LEP persons. The comments reflected the views of individuals, organizations serving LEP populations, organizations favoring the use of the English language, language assistance service providers, and state agencies. While many comments identified areas for improvement and/or revision, the overall response to the draft DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance was favorable. Taken together, a majority of the comments described the draft guidance as incorporating "reasonable standards" or "helpful provisions" providing "useful suggestions instead of mandatory requirements" reflecting "common sense" and a "more measured tone" over prior LEP guidance documents.

Two of the comments urged withdrawal of the draft guidance as unsupported by law. In response, the Department notes here as it did in the draft Recipient LEP Guidance published on April 18, 2002 that the Department's commitment to implement Title VI through regulations reaching language barriers is long-standing and is unaffected by recent judicial action precludingindividuals from bringing judicial actions seeking to enforce those agency regulations. See 67 FR at 19238-19239. This particular policy guidance clarifies existing statutory and regulatory requirements for LEP persons by providing a description of the factors recipients should consider in fulfilling their responsibilities to LEP persons.

Of the remaining 22 comments, three supported adoption of the draft guidance as published, and 19, while supportive of the guidance and the Department's leadership in this area, suggested modifications which would, in their view, either (1) clarify the application of the flexible compliance standard incorporated by the draft guidance to particular areas or situations, or (2) provide a more definitive statement of the minimal compliance standards in this area. Several areas were raised in more than one comment. In the order most often raised, those common areas of comment were (1) recipient language assistance plans, (2) use of informal interpreters, (3) written translation safe harbors, and (4) cost considerations. The comments in each of these area are summarized and discussed below.

Recipient Language Assistance Plans. A large number of comments recommended that written language assistance plans (LEP Plans) be required of all recipients. The Department is cognizant of the value of written LEP plans in documenting a recipient's compliance with its obligation to ensure meaningful access by LEP persons, and in providing a framework for the provision of reasonable and necessary language assistance to LEP persons. The Department is also aware of the related training, operational, and planning benefits most recipients would derive from the generation and maintenance of an updated written language assistance plan for use by its employees. In the large majority of cases, the benefits flowing from a written language assistance plan has caused or will likely cause recipients to develop, with varying degrees of detail, such written plans. Even small recipients with limited contact with LEP persons would likely benefit from having a plan in place to assure that, when the need arises, staff have a written plan to turn to - even if it is only how to access a telephonic or community-based interpretation service - when determining what language services to provide and how to provide them.

However, the fact that the vast majority of the Department's recipients already have or will likely develop a written LEP plan to reap its many benefits does not necessarily mean that every recipient, however small its staff, limited its resources, or focused its services, will realize the same benefits and thus must follow an identical path. Without clear evidence suggesting that the absence of written plans for every single recipient is impeding accomplishment of the goal of meaningful access, the Department elects at this juncture to strongly recommend but not require written language assistance plans. The Department stresses in this regard that neither the absence of a requirement of written LEP plans in all cases nor the election by an individual recipient against drafting a plan obviates the underlying obligation on the part of each recipient to provide, consistent with Title VI, the Title VI regulations, and the DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance, reasonable, timely, and appropriate language assistance to the LEP populations each serves.

While the Department continues to believe that the Recipient LEP Guidance strikes the correct balance between recommendations and requirements in this area, the Department has revised the introductory paragraph of Section VII of the Recipient LEP Guidance to acknowledge a recipient's discretion in drafting a written LEP plan yet to emphasize the many benefits that weigh in favor of such a written plan in the vast majority of cases.

Informal Interpreters. As in the case of written LEP plans, a large number of the comments urged the incorporation of more definitive language strongly discouraging or severely limiting the use of informal interpreters such as family members, guardians, caretakers, friends, or fellow inmates or detainees. Some recommended that the draft guidance be revised to prohibit the use of informal interpreters except in limited or emergency situations. A common sub-theme running through many of these comments was a concern regarding the technical and ethical competency of such interpreters to ensure meaningful and appropriate access at the level and of the type contemplated under the DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance. (1)

As in the case of written LEP plans, the Department believes that the DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance provides sufficient guidance to allow recipients to strike the proper balance between the many situations where the use of informal interpreters is inappropriate, and the few situations where the transitory and/or limited use of informal interpreters is necessary and appropriate in light of the nature of a service or benefit being provided and the factual context in which that service or benefit is being provided. Nonetheless, the Department concludes that the potential for the inappropriate use of informal interpreters or, conversely, its unnecessary avoidance, can be minimized through additional clarifications in the DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance. Towards that end, the subsection titled "Use of Family Members, Friends, Other Inmates, or Other Detainees as Interpreters" of Section VI.A. of the DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance has been revised to include guardians and caretakers among the potential class of informal interpreters, to note that beneficiaries who elect to provide their own informal interpreter do so at their own expense, to clarify that reliance on informal interpreters should not be part of any recipient LEP plan, and to expand the discussion of the special considerations that should guide a recipient's limited reliance on informal interpreters.

Safe Harbors. Several comments focused on safe harbor and vital documents provisions of the written translations section of the DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance.(2) A few comments observed that the safe harbor standard set out in the Recipient LEP Guidance was too high, potentially permitting recipients to avoid translating several critical types of vital documents (e.g., notices of denials of benefits or rights, leases, rules of conduct, etc.). In contrast, another comment pointed to this same standard as support for the position that the safe harbor provision was too low, potentially requiring a large recipient to incur extraordinary fiscal burdens to translate all documents associated with the program or activity.

The decision as to what program-related documents should be translated into languages other than English is a difficult one. While documents generated by a recipient may be helpful in understanding a program or activity, not all are critical or vital to ensuring meaningful access by beneficiaries generally and LEP persons specifically. Some documents may create or define legally enforceable rights or responsibilities on the part of individual beneficiaries (e.g., leases, rules of conduct, notices of benefit denials, etc.). Others, such as application or certification forms, solicit important information required to establish or maintain eligibility to participate in a federally-assisted program or activity. And for some programs or activities, written documents may be the core benefit or service provided by the program or activity. Moreover, some programs or activities may be specifically focused on providing benefits or services to significant LEP populations. Finally, a recipient may elect to solicit vital information orally as a substitute for written documents. For example, many state unemployment insurance programs are transitioning away from paper-based application and certification forms in favor of telephone-based systems. Also, certain languages (e.g., Hmong) are oral rather than written, and thus a high percentage of such LEP speakers will likely be unable to read translated documents or written instructionssince it is only recently that such languages have been converted to a written form. Each of these factors should play a role in deciding what documents should be translated, what target languages other than English are appropriate, or even whether more effective alternatives to a continued reliance on written documents to obtain or process vital information exist.

As has been emphasized elsewhere, the Recipient LEP Guidance is not intended to provide a definitive answer governing the translation of written documents for all recipients applicable in all cases. Rather, in drafting the safe harbor and vital documents provisions of the Recipient LEP Guidance, the Department sought to provide one, but not necessarily the only, point of reference for when a recipient should consider translations of documents (or the implementation of alternatives to such documents) in light of its particular program or activity, the document or information in question, and the potential LEP populations served. In furtherance of this purpose, the safe harbor and vital document provisions of the Recipient LEP Guidance have been revised to clarify the elements of the flexible translation standard, and to acknowledge that distinctions can and should be made between frequently-encountered and less commonly-encountered languages when identifying languages for translation.

Costs Considerations. A number of comments focused on cost considerations as an element of the Department's flexible four-factor analysis for identifying and addressing the language assistance needs of LEP persons. While none urged that costs be excluded, some comments expressed concern that a recipient could use cost as a basis for avoiding otherwise reasonable and necessary language assistance to LEP persons. In contrast, a few comments suggested that the flexible fact-dependent compliance standard incorporated by the DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance, when combined with the desire of most recipients to avoid the risk of noncompliance, could lead some large, state-wide recipients to incur unnecessary or inappropriate fiscal burdens in the face of already strained program budgets. The Department is mindful that cost considerations could be inappropriately used to avoid providing otherwise reasonable and necessary language assistance. Similarly, cost considerations could be inappropriately ignored or minimized to justify the provision of a particular level or type of language service where less costly equally effective alternatives exist. The Department also does not dismiss the possibility that the identified need for language services might be quite costly for certain types of recipients in certain communities, particularly if they have not been keeping up with the changing needs of the populations they serve over time.

The potential for possible abuse of cost considerations by some does not, in the Department's view, justify its elimination as a factor in all cases when determining the appropriate "mix" of reasonable language assistance services determined necessary under the DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance to ensure meaningful access by LEP persons to federally assisted programs and activities. The Department continues to believe that costs are a legitimate consideration in identifying the reasonableness of particular language assistance measures, and that the DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance identifies the appropriate framework through which costs are to be considered.

In addition to the four larger concerns noted above, the Department has substituted, where appropriate, technical or stylistic changes that more clearly articulate, in the Department's view, the underlying principle, guideline, or recommendation detailed in the Guidance. In addition, the Guidance has been modified to expand the definition of "courts" to include administrative adjudications conducted by a recipient; to acknowledge that English language instruction is an important adjunct to (but not substitute for) the obligation to ensure access to federally assisted programs and activities by all eligible persons; and to clarify the Guidance's application to activities undertaken by a recipient either voluntarily or under contract in support of a federal agency's functions.

After appropriate revision based on a careful consideration of the comments, with particular focus on the common concerns summarized above, the Department adopts final "Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons." The text of this final guidance document appears below.

It has been determined that this Guidance, which supplants existing Guidance on the same subject previously published at 66 FR 3834 (January 16, 2001), does not constitute a regulation subject to the rulemaking requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 553.

Dated: June12, 2002.

R. Alexander Acosta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division

1. A few comments urged the Department to incorporate language detailing particular interpretation standards or approaches. The Department declines to set, as part of the DOJ Recipient LEP Guidance, professional or technical standards for interpretation applicable to all recipients in every community and in all situations. General guidelines for translator and interpreter competency are already set forth in the guidance. Technical and professional standards and necessary vocabulary and skills for court interpreters and interpreters in custodial interrogations, for instance, would be different from those for emergency service interpreters, or, in turn, those for interpreters in educational programs for correctional facilities. Thus, recipients, beneficiaries, and associations of professional interpreters and translators should collaborate in identifying the applicable professional and technical interpretation standards that are appropriate for particular situations.

2. One comment pointed out that current demographic information based on the 2000 Census or other data was not readily available to assist recipients in identifying the number or proportion of LEP persons and the significant language groups among their otherwise eligible beneficiaries. The Department is aware of this potential difficulty and is, among other things, working with the Census Bureau, among other entities, to increase the availability of such demographic data.

I. Introduction

Most individuals living in the United States read, write, speak and understand English. There are many individuals, however, for whom English is not their primary language. For instance, based on the 2000 census, over 26 million individuals speak Spanish and almost 7 million individuals speak an Asian or Pacific Island language at home. If these individuals have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English, they are limited English proficient, or "LEP." While detailed data from the 2000 census has not yet been released, 26% of all Spanish-speakers, 29.9% of all Chinese-speakers, and 28.2% of all Vietnamese-speakers reported that they spoke English "not well" or "not at all" in response to the 1990 census.

Language for LEP individuals can be a barrier to accessing important benefits or services, understanding and exercising important rights, complying with applicable responsibilities, or understanding other information provided by federally funded programs and activities. The Federal Government funds an array of services that can be made accessible to otherwise eligible LEP persons. The Federal Government is committed to improving the accessibility of these programs and activities to eligible LEP persons, a goal that reinforces its equally important commitment to promoting programs and activities designed to help individuals learn English. Recipients should not overlook the long-term positive impacts of incorporating or offering English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in parallel with language assistance services. ESL courses can serve as an important adjunct to a proper LEP plan. However, the fact that ESL classes are made available does not obviate the statutory and regulatory requirement to provide meaningful access for those who are not yet English proficient. Recipients of federal financial assistance have an obligation to reduce language barriers that can preclude meaningful access by LEP persons to important government services. (1)

In certain circumstances, failure to ensure that LEP persons can effectively participate in or benefit from federally assisted programs and activities may violate the prohibition under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d and Title VI regulations against national origin discrimination. The purpose of this policy guidance is to assist recipients in fulfilling their responsibilities to provide meaningful access to LEP persons under existing law. This policy guidance clarifies existing legal requirements for LEP persons by providing a description of the factors recipients should consider in fulfilling their responsibilities to LEP persons. (2) These are the same criteria DOJ will use in evaluating whether recipients are in compliance with Title VI and Title VI regulations.

The Department of Justice's role under Executive Order 13166 is unique. The Order charges DOJ with responsibility for providing LEP Guidance to other Federal agencies and for ensuring consistency among each agency-specific guidance. Consistency among Departments of the federal government is particularly important. Inconsistency or contradictory guidance could confuse recipients of federal funds and needlessly increase costs without rendering the meaningful access for LEP persons that this Guidance is designed to address. As with most government initiatives, this requires balancing several principles. While this Guidance discusses that balance in some detail, it is important to note the basic principles behind that balance. First, we must ensure that federally-assisted programs aimed at the American public do not leave some behind simply because they face challenges communicating in English. This is of particular importance because, in many cases, LEP individuals form a substantial portion of those encountered in federally-assisted programs. Second, we must achieve this goal while finding constructive methods to reduce the costs of LEP requirements on small businesses, small local governments, or small non-profits that receive federal financial assistance.

There are many productive steps that the federal government, either collectively or as individual grant agencies, can take to help recipients reduce the costs of language services without sacrificing meaningful access for LEP persons. Without these steps, certain smaller grantees may well choose not to participate in federally assisted programs, threatening the critical functions that the programs strive to provide. To that end, the Department plans to continue to provide assistance and guidance in this important area. In addition, DOJ plans to work with representatives of law enforcement, corrections, courts, administrative agencies, and LEP persons to identify and share model plans, examples of best practices, and cost-saving approaches. Moreover, DOJ intends to explore how language assistance measures, resources and cost-containment approaches developed with respect to its own federally conducted programs and activities can be effectively shared or otherwise made available to recipients, particularly small businesses, small local governments, and small non-profits. An interagency working group on LEP has developed a website, , to assist in disseminating this information to recipients, federal agencies, and the communities being served.

Many commentators have noted that some have interpreted the case of Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275 (2001), as impliedly striking down the regulations promulgated under Title VI that form the basis for the part of Executive Order 13166 that applies to federally assisted programs and activities. We have taken the position that this is not the case, and will continue to do so. Accordingly, we will strive to ensure that federally assisted programs and activities work in a way that is effective for all eligible beneficiaries, including those with limited English proficiency.

II. Legal Authority

Section 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, provides that no person shall "on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Section 602 authorizes and directs federal agencies that are empowered to extend federal financial assistance to any program or activity "to effectuate the provisions of [section 601] * * * by issuing rules, regulations, or orders of general applicability." 42 U.S.C. 2000d-1.

Department of Justice regulations promulgated pursuant to section 602 forbid recipients from "utiliz[ing] criteria or methods of administration which have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination because of their race, color, or national origin, or have the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the program as respects individuals of a particular race, color, or national origin." 28 CFR 42.104(b)(2).

The Supreme Court, in Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974), interpreted regulations promulgated by the former Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, including a regulation similar to that of DOJ, 45 CFR 80.3(b)(2), to hold that Title VI prohibits conduct that has a disproportionate effect on LEP persons because such conduct constitutes national-origin discrimination. In Lau, a San Francisco school district that had a significant number of non-English speaking students of Chinese origin was required to take reasonable steps to provide them with a meaningful opportunity to participate in federally funded educational programs.

On August 11, 2000, Executive Order 13166 was issued. "Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency," 65 FR 50121 (August 16, 2000). Under that order, every federal agency that provides financial assistance to non-federal entities must publish guidance on how their recipients can provide meaningful access to LEP persons and thus comply with Title VI regulations forbidding funding recipients from "restrict[ing] an individual in any way in the enjoyment of any advantage or privilege enjoyed by others receiving any service, financial aid, or other benefit under the program" or from "utiliz[ing] criteria or methods of administration which have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination because of their race, color, or national origin, or have the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the program as respects individuals of a particular race, color, or national origin."

On that same day, DOJ issued a general guidance document addressed to "Executive Agency Civil Rights Officers" setting forth general principles for agencies to apply in developing guidance documents for recipients pursuant to the Executive Order. "Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 National Origin Discrimination Against Persons With Limited English Proficiency," 65 FR 50123 (August 16, 2000) ("DOJ LEP Guidance").

Subsequently, federal agencies raised questions regarding the requirements of the Executive Order, especially in light of the Supreme Court's decision inAlexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275 (2001). On October 26, 2001, Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, issued a memorandum for "Heads of Departments and Agencies, General Counsels and Civil Rights Directors." This memorandum clarified and reaffirmed the DOJ LEP Guidance in light of Sandoval. (3) The Assistant Attorney General stated that because Sandoval did not invalidate any Title VI regulations that proscribe conduct that has a disparate impact on covered groups--the types of regulations that form the legal basis for the part of Executive Order 13166 that applies to federally assisted programs and activities--the Executive Order remains in force.

Pursuant to Executive Order 13166, DOJ developed its own guidance document for recipients and initially issued it on January 16, 2001. "Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons," 66 FR 3834 (January 16, 2001) ("LEP Guidance for DOJ Recipients"). Because DOJ did not receive significant public comment on its January 16, 2001 publication, the Department republished on January 18, 2002 its existing guidance document for additional public comment. "Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons," 67 FR 2671 (January 18, 2002). The Department has since received substantial public comment.

This guidance document is thus published pursuant to Executive Order 13166 and supplants the January 16, 2001 publication in light of the public comment received and Assistant Attorney General Boyd's October 26, 2001 clarifying memorandum.

III. Who Is Covered?

Department of Justice regulations, 28 CFR 42.104(b)(2), require all recipients of federal financial assistance from DOJ to provide meaningful access to LEP persons. (4) Federal financial assistance includes grants, training, use of equipment, donations of surplus property, and other assistance. Recipients of DOJ assistance include, for example:

  • .Police and sheriffs' departments
  • .Departments of corrections, jails, and detention facilities, including those recipients that house detainees of the Immigration and Naturalization Service
  • .Certain non profit agencies with law enforcement, public safety, and victim assistance missions;
  • .Other entities with public safety and emergency service missions.
Subrecipients likewise are covered when federal funds are passed through from one recipient to a subrecipient.

Coverage extends to a recipient's entire program or activity, i.e., to all parts of a recipient's operations. This is true even if only one part of the recipient receives the federal assistance. (6)

Example: DOJ provides assistance to a state department of corrections to improve a particular prison facility. All of the operations of the entire state department of corrections--not just the particular prison--are covered.

Finally, some recipients operate in jurisdictions in which English has been declared the official language. Nonetheless, these recipients continue to be subject to federal non-discrimination requirements, including those applicable to the provision of federally assisted services to persons with limited English proficiency.

IV. Who Is a Limited English Proficient Individual?

Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English can be limited English proficient, or "LEP," entitled to language assistance with respect to a particular type of service, benefit, or encounter.

Examples of populations likely to include LEP persons who are encountered and/or served by DOJ recipients and should be considered when planning language services include, but are not limited to:

  • .Persons who are in the custody of the recipient, including juveniles, detainees, wards, and inmates.
  • .Persons subject to or serviced by law enforcement activities, including, for example, suspects, violators, witnesses, victims, those subject to immigration-related investigations by recipient law enforcement agencies, and community members seeking to participate in crime prevention or awareness activities.
  • .Persons who encounter the court system.
  • .Parents and family members of the above.
V. How Does a Recipient Determine the Extent of Its Obligation To Provide LEP Services?

Recipients are required to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by LEP persons. While designed to be a flexible and fact-dependent standard, the starting point is an individualized assessment that balances the following four factors: (1) The number or proportion of LEP persons eligible to be served or likely to be encountered by the program or grantee; (2) the frequency with which LEP individuals come in contact with the program; (3) the nature and importance of the program, activity, or service provided by the program to people's lives; and (4) the resources available to the grantee/recipient and costs. As indicated above, the intent of this guidance is to suggest a balance that ensures meaningful access by LEP persons to critical services while not imposing undue burdens on small business, small local governments, or small nonprofits.

After applying the above four-factor analysis, a recipient may conclude that different language assistance measures are sufficient for the different types of programs or activities in which it engages. For instance, some of a recipient's activities will be more important than others and/or have greater impact on or contact with LEP persons, and thus may require more in the way of language assistance. The flexibility that recipients have in addressing the needs of the LEP populations they serve does not diminish, and should not be used to minimize, the obligation that those needs be addressed. DOJ recipients should apply the following four factors to the various kinds of contacts that they have with the public to assess language needs and decide what reasonable steps they should take to ensure meaningful access for LEP persons.

(1) The Number or Proportion of LEP Persons Served or Encountered in the Eligible Service Population

One factor in determining what language services recipients should provide is the number or proportion of LEP persons from a particular language group served or encountered in the eligible service population. The greater the number or proportion of these LEP persons, the more likely language services are needed. Ordinarily, persons "eligible to be served, or likely to be directly affected, by" a recipient's program or activity are those who are served or encountered in the eligible service population. This population will be program-specific, and includes persons who are in the geographic area that has been approved by a federal grant agency as the recipient's service area. However, where, for instance, a precinct serves a large LEP population, the appropriate service area is most likely the precinct, and not the entire population served by the department. Where no service area has previously been approved, the relevant service area may be that which is approved by state or local authorities or designated by the recipient itself, provided that these designations do not themselves discriminatorily exclude certain populations. Appendix A provides examples to assist in determining the relevant service area. When considering the number or proportion of LEP individuals in a service area, recipients should consider LEP parent(s) when their English-proficient or LEP minor children and dependents encounter the legal system.

Recipients should first examine their prior experiences with LEP encounters and determine the breadth and scope of language services that were needed. In conducting this analysis, it is important to include language minority populations that are eligible for their programs or activities but may be underserved because of existing language barriers. Other data should be consulted to refine or validate a recipient's prior experience, including the latest census data for the area served, data from school systems and from community organizations, and data from state and local governments. (7) Community agencies, school systems, religious organizations, legal aid entities, and others can often assist in identifying populations for whom outreach is needed and who would benefit from the recipients' programs and activities were language services provided.

(2) The Frequency With Which LEP Individuals Come in Contact With the Program

Recipients should assess, as accurately as possible, the frequency with which they have or should have contact with an LEP individual from different language groups seeking assistance. The more frequent the contact with a particular language group, the more likely that enhanced language services in that language are needed. The steps that are reasonable for a recipient that serves an LEP person on a one-time basis will be very different than those expected from a recipient that serves LEP persons daily. It is also advisable to consider the frequency of different types of language contacts. For example, frequent contacts with Spanish-speaking people who are LEP may require certain assistance in Spanish. Less frequent contact with different language groups may suggest a different and less intensified solution. If an LEP individual accesses a program or service on a daily basis, a recipient has greater duties than if the same individual's program or activity contact is unpredictable or infrequent. But even recipients that serve LEP persons on an unpredictable or infrequent basis should use this balancing analysis to determine what to do if an LEP individual seeks services under the program in question. This plan need not be intricate. It may be as simple as being prepared to use one of the commercially-available telephonic interpretation services to obtain immediate interpreter services. In applying this standard, recipients should take care to consider whether appropriate outreach to LEP persons could increase the frequency of contact with LEP language groups.

(3) The Nature and Importance of the Program, Activity, or Service Provided by the Program

The more important the activity, information, service, or program, or the greater the possible consequences of the contact to the LEP individuals, the more likely language services are needed. The obligations to communicate rights to a person who is arrested or to provide medical services to an ill or injured inmate differ, for example, from those to provide bicycle safety courses or recreational programming. A recipient needs to determine whether denial or delay of access to services or information could have serious or even life-threatening implications for the LEP individual. Decisions by a federal, state, or local entity to make an activity compulsory, such as particular educational programs in a correctional facility or the communication of Miranda rights, can serve as strong evidence of the program's importance.

(4) The Resources Available to the Recipient and Costs

A recipient's level of resources and the costs that would be imposed on it may have an impact on the nature of the steps it should take. Smaller recipients with more limited budgets are not expected to provide the same level of language services as larger recipients with larger budgets. In addition, "reasonable steps" may cease to be reasonable where the costs imposed substantially exceed the benefits.

Resource and cost issues, however, can often be reduced by technological advances; the sharing of language assistance materials and services among and between recipients, advocacy groups, and Federal grant agencies; and reasonable business practices. Where appropriate, training bilingual staff to act as interpreters and translators, information sharing through industry groups, telephonic and video conferencing interpretation services, pooling resources and standardizing documents to reduce translation needs, using qualified translators and interpreters to ensure that documents need not be "fixed" later and that inaccurate interpretations do not cause delay or other costs, centralizing interpreter and translator services to achieve economies of scale, or the formalized use of qualified community volunteers, for example, may help reduce costs. (8) Recipients should carefully explore the most cost-effective means of delivering competent and accurate language services before limiting services due to resource concerns. Large entities and those entities serving a significant number or proportion of LEP persons should ensure that their resource limitations are well-substantiated before using this factor as a reason to limit language assistance. Such recipients may find it useful to be able to articulate, through documentation or in some other reasonable manner, their process for determining that language services would be limited based on resources or costs.

This four-factor analysis necessarily implicates the "mix" of LEP services required. Recipients have two main ways to provide language services: Oral interpretation either in person or via telephone interpretation service (hereinafter "interpretation") and written translation (hereinafter "translation"). Oral interpretation can range from on-site interpreters for critical services provided to a high volume of LEP persons to access through commercially-available telephonic interpretation services. Written translation, likewise, can range from translation of an entire document to translation of a short description of the document. In some cases, language services should be made available on an expedited basis while in others the LEP individual may be referred to another office of the recipient for language assistance.

The correct mix should be based on what is both necessary and reasonable in light of the four-factor analysis. For instance, a police department in a largely Hispanic neighborhood may need immediate oral interpreters available and should give serious consideration to hiring some bilingual staff. (Of course, many police departments have already made such arrangements.) In contrast, there may be circumstances where the importance and nature of the activity and number or proportion and frequency of contact with LEP persons may be low and the costs and resources needed to provide language services may be high - such as in the case of a voluntary general public tour of a courthouse - in which pre-arranged language services for the particular service may not be necessary. Regardless of the type of language service provided, quality and accuracy of those services can be critical in order to avoid serious consequences to the LEP person and to the recipient. Recipients have substantial flexibility in determining the appropriate mix.

VI. Selecting Language Assistance Services

Recipients have two main ways to provide language services: oral and written language services. Quality and accuracy of the language service is critical in order to avoid serious consequences to the LEP person and to the recipient.

A. Oral Language Services (Interpretation)

Interpretation is the act of listening to something in one language (source language) and orally translating it into another language (target language). Where interpretation is needed and is reasonable, recipients should consider some or all of the following options for providing competent interpreters in a timely manner:

Competence of Interpreters. When providing oral assistance, recipients should ensure competency of the language service provider, no matter which of the strategies outlined below are used. Competency requires more than self-identification as bilingual. Some bilingual staff and community volunteers, for instance, may be able to communicate effectively in a different language when communicating information directly in that language, but not be competent to interpret in and out of English. Likewise, they may not be able to do written translations.

Competency to interpret, however, does not necessarily mean formal certification as an interpreter, although certification is helpful. When using interpreters, recipients should ensure that they:

Demonstrate proficiency in and ability to communicate information accurately in both English and in the other language and identify and employ the appropriate mode of interpreting (e.g., consecutive, simultaneous, summarization, or sight translation);

Have knowledge in both languages of any specialized terms or concepts peculiar to the entity's program or activity and of any particularized vocabulary and phraseology used by the LEP person; (9) and understand and follow confidentiality and impartiality rules to the same extent the recipient employee for whom they are interpreting and/or to the extent their position requires.

Understand and adhere to their role as interpreters without deviating into a role as counselor, legal advisor, or other roles (particularly in court, administrative hearings, or law enforcement contexts).

Some recipients, such as courts, may have additional self-imposed requirements for interpreters. Where individual rights depend on precise, complete, and accurate interpretation or translations, particularly in the contexts of courtrooms and custodial or other police interrogations, the use of certified interpreters is strongly encouraged. (10) Where such proceedings are lengthy, the interpreter will likely need breaks and team interpreting may be appropriate to ensure accuracy and to prevent errors caused by mental fatigue of interpreters.

While quality and accuracy of language services is critical, the quality and accuracy of language services is nonetheless part of the appropriate mix of LEP services required. The quality and accuracy of language services in a prison hospital emergency room, for example, must be extraordinarily high, while the quality and accuracy of language services in a bicycle safety class need not meet the same exacting standards.

Finally, when interpretation is needed and is reasonable, it should be provided in a timely manner. To be meaningfully effective, language assistance should be timely. While there is no single definition for "timely" applicable to all types of interactions at all times by all types of recipients, one clear guide is that the language assistance should be provided at a time and place that avoids the effective denial of the service, benefit, or right at issue or the imposition of an undue burden on or delay in important rights, benefits, or services to the LEP person. For example, when the timeliness of services is important, such as with certain activities of DOJ recipients providing law enforcement, health, and safety services, and when important legal rights are at issue, a recipient would likely not be providing meaningful access if it had one bilingual staffer available one day a week to provide the service. Such conduct would likely result in delays for LEP persons that would be significantly greater than those for English proficient persons. Conversely, where access to or exercise of a service, benefit, or right is not effectively precluded by a reasonable delay, language assistance can likely be delayed for a reasonable period.

Hiring Bilingual Staff. When particular languages are encountered often, hiring bilingual staff offers one of the best, and often most economical, options. Recipients can, for example, fill public contact positions, such as 911 operators, police officers, guards, or program directors, with staff who are bilingual and competent to communicate directly with LEP persons in their language. If bilingual staff are also used to interpret between English speakers and LEP persons, or to orally interpret written documents from English into another language, they should be competent in the skill of interpreting. Being bilingual does not necessarily mean that a person has the ability to interpret. In addition, there may be times when the role of the bilingual employee may conflict with the role of an interpreter (for instance, a bilingual law clerk would probably not be able to perform effectively the role of a courtroom or administrative hearing interpreter and law clerk at the same time, even if the law clerk were a qualified interpreter). Effective management strategies, including any appropriate adjustments in assignments and protocols for using bilingual staff, can ensure that bilingual staff are fully and appropriately utilized. When bilingual staff cannot meet all of the language service obligations of the recipient, the recipient should turn to other options.

Hiring Staff Interpreters. Hiring interpreters may be most helpful where there is a frequent need for interpreting services in one or more languages. Depending on the facts, sometimes it may be necessary and reasonable to provide on-site interpreters to provide accurate and meaningful communication with an LEP person.

Contracting for Interpreters. Contract interpreters may be a cost-effective option when there is no regular need for a particular language skill. In addition to commercial and other private providers, many community-based organizations and mutual assistance associations provide interpretation services for particular languages. Contracting with and providing training regarding the recipient's programs and processes to these organizations can be a cost-effective option for providing language services to LEP persons from those language groups.

Using Telephone Interpreter Lines. Telephone interpreter service lines often offer speedy interpreting assistance in many different languages. They may be particularly appropriate where the mode of communicating with an English proficient person would also be over the phone. Although telephonic interpretation services are useful in many situations, it is important to ensure that, when using such services, the interpreters used are competent to interpret any technical or legal terms specific to a particular program that may be important parts of the conversation. Nuances in language and non-verbal communication can often assist an interpreter and cannot be recognized over the phone. Video teleconferencing may sometimes help to resolve this issue where necessary. In addition, where documents are being discussed, it is important to give telephonic interpreters adequate opportunity to review the document prior to the discussion and any logistical problems should be addressed.

Using Community Volunteers. In addition to consideration of bilingual staff, staff interpreters, or contract interpreters (either in-person or by telephone) as options to ensure meaningful access by LEP persons, use of recipient-coordinated community volunteers, working with, for instance, community-based organizations may provide a cost-effective supplemental language assistance strategy under appropriate circumstances. They may be particularly useful in providing language access for a recipient's less critical programs and activities. To the extent the recipient relies on community volunteers, it is often best to use volunteers who are trained in the information or services of the program and can communicate directly with LEP persons in their language. Just as with all interpreters, community volunteers used to interpret between English speakers and LEP persons, or to orally translate documents, should be competent in the skill of interpreting and knowledgeable about applicable confidentiality and impartiality rules. Recipients should consider formal arrangements with community-based organizations that provide volunteers to address these concerns and to help ensure that services are available more regularly.

Use of Family Members, Friends, Other Inmates, or Other Detainees as Interpreters. Although recipients should not plan to rely on an LEP person's family members, friends, or other informal interpreters to provide meaningful access to important programs and activities, where LEP persons so desire, they should be permitted to use, at their own expense, an interpreter of their own choosing (whether a professional interpreter, family member, friend, other inmate, other detainee) in place of or as a supplement to the free language services expressly offered by the recipient. LEP persons may feel more comfortable when a trusted family member, friend, or other inmate acts as an interpreter. In addition, in exigent circumstances that are not reasonably foreseeable, temporary use of interpreters not provided by the recipient may be necessary. However, with proper planning and implementation, recipients should be able to avoid most such situations.

Recipients, however, should take special care to ensure that family, legal guardians, caretakers, and other informal interpreters are appropriate in light of the circumstances and subject matter of the program, service or activity, including protection of the recipient's own administrative or enforcement interest in accurate interpretation. In many circumstances, family members (especially children), friends, other inmates or other detainees are not competent to provide quality and accurate interpretations. Issues of confidentiality, privacy, or conflict of interest may also arise. LEP individuals may feel uncomfortable revealing or describing sensitive, confidential, or potentially embarrassing medical, law enforcement (e.g., sexual or violent assaults), family, or financial information to a family member, friend, or member of the local community. (11) In addition, such informal interpreters may have a personal connection to the LEP person or an undisclosed conflict of interest, such as the desire to protect themselves or another perpetrator in a domestic violence or other criminal matter. For these reasons, when oral language services are necessary, recipients should generally offer competent interpreter services free of cost to the LEP person. For DOJ recipient programs and activities, this is particularly true in a courtroom, administrative hearing, pre- and post-trial proceedings, situations in which health, safety, or access to important benefits and services are at stake, or when credibility and accuracy are important to protect an individual's rights and access to important services.

An example of such a case is when police officers respond to a domestic violence call. In such a case, use of family members or neighbors to interpret for the alleged victim, perpetrator, or witnesses may raise serious issues of competency, confidentiality, and conflict of interest and is thus inappropriate. While issues of competency, confidentiality, and conflict of interest in the use of family members (especially children), friends, other inmates or other detainees often make their use inappropriate, the use of these individuals as interpreters may be an appropriate option where proper application of the four factors would lead to a conclusion that recipient-provided services are not necessary. An example of this is a voluntary educational tour of a courthouse offered to the public. There, the importance and nature of the activity may be relatively low and unlikely to implicate issues of confidentiality, conflict of interest, or the need for accuracy. In addition, the resources needed and costs of providing language services may be high. In such a setting, an LEP person's use of family, friends, or others may be appropriate.

If the LEP person voluntarily chooses to provide his or her own interpreter, a recipient should consider whether a record of that choice and of the recipient's offer of assistance is appropriate. Where precise, complete, and accurate interpretations or translations of information and/or testimony are critical for law enforcement, adjudicatory, or legal reasons, or where the competency of the LEP person's interpreter is not established, a recipient might decide to provide its own, independent interpreter, even if an LEP person wants to use his or her own interpreter as well. Extra caution should be exercised when the LEP person chooses to use a minor as the interpreter. While the LEP person's decision should be respected, there may be additional issues of competency, confidentiality, or conflict of interest when the choice involves using children as interpreters. The recipient should take care to ensure that the LEP person's choice is voluntary, that the LEP person is aware of the possible problems if the preferred interpreter is a minor child, and that the LEP person knows that a competent interpreter could be provided by the recipient at no cost.

B. Written Language Services (Translation)

Translation is the replacement of a written text from one language (source language) into an equivalent written text in another language (target language).

What Documents Should be Translated? After applying the four-factor analysis, a recipient may determine that an effective LEP plan for its particular program or activity includes the translation of vital written materials into the language of each frequently-encountered LEP group eligible to be served and/or likely to be affected by the recipient's program.

Such written materials could include, for example:

  • .Consent and complaint forms
  • .Intake forms with the potential for important consequences
  • .Written notices of rights, denial, loss, or decreases in benefits or services, parole, and other hearings
  • .Notices of disciplinary action
  • .Notices advising LEP persons of free language assistance
  • .Prison rule books
  • .Written tests that do not assess English language competency, but test competency for a particular license, job, or skill for which knowing English is not required
  • .Applications to participate in a recipient's program or activity or to receive recipient benefits or services.
Whether or not a document (or the information it solicits) is "vital" may depend upon the importance of the program, information, encounter, or service involved, and the consequence to the LEP person if the information in question is not provided accurately or in a timely manner. For instance, applications for bicycle safety courses should not generally be considered vital, whereas applications for drug and alcohol counseling in prison could be considered vital. Where appropriate, recipients are encouraged to create a plan for consistently determining, over time and across its various activities, what documents are "vital" to the meaningful access of the LEP populations they serve.

Classifying a document as vital or non-vital is sometimes difficult, especially in the case of outreach materials like brochures or other information on rights and services. Awareness of rights or services is an important part of "meaningful access." Lack of awareness that a particular program, right, or service exists may effectively deny LEP individuals meaningful access. Thus, where a recipient is engaged in community outreach activities in furtherance of its activities, it should regularly assess the needs of the populations frequently encountered or affected by the program or activity to determine whether certain critical outreach materials should be translated. Community organizations may be helpful in determining what outreach materials may be most helpful to translate. In addition, the recipient should consider whether translations of outreach material may be made more effective when done in tandem with other outreach methods, including utilizing the ethnic media, schools, religious, and community organizations to spread a message.

Sometimes a document includes both vital and non-vital information. This may be the case when the document is very large. It may also be the case when the title and a phone number for obtaining more information on the contents of the document in frequently- encountered languages other than English is critical, but the document is sent out to the general public and cannot reasonably be translated into many languages. Thus, vital information may include, for instance, the provision of information in appropriate languages other than English regarding where a LEP person might obtain an interpretation or translation of the document.

Into What Languages Should Documents be Translated? The languages spoken by the LEP individuals with whom the recipient has contact determine the languages into which vital documents should be translated. A distinction should be made, however, between languages that are frequently encountered by a recipient and less commonly-encountered languages. Many recipients serve communities in large cities or across the country. They regularly serve LEP persons who speak dozens and sometimes over 100 different languages. To translate all written materials into all of those languages is unrealistic. Although recent technological advances have made it easier for recipients to store and share translated documents, such an undertaking would incur substantial costs and require substantial resources. Nevertheless, well-substantiated claims of lack of resources to translate all vital documents into dozens of languages do not necessarily relieve the recipient of the obligation to translate those documents into at least several of the more frequently-encountered languages and to set benchmarks for continued translations into the remaining languages over time. As a result, the extent of the recipient's obligation to provide written translations of documents should be determined by the recipient on a case-by-case basis, looking at the totality of the circumstances in light of the four-factor analysis. Because translation is a one-time expense, consideration should be given to whether the upfront cost of translating a document (as opposed to oral interpretation) should be amortized over the likely lifespan of the document when applying this four-factor analysis.

Safe Harbor. Many recipients would like to ensure with greater certainty that they comply with their obligations to provide written translations in languages other than English. Paragraphs (a) and (b) outline the circumstances that can provide a "safe harbor" for recipients regarding the requirements for translation of written materials. A "safe harbor" means that if a recipient provides written translations under these circumstances, such action will be considered strong evidence of compliance with the recipient's written-translation obligations.

The failure to provide written translations under the circumstances outlined in paragraphs (a) and (b) does not mean there is non-compliance. Rather, they provide a common starting point for recipients to consider whether and at what point the importance of the service, benefit, or activity involved; the nature of the information sought; and the number or proportion of LEP persons served call for written translations of commonly-used forms into frequently-encountered languages other than English. Thus, these paragraphs merely provide a guide for recipients that would like greater certainty of compliance than can be provided by a fact-intensive, four-factor analysis.

Example: Even if the safe harbors are not used, if written translation of a certain document(s) would be so burdensome as to defeat the legitimate objectives of its program, the translation of the written materials is not necessary. Other ways of providing meaningful access, such as effective oral interpretation of certain vital documents, might be acceptable under such circumstances.

Safe Harbor. The following actions will be considered strong evidence of compliance with the recipient's written-translation obligations:

(a) The DOJ recipient provides written translations of vital documents for each eligible LEP language group that constitutes five percent or 1,000, whichever is less, of the population of persons eligible to be served or likely to be affected or encountered. Translation of other documents, if needed, can be provided orally; or

(b) If there are fewer than 50 persons in a language group that reaches the five percent trigger in (a), the recipient does not translate vital written materials but provides written notice in the primary language of the LEP language group of the right to receive competent oral interpretation of those written materials, free of cost.

These safe harbor provisions apply to the translation of written documents only. They do not affect the requirement to provide meaningful access to LEP individuals through competent oral interpreters where oral language services are needed and are reasonable. For example, correctional facilities should, where appropriate, ensure that prison rules have been explained to LEP inmates, at orientation, for instance, prior to taking disciplinary action against them.

Competence of Translators. As with oral interpreters, translators of written documents should be competent. Many of the same considerations apply. However, the skill of translating is very different from the skill of interpreting, and a person who is a competent interpreter may or may not be competent to translate.

Particularly where legal or other vital documents are being translated, competence can often be achieved by use of certified translators. Certification or accreditation may not always be possible or necessary. (12) Competence can often be ensured by having a second, independent translator "check" the work of the primary translator. Alternatively, one translator can translate the document, and a second, independent translator could translate it back into English to check that the appropriate meaning has been conveyed. This is called "back translation."

Translators should understand the expected reading level of the audience and, where appropriate, have fundamental knowledge about the target language group's vocabulary and phraseology. Sometimes direct translation of materials results in a translation that is written at a much more difficult level than the English language version or has no relevant equivalent meaning. (13) Community organizations may be able to help consider whether a document is written at a good level for the audience. Likewise, consistency in the words and phrases used to translate terms of art, legal, or other technical concepts helps avoid confusion by LEP individuals and may reduce costs. Creating or using already-created glossaries of commonly-used terms may be useful for LEP persons and translators and cost effective for the recipient. Providing translators with examples of previous accurate translations of similar material by the recipient, other recipients, or federal agencies may be helpful.

While quality and accuracy of translation services is critical, the quality and accuracy of translation services is nonetheless part of the appropriate mix of LEP services required. For instance, documents that are simple and have no legal or other consequence for LEP persons who rely on them may use translators that are less skilled than important documents with legal or other information upon which reliance has important consequences (including, e.g., information or documents of DOJ recipients regarding certain law enforcement, health, and safety services and certain legal rights). The permanent nature of written translations, however, imposes additional responsibility on the recipient to ensure that the quality and accuracy permit meaningful access by LEP persons.

VII. Elements of Effective Plan on Language Assistance for LEP Persons

After completing the four-factor analysis and deciding what language assistance services are appropriate, a recipient should develop an implementation plan to address the identified needs of the LEP populations they serve. Recipients have considerable flexibility in developing this plan. The development and maintenance of a periodically-updated written plan on language assistance for LEP persons ("LEP plan") for use by recipient employees serving the public will likely be the most appropriate and cost-effective means of documenting compliance and providing a framework for the provision of timely and reasonable language assistance. Moreover, such written plans would likely provide additional benefits to a recipient's managers in the areas of training, administration, planning, and budgeting. These benefits should lead most recipients to document in a written LEP plan their language assistance services, and how staff and LEP persons can access those services. Despite these benefits, certain DOJ recipients, such as recipients serving very few LEP persons and recipients with very limited resources, may choose not to develop a written LEP plan. However, the absence of a written LEP plan does not obviate the underlying obligation to ensure meaningful access by LEP persons to a recipient's program or activities. Accordingly, in the event that a recipient elects not to develop a written plan, it should consider alternative ways to articulate in some other reasonable manner a plan for providing meaningful access. Entities having significant contact with LEP persons, such as schools, religious organizations, community groups, and groups working with new immigrants can be very helpful in providing important input into this planning process from the beginning.

The following five steps may be helpful in designing an LEP plan and are typically part of effective implementation plans.

(1) Identifying LEP Individuals Who Need Language Assistance

The first two factors in the four-factor analysis require an assessment of the number or proportion of LEP individuals eligible to be served or encountered and the frequency of encounters. This requires recipients to identify LEP persons with whom it has contact.

One way to determine the language of communication is to use language identification cards (or "I speak cards"), which invite LEP persons to identify their language needs to staff. Such cards, for instance, might say "I speak Spanish" in both Spanish and English, "I speak Vietnamese" in both English and Vietnamese, etc. To reduce costs of compliance, the federal government has made a set of these cards available on the Internet. The Census Bureau "I speak card" can be found and downloaded at When records are normally kept of past interactions with members of the public, the language of the LEP person can be included as part of the record. In addition to helping employees identify the language of LEP persons they encounter, this process will help in future applications of the first two factors of the four-factor analysis. In addition, posting notices in commonly encountered languages notifying LEP persons of language assistance will encourage them to self-identify.

(2) Language Assistance Measures

An effective LEP plan would likely include information about the ways in which language assistance will be provided. For instance, recipients may want to include information on at least the following:

  • . Types of language services available.
  • . How staff can obtain those services.
  • . How to respond to LEP callers.
  • . How to respond to written communications from LEP persons.
  • . How to respond to LEP individuals who have in-person contact with recipient staff.
  • . How to ensure competency of interpreters and translation services.
(3) Training Staff

Staff should know their obligations to provide meaningful access to information and services for LEP persons. An effective LEP plan would likely include training to ensure that:

  • .Staff know about LEP policies and procedures.
  • .Staff having contact with the public (or those in a recipient's custody) are trained to work effectively with in-person and telephone interpreters.
Recipients may want to include this training as part of the orientation for new employees. It is important to ensure that all employees in public contact positions (or having contact with those in a recipient's custody) are properly trained. Recipients have flexibility in deciding the manner in which the training is provided. The more frequent the contact with LEP persons, the greater the need will be for in-depth training. Staff with little or no contact with LEP persons may only have to be aware of an LEP plan. However, management staff, even if they do not interact regularly with LEP persons, should be fully aware of and understand the plan so they can reinforce its importance and ensure its implementation by staff.

(4) Providing Notice to LEP Persons

Once an agency has decided, based on the four factors, that it will provide language services, it is important for the recipient to let LEP persons know that those services are available and that they are free of charge. Recipients should provide this notice in a language LEP persons will understand. Examples of notification that recipients should consider include:

  • .Posting signs in intake areas and other entry points. When language assistance is needed to ensure meaningful access to information and services, it is important to provide notice in appropriate languages in intake areas or initial points of contact so that LEP persons can learn how to access those language services. This is particularly true in areas with high volumes of LEP persons seeking access to certain health, safety, or law enforcement services or activities run by DOJ recipients. For instance, signs in intake offices could state that free language assistance is available. The signs should be translated into the most common languages encountered. They should explain how to get the language help. (14)
  • .Stating in outreach documents that language services are available from the agency. Announcements could be in, for instance, brochures, booklets, and in outreach and recruitment information. These statements should be translated into the most common languages and could be "tagged" onto the front of common documents.
  • .Working with community-based organizations and other stakeholders to inform LEP individuals of the recipients' services, including the availability of language assistance services.
  • .Using a telephone voice mail menu. The menu could be in the most common languages encountered. It should provide information about available language assistance services and how to get them.
  • .Including notices in local newspapers in languages other than English.
  • .Providing notices on non-English-language radio and television stations about the available language assistance services and how to get them.
  • .Presentations and/or notices at schools and religious organizations.
(5) Monitoring and Updating the LEP Plan

Recipients should, where appropriate, have a process for determining, on an ongoing basis, whether new documents, programs, services, and activities need to be made accessible for LEP individuals, and they may want to provide notice of any changes in services to the LEP public and to employees. In addition, recipients should consider whether changes in demographics, types of services, or other needs require annual reevaluation of their LEP plan. Less frequent reevaluation may be more appropriate where demographics, services, and needs are more static. One good way to evaluate the LEP plan is to seek feedback from the community.

In their reviews, recipients may want to consider assessing changes in:

  • .Current LEP populations in service area or population affected or encountered.
  • .Frequency of encounters with LEP language groups.
  • .Nature and importance of activities to LEP persons.
  • .Availability of resources, including technological advances and sources of additional resources, and the costs imposed.
  • .Whether existing assistance is meeting the needs of LEP persons.
  • .Whether staff knows and understands the LEP plan and how to implement it.
  • .Whether identified sources for assistance are still available and viable.
In addition to these five elements, effective plans set clear goals, management accountability, and opportunities for community input and planning throughout the process.

VIII. Voluntary Compliance Effort

The goal for Title VI and Title VI regulatory enforcement is to achieve voluntary compliance. The requirement to provide meaningful access to LEP persons is enforced and implemented by DOJ through the procedures identified in the Title VI regulations. These procedures include complaint investigations, compliance reviews, efforts to secure voluntary compliance, and technical assistance.

The Title VI regulations provide that DOJ will investigate whenever it receives a complaint, report, or other information that alleges or indicates possible noncompliance with Title VI or its regulations. If the investigation results in a finding of compliance, DOJ will inform the recipient in writing of this determination, including the basis for the determination. DOJ uses voluntary mediation to resolve most complaints. However, if a case is fully investigated and results in a finding of noncompliance, DOJ must inform the recipient of the noncompliance through a Letter of Findings that sets out the areas of noncompliance and the steps that must be taken to correct the noncompliance. It must attempt to secure voluntary compliance through informal means. If the matter cannot be resolved informally, DOJ must secure compliance through the termination of federal assistance after the DOJ recipient has been given an opportunity for an administrative hearing and/or by referring the matter to a DOJ litigation section to seek injunctive relief or pursue other enforcement proceedings. DOJ engages in voluntary compliance efforts and provides technical assistance to recipients at all stages of an investigation. During these efforts, DOJ proposes reasonable timetables for achieving compliance and consults with and assists recipients in exploring cost-effective ways of coming into compliance. In determining a recipient's compliance with the Title VI regulations, DOJ's primary concern is to ensure that the recipient's policies and procedures provide meaningful access for LEP persons to the recipient's programs and activities.

While all recipients must work toward building systems that will ensure access for LEP individuals, DOJ acknowledges that the implementation of a comprehensive system to serve LEP individuals is a process and that a system will evolve over time as it is implemented and periodically reevaluated. As recipients take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to federally assisted programs and activities for LEP persons, DOJ will look favorably on intermediate steps recipients take that are consistent with this Guidance, and that, as part of a broader implementation plan or schedule, move their service delivery system toward providing full access to LEP persons. This does not excuse noncompliance but instead recognizes that full compliance in all areas of a recipient's activities and for all potential language minority groups may reasonably require a series of implementing actions over a period of time. However, in developing any phased implementation schedule, DOJ recipients should ensure that the provision of appropriate assistance for significant LEP populations or with respect to activities having a significant impact on the health, safety, legal rights, or livelihood of beneficiaries is addressed first. Recipients are encouraged to document their efforts to provide LEP persons with meaningful access to federally assisted programs and activities.

IX. Application to Specific Types of Recipients

Appendix A of this Guidance provides examples of how the meaningful access requirement of the Title VI regulations applies to law enforcement, corrections, courts, and other recipients of DOJ assistance.

A. State and Local Law Enforcement

Appendix A further explains how law enforcement recipients can apply the four factors to a range of encounters with the public. The responsibility for providing language services differs with different types of encounters.

Appendix A helps recipients identify the population they should consider when considering the types of services to provide. It then provides guidance and examples of applying the four factors. For instance, it gives examples on how to apply this guidance to:

  • .Receiving and responding to requests for help
  • .Enforcement stops short of arrest and field investigations
  • .Custodial interrogations
  • .Intake/detention Community outreach
B. Departments of Corrections

Appendix A also helps departments of corrections understand how to apply the four factors. For instance, it gives examples of LEP access in:

  • .Intake
  • .Disciplinary action
  • .Health and safety
  • .Participation in classes or other programs affecting length of sentence
  • .English as a Second Language (ESL) Classes
  • .Community corrections programs
C. Other Types of Recipients

Appendix A also applies the four factors and gives examples for other types of recipients. Those include, for example:

  • .Courts
  • .Juvenile Justice Programs
  • .Domestic Violence Prevention/Treatment Programs
1. DOJ recognizes that many recipients had language assistance programs in place prior to the issuance of Executive Order 13166. This policy guidance provides a uniform framework for a recipient to integrate, formalize, and assess the continued vitality of these existing and possibly additional reasonable efforts based on the nature of its program or activity, the current needs of the LEP populations it encounters, and its prior experience in providing language services in the community it serves.

2. The policy guidance is not a regulation but rather a guide. Title VI and its implementing regulations require that recipients take responsible steps to ensure meaningful access by LEP persons. This guidance provides an analytical framework that recipients may use to determine how best to comply with statutory and regulatory obligations to provide meaningful access to the benefits, services, information, and other important portions of their programs and activities for individuals who are limited English proficient.

3. The memorandum noted that some commentators have interpreted Sandoval as impliedly striking down the disparate-impact regulations promulgated under Title VI that form the basis for the part of Executive Order 13166 that applies to federally assisted programs and activities. See, e.g., Sandoval, 532 U.S. at 286, 286 n.6 ("[W]e assume for purposes of this decision that section 602 confers the authority to promulgate disparate-impact regulations; . . . We cannot help observing, however, how strange it is to say that disparate-impact regulations are `inspired by, at the service of, and inseparably intertwined with ' Sec. 601 * * * when Sec. 601 permits the very behavior that the regulations forbid."). The memorandum, however, made clear that DOJ disagreed with the commentators' interpretation. Sandoval holds principally that there is no private right of action to enforce Title VI disparate-impact regulations. It did not address the validity of those regulations or Executive Order 13166 or otherwise limit the authority and responsibility of federal grant agencies to enforce their own implementing regulations.

4. Pursuant to Executive Order 13166, the meaningful access requirement of the Title VI regulations and the four-factor analysis set forth in the DOJ LEP Guidance are to additionally apply to the programs and activities of federal agencies, including the Department of Justice.

5. As used in this guidance, the word "court" or "courts" includes administrative adjudicatory systems or administrative hearings administered or conducted by a recipient.

6. However, if a federal agency were to decide to terminate federal funds based on noncompliance with Title VI or its regulations, only funds directed to the particular program or activity that is out of compliance would be terminated. 42 U.S.C. 2000d-1.

7. The focus of the analysis is on lack of English proficiency, not the ability to speak more than one language. Note that demographic data may indicate the most frequently spoken languages other than English and the percentage of people who speak that language who speak or understand English less than well. Some of the most commonly spoken languages other than English may be spoken by people who are also overwhelmingly proficient in English. Thus, they may not be the languages spoken most frequently by limited English proficient individuals. When using demographic data, it is important to focus in on the languages spoken by those who are not proficient in English.

8. Small recipients with limited resources may find that entering into a bulk telephonic interpretation service contract will prove cost effective.

9. Many languages have "regionalisms," or differences in usage. For instance, a word that may be understood to mean something in Spanish for someone from Cuba may not be so understood by someone from Mexico. In addition, because there may be languages which do not have an appropriate direct interpretation of some courtroom or legal terms and the interpreter should be so aware and be able to provide the most appropriate interpretation. The interpreter should likely make the recipient aware of the issue and the interpreter and recipient can then work to develop a consistent and appropriate set of descriptions of these terms in that language that can be used again, when appropriate

10. For those languages in which no formal accreditation or certification currently exists, courts and law enforcement agencies should consider a formal process for establishing the credentials of the interpreter.

11. For example, special circumstances of confinement may raise additional serious concerns regarding the voluntary nature, conflicts of interest, and privacy issues surrounding the use of inmates and detainees as interpreters, particularly where an important right, benefit, service, disciplinary concern, or access to personal or law enforcement information is at stake. In some situations, inmates could potentially misuse information they obtained in interpreting for other inmates. In addition to ensuring competency and accuracy of the interpretation, recipients should take these special circumstances into account when determining whether an inmate or detainee makes a knowing and voluntary choice to use another inmate or detainee as an interpreter.

12. For those languages in which no formal accreditation currently exists, a particular level of membership in a professional translation association can provide some indicator of professionalism.

13. For instance, there may be languages which do not have an appropriate direct translation of some courtroom or legal terms and the translator should be able to provide an appropriate translation. The translator should likely also make the recipient aware of this. Recipients can then work with translators to develop a consistent and appropriate set of descriptions of these terms in that language that can be used again, when appropriate. Recipients will find it more effective and less costly if they try to maintain consistency in the words and phrases used to translate terms of art and legal or other technical concepts. Creating or using already-created glossaries of commonly used terms may be useful for LEP persons and translators and cost effective for the recipient. Providing translators with examples of previous translations of similar material by the recipient, other recipients, or federal agencies may be helpful.

14. The Social Security Administration has made such signs available at These signs could, for example, be modified for recipient use.


While a wide range of entities receive federal financial assistance through DOJ, most of DOJ's assistance goes to law enforcement agencies, including state and local police and sheriffs' departments, and to state departments of corrections. Sections A and B below provide examples of how these two major types of DOJ recipients might apply the four-factor analysis. Section C provides examples for other types of recipients. The examples in this Appendix are not meant to be exhaustive and may not apply in many situations.

The requirements of the Title VI regulations, as clarified by this Guidance, supplement, but do not supplant, constitutional and other statutory or regulatory provisions that may require LEP services. Thus, a proper application of the four-factor analysis and compliance with the Title VI regulations does not replace constitutional or other statutory protections mandating warnings and notices in languages other than English in the criminal justice context. Rather, this Guidance clarifies the Title VI regulatory obligation to address, in appropriate circumstances and in a reasonable manner, the language assistance needs of LEP individuals beyond those required by the Constitution or statutes and regulations other than the Title VI regulations.

A. State and Local Law Enforcement

For the vast majority of the public, exposure to law enforcement begins and ends with interactions with law enforcement personnel discharging their duties while on patrol, responding to a request for services, talking to witnesses, or conducting community outreach activities. For a much smaller number, that exposure includes a visit to a station house. And for an important but even smaller number, that visit to the station house results in one's exposure to the criminal justice, judicial, or juvenile justice systems.

The common thread running through these and other interactions between the public and law enforcement is the exchange of information. Where police and sheriffs' departments receive federal financial assistance, these departments have an obligation to provide LEP services to LEP individuals to ensure that they have meaningful access to the system, including, for example, understanding rights and accessing police assistance. Language barriers can, for instance, prevent victims from effectively reporting crimes to the police and hinder police investigations of reported crimes. For example, failure to communicate effectively with a victim of domestic violence can result in reliance on the batterer or a minor child and failure to identify and protect against harm.

Many police and sheriffs' departments already provide language services in a wide variety of circumstances to obtain information effectively, to build trust and relationships with the community, and to contribute to the safety of law enforcement personnel. For example, many police departments already have available printed Miranda rights in languages other than English as well as interpreters available to inform LEP persons of their rights and to interpret police interviews. (1) In areas where significant LEP populations reside, law enforcement officials already may have forms and notices in languages other than English or they may employ bilingual law enforcement officers, intake personnel, counselors, and support staff. These experiences can form a strong basis for applying the four-factor analysis and complying with the Title VI regulations.

1. General Principles

The touchstone of the four-factor analysis is reasonableness based upon the specific purposes, needs, and capabilities of the law enforcement service under review and an appreciation of the nature and particularized needs of the LEP population served. Accordingly, the analysis cannot provide a single uniform answer on how service to LEP persons must be provided in all programs or activities in all situations or whether such service need be provided at all. Knowledge of local conditions and community needs becomes critical in determining the type and level of language services needed.

Before giving specific examples, several general points should assist law enforcement in correctly applying the analysis to the wide range of services employed in their particular jurisdictions.

a. Permanent Versus Seasonal Populations

In many communities, resident populations change over time or season. For example, in some resort communities, populations swell during peak vacation periods, many times exceeding the number of permanent residents of the jurisdiction. In other communities, primarily agricultural areas, transient populations of workers will require increased law enforcement services during the relevant harvest season. This dynamic demographic ebb and flow can also dramatically change the size and nature of the LEP community likely to come into contact with law enforcement personnel. Thus, law enforcement officials may not want to limit their analysis to numbers and percentages of permanent residents. In assessing factor one--the number or proportion of LEP individuals--police departments should consider any significant but temporary changes in a jurisdiction's demographics.

Example: A rural jurisdiction has a permanent population of 30,000, 7% of which is Hispanic. Based on demographic data and on information from the contiguous school district, of that number, only 15% are estimated to be LEP individuals. Thus, the total estimated permanent LEP population is 315 or approximately 1% of the total permanent population. Under the four-factor analysis, a sheriffs' department could reasonably conclude that the small number of LEP persons makes the affirmative translation of documents and/or employment of bilingual staff unnecessary. However, during the spring and summer planting and harvest seasons, the local population swells to 40,000 due to the influx of seasonal agricultural workers. Of this transitional number, about 75% are Hispanic and about 50% of that number are LEP individuals. This information comes from the schools and a local migrant worker community group. Thus, during the harvest season, the jurisdiction's LEP population increases to over 10% of all residents. In this case, the department may want to consider whether it is required to translate vital written documents into Spanish. In addition, this increase in LEP population during those seasons makes it important for the jurisdiction to review its interpretation services to ensure meaningful access for LEP individuals.

b. Target Audiences

For most law enforcement services, the target audience is defined in geographic rather than programmatic terms. However, some services may be targeted to reach a particular audience (e.g., elementary school children, elderly, residents of high crime areas, minority communities, small business owners/operators). Also, within the larger geographic area covered by a police department, certain precincts or portions of precincts may have concentrations of LEP persons. In these cases, even if the overall number or proportion of LEP individuals in the district is low, the frequency of contact may be foreseeably higher for certain areas or programs. Thus, the second factor--frequency of contact--should be considered in light of the specific program or the geographic area being served.

Example: A police department that receives funds from the DOJ Office of Justice Programs initiates a program to increase awareness and understanding of police services among elementary school age children in high crime areas of the jurisdiction. This program involves "Officer in the Classroom" presentations at elementary schools located in areas of high poverty. The population of the jurisdiction is estimated to include only 3% LEP individuals. However, the LEP population at the target schools is 35%, the vast majority of whom are Vietnamese speakers. In applying the four-factor analysis, the higher LEP language group populations of the target schools and the frequency of contact within the program with LEP students in those schools, not the LEP population generally, should be used in determining the nature of the LEP needs of that particular program. Further, because the Vietnamese LEP population is concentrated in one or two main areas of town, the police department should consider whether to apply the four-factor analysis to other services provided by the police department.

c. Importance of Service/Information

Given the critical role law enforcement plays in maintaining quality of life and property, traditional law enforcement and protective services rank high on the critical/non-critical continuum. However, this does not mean that information about, or provided by, each of the myriad services and activities performed by law enforcement officials must be equally available in languages other than English. While clearly important to the ultimate success of law enforcement, certain community outreach activities do not have the same direct impact on the provision of core law enforcement services as the activities of 911 lines or law enforcement officials' ability to respond to requests for assistance while on patrol, to communicate basic information to suspects, etc. Nevertheless, with the rising importance of community partnerships and community-based programming as a law enforcement technique, the need for language services with respect to these programs should be considered in applying the four-factor analysis.

d. Interpreters

Just as with other recipients, law enforcement recipients have a variety of options for providing language services. Under certain circumstances, when interpreters are required and recipients should provide competent interpreter services free of cost to the LEP person, LEP persons should be advised that they may choose either to secure the assistance of an interpreter of their own choosing, at their own expense, or a competent interpreter provided by the recipient.

If the LEP person decides to provide his or her own interpreter, the provision of this choice to the LEP person and the LEP person's election should be documented in any written record generated with respect to the LEP person. While an LEP person may sometimes look to bilingual family members or friends or other persons with whom they are comfortable for language assistance, there are many situations where an LEP person might want to rely upon recipient-supplied interpretative services. For example, such individuals may not be available when and where they are needed, or may not have the ability to interpret program-specific technical information. Alternatively, an individual may feel uncomfortable revealing or describing sensitive, confidential, or potentially embarrassing medical, law enforcement (e.g., sexual or violent assaults), family, or financial information to a family member, friend, or member of the local community. Similarly, there may be situations where a recipient's own interests justify the provision of an interpreter regardless of whether the LEP individual also provides his or her own interpreter. For example, where precise, complete and accurate translations of information and/or testimony are critical for law enforcement, adjudicatory or legal reasons, a recipient might decide to provide its own, independent interpreter, even if an LEP person wants to use their own interpreter as well.

In emergency situations that are not reasonably foreseeable, the recipient may have to temporarily rely on non-recipient-provided language services. Reliance on children is especially discouraged unless there is an extreme emergency and no preferable interpreters are available.

While all language services need to be competent, the greater the potential consequences, the greater the need to monitor interpretation services for quality. For instance, it is important that interpreters in custodial interrogations be highly competent to translate legal and other law enforcement concepts, as well as be extremely accurate in their interpretation. It may be sufficient, however, for a desk clerk who is bilingual but not skilled at interpreting to help an LEP person figure out to whom he or she needs to talk about setting up a neighborhood watch.

2. Applying the Four-Factor Analysis Along the Law Enforcement Continuum

While all police activities are important, the four-factor analysis requires some prioritizing so that language services are targeted where most needed because of the nature and importance of the particular law enforcement activity involved. In addition, because of the "reasonableness" standard, and frequency of contact and resources/costs factors, the obligation to provide language services increases where the importance of the activity is greater.

Under this framework, then, critical areas for language assistance could include 911 calls, custodial interrogation, and health and safety issues for persons within the control of the police. These activities should be considered the most important under the four-factor analysis. Systems for receiving and investigating complaints from the public are important. Often very important are routine patrol activities, receiving non-emergency information regarding potential crimes, and ticketing. Community outreach activities are hard to categorize, but generally they do not rise to the same level of importance as the other activities listed. However, with the importance of community partnerships and community-based programming as a law enforcement technique, the need for language services with respect to these programs should be considered in applying the four-factor analysis. Police departments have a great deal of flexibility in determining how to best address their outreach to LEP populations.

a. Receiving and Responding to Requests for Assistance

LEP persons must have meaningful access to police services when they are victims of or witnesses to alleged criminal activity. Effective reporting systems transform victims, witnesses, or bystanders into assistants in law enforcement and investigation processes. Given the critical role the public plays in reporting crimes or directing limited law enforcement resources to time- sensitive emergency or public safety situations, efforts to address the language assistance needs of LEP individuals could have a significant impact on improving responsiveness, effectiveness, and safety.

Emergency service lines for the public, or 911 lines, operated by agencies that receive federal financial assistance must be accessible to persons who are LEP. This will mean different things to different jurisdictions. For instance, in large cities with significant LEP communities, the 911 line may have operators who are bilingual and capable of accurately interpreting in high stress situations. Smaller cities or areas with small LEP populations should still have a plan for serving callers who are LEP, but the LEP plan and implementation may involve a telephonic interpretation service that is fast enough and reliable enough to attend to the emergency situation, or include some other accommodation short of hiring bilingual operators.

Example: A large city provides bilingual operators for the most frequently encountered languages, and uses a commercial telephone interpretation service when it receives calls from LEP persons who speak other languages. Ten percent of the city's population is LEP, and sixty percent of the LEP population speaks Spanish. In addition to 911 service, the city has a 311 line for non-emergency police services. The 311 Center has Spanish speaking operators available, and uses a language bank, staffed by the city's bilingual city employees who are competent translators, for other non-English-speaking callers. The city also has a campaign to educate non- English speakers when to use 311 instead of 911. These actions constitute strong evidence of compliance.

b. Enforcement Stops Short of Arrest and Field Investigations

Field enforcement includes, for example, traffic stops, pedestrian stops, serving warrants and restraining orders, Terry stops, activities in aid of other jurisdictions or federal agencies (e.g., fugitive arrests or INS detentions), and crowd/traffic control. Because of the diffuse nature of these activities, the reasonableness standard allows for great flexibility in providing meaningful access. Nevertheless, the ability of law enforcement agencies to discharge fully and effectively their enforcement and crime interdiction mission requires the ability to communicate instructions, commands, and notices. For example, a routine traffic stop can become a difficult situation if an officer is unable to communicate effectively the reason for the stop, the need for identification or other information, and the meaning of any written citation. Requests for consent to search are meaningless if the request is not understood. Similarly, crowd control commands will be wholly ineffective where significant numbers of people in a crowd cannot understand the meaning of law enforcement commands.

Given the wide range of possible situations in which law enforcement in the field can take place, it is impossible to equip every officer with the tools necessary to respond to every possible LEP scenario. Rather, in applying the four factors to field enforcement, the goal should be to implement measures addressing the language needs of significant LEP populations in the most likely, common, and important situations, as consistent with the recipients' resources and costs.

Example: A police department serves a jurisdiction with a significant number of LEP individuals residing in one or more precincts, and it is routinely asked to provide crowd control services at community events or demonstrations in those precincts. If it is otherwise consistent with the requirements of the four-factor analysis, the police department should assess how it will discharge its crowd control duties in a language-appropriate manner. Among the possible approaches are plans to assign bilingual officers, basic language training of all officers in common law enforcement commands, the use of devices that provide audio commands in the predictable languages, or the distribution of translated written materials for use by officers.

Field investigations include neighborhood canvassing, witness identification and interviewing, investigative or Terry stops, and similar activities designed to solicit and obtain information from the community or particular persons. Encounters with LEP individuals will often be less predictable in field investigations. However, the jurisdiction should still assess the potential for contact with LEP individuals in the course of field investigations and investigative stops, identify the LEP language group(s) most likely to be encountered, and provide, if it is consistent with the four-factor analysis, its officers with sufficient interpretation and/or translation resources to ensure that lack of English proficiency does not impede otherwise proper investigations or unduly burden LEP individuals.

Example: A police department in a moderately large city includes a precinct that serves an area which includes significant LEP populations whose native languages are Spanish, Korean, and Tagalog. Law enforcement officials could reasonably consider the adoption of a plan assigning bilingual investigative officers to the precinct and/or creating a resource list of department employees competent to interpret and ready to assist officers by phone or radio. This could be combined with developing language-appropriate written materials, such as consents to searches or statements of rights, for use by its officers where LEP individuals are literate in their languages. In certain circumstances, it may also be helpful to have telephonic interpretation service access where other options are not successful and safety and availability of phone access permit.

Example: A police department receives federal financial assistance and serves a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. It routinely sends officers on domestic violence calls. The police department is in a state in which English has been declared the official language. The police therefore determine that they cannot provide language services to LEP persons. Thus, when the victim of domestic violence speaks only Spanish and the perpetrator speaks English, the officers have no way to speak with the victim so they only get the perpetrator's side of the story. The failure to communicate effectively with the victim results in further abuse and failure to charge the batterer. The police department should be aware that despite the state's official English law, the Title VI regulations apply to it. Thus, the police department should provide meaningful access for LEP persons.

c. Custodial Interrogations

Custodial interrogations of unrepresented LEP individuals trigger constitutional rights that this Guidance is not designed to address. Given the importance of being able to communicate effectively under such circumstances, law enforcement recipients should ensure competent and free language services for LEP individuals in such situations. Law enforcement agencies are strongly encouraged to create a written plan on language assistance for LEP persons in this area. In addition, in formulating a plan for effectively communicating with LEP individuals, agencies should strongly consider whether qualified independent interpreters would be more appropriate during custodial interrogations than law enforcement personnel themselves. (2) Example: A large city police department institutes an LEP plan that requires arresting officers to procure a qualified interpreter for any custodial interrogation, notification of rights, or taking of a formal statement where the suspect's legal rights could be adversely impacted. . When considering whether an interpreter is qualified, the LEP plan discourages use of police officers as interpreters in interrogations except under circumstances in which the LEP individual is informed of the officer's dual role and the reliability of the interpretation is verified, such as, for example, where the officer has been trained and tested in interpreting and tape recordings are made of the entire interview. In determining whether an interpreter is qualified, the jurisdiction uses the analysis noted above. These actions would constitute strong evidence of compliance.

d. Intake/Detention

State or local law enforcement agencies that arrest LEP persons should consider the inherent communication impediments to gathering information from the LEP arrestee through an intake or booking process. Aside from the basic information, such as the LEP arrestee's name and address, law enforcement agencies should evaluate their ability to communicate with the LEP arrestee about his or her medical condition. Because medical screening questions are commonly used to elicit information on the arrestee's medical needs, suicidal inclinations, presence of contagious diseases, potential illness, resulting symptoms upon withdrawal from certain medications, or the need to segregate the arrestee from other prisoners, it is important for law enforcement agencies to consider how to communicate effectively with an LEP arrestee at this stage. In jurisdictions with few bilingual officers or in situations where the LEP person speaks a language not encountered very frequently, telephonic interpretation services may provide the most cost effective and efficient method of communication.

e. Community Outreach

Community outreach activities increasingly are recognized as important to the ultimate success of more traditional duties. Thus, an application of the four-factor analysis to community outreach activities can play an important role in ensuring that the purpose of these activities (to improve police/community relations and advance law enforcement objectives) is not thwarted due to the failure to address the language needs of LEP persons.

Example: A police department initiates a program of domestic counseling in an effort to reduce the number or intensity of domestic violence interactions. A review of domestic violence records in the city reveals that 25% of all domestic violence responses are to minority areas and 30% of those responses involve interactions with one or more LEP persons, most of whom speak the same language. After completing the four-factor analysis, the department should take reasonable steps to make the counseling accessible to LEP individuals. For instance, the department could seek bilingual counselors (for whom they provided training in translation) for some of the counseling positions. In addition, the department could have an agreement with a local university in which bilingual social work majors who are competent in interpreting, as well as language majors who are trained by the department in basic domestic violence sensitivity and counseling, are used as interpreters when the in-house bilingual staff cannot cover the need. Interpreters under such circumstances should sign a confidentiality agreement with the department. These actions constitute strong evidence of compliance.

Example: A large city has initiated an outreach program designed to address a problem of robberies of Vietnamese homes by Vietnamese gangs. One strategy is to work with community groups and banks and others to help allay traditional fears in the community of putting money and other valuables in banks. Because a large portion of the target audience is Vietnamese speaking and LEP, the department contracts with a bilingual community liaison competent in the skill of translating to help with outreach activities. This action constitutes strong evidence of compliance.

B. Departments of Corrections/Jails/Detention Centers

Departments of corrections that receive federal financial assistance from DOJ must provide LEP prisoners (3) with meaningful access to benefits and services within the program. In order to do so, corrections departments, like other recipients, must apply the four-factor analysis.

1. General Principles

Departments of corrections also have a wide variety of options in providing translation services appropriate to the particular situation. Bilingual staff competent in interpreting, in person or by phone, pose one option. Additionally, particular prisons may have agreements with local colleges and universities, interpreter services, and/or community organizations to provide paid or volunteer competent translators under agreements of confidentiality and impartiality. Telephonic interpretation services may offer a prudent oral interpreting option for prisons with very few and/or infrequent prisoners in a particular language group. Reliance on fellow prisoners is generally not appropriate. Reliance on fellow prisoners should only be an option in unforeseeable emergency circumstances; when the LEP inmate signs a waiver that is in his/her language and in a form designed for him/her to understand; or where the topic of communication is not sensitive, confidential, important, or technical in nature and the prisoner is competent in the skill of interpreting.

In addition, a department of corrections that receives federal financial assistance would be ultimately responsible for ensuring that LEP inmates have meaningful access within a prison run by a private or other entity with which the department has entered into a contract. The department may provide the staff and materials necessary to provide required language services, or it may choose to require the entity with which it contracted to provide the services itself.

2. Applying the Four Factors Along the Corrections Continuum

As with law enforcement activities, critical and predictable contact with LEP individuals poses the greatest obligation for language services. Corrections facilities have somewhat greater abilities to assess the language needs of those they encounter, although inmate populations may change rapidly in some areas. Contact affecting health and safety, length of stay, and discipline likely present the most critical situations under the four-factor analysis.

a. Assessment

Each department of corrections that receives federal financial assistance should assess the number of LEP prisoners who are in the system, in which prisons they are located, and the languages he or she speaks. Each prisoner's LEP status, and the language he or she speaks, should be placed in his or her file. Although this Guidance and Title VI are not meant to address literacy levels, agencies should be aware of literacy problems so that LEP services are provided in a way that is meaningful and useful (e.g., translated written materials are of little use to a nonliterate inmate). After the initial assessment, new LEP prisoners should be identified at intake or orientation, and the data should be updated accordingly.

b. Intake/Orientation

Intake/Orientation plays a critical role not merely in the system's identification of LEP prisoners, but in providing those prisoners with fundamental information about their obligations to comply with system regulations, participate in education and training, receive appropriate medical treatment, and enjoy recreation. Even if only one prisoner doesn't understand English, that prisoner should likely be given the opportunity to be informed of the rules, obligations, and opportunities in a manner designed effectively to communicate these matters. An appropriate analogy is the obligation to communicate effectively with deaf prisoners, which is most frequently accomplished through sign language interpreters or written materials. Not every prison will use the same method for providing language assistance. Prisons with large numbers of Spanish-speaking LEP prisoners, for example, may choose to translate written rules, notices, and other important orientation material into Spanish with oral instructions, whereas prisons with very few such inmates may choose to rely upon a telephonic interpretation service or qualified community volunteers to assist.

Example: The department of corrections in a state with a 5% Haitian Creole-speaking LEP corrections population and an 8% Spanish-speaking LEP population receives federal financial assistance to expand one of its prisons. The department of corrections has developed an intake video in Haitian Creole and another in Spanish for all of the prisons within the department to use when orienting new prisoners who are LEP and speak one of those languages. In addition, the department provides inmates with an opportunity to ask questions and discuss intake information through either bilingual staff who are competent in interpreting and who are present at the orientation or who are patched in by phone to act as interpreters. The department also has an agreement whereby some of its prisons house a small number of INS detainees. For those detainees or other inmates who are LEP and do not speak Haitian Creole or Spanish, the department has created a list of sources for interpretation, including department staff, contract interpreters, university resources, and a telephonic interpretation service. Each person receives at least an oral explanation of the rights, rules, and opportunities. These actions constitute strong evidence of compliance. Example:

A department of corrections that receives federal financial assistance determines that, even though the state in which it resides has a law declaring English the official language, it should still ensure that LEP prisoners understand the rules, rights, and opportunities and have meaningful access to important information and services at the state prisons. Despite the state's official English law, the Title VI regulations apply to the department of corrections.

c. Disciplinary Action

When a prisoner who is LEP is the subject of disciplinary action, the prison, where appropriate, should provide language assistance. That assistance should ensure that the LEP prisoner had adequate notice of the rule in question and is meaningfully able to understand and participate in the process afforded prisoners under those circumstances. As noted previously, fellow inmates should generally not serve as interpreters in disciplinary hearings.

d. Health and Safety

Prisons providing health services should refer to the Department of Health and Human Services' guidance (4) regarding health care providers' Title VI and Title VI regulatory obligations, as well as with this Guidance.

Health care services are obviously extremely important. How access to those services is provided depends upon the four-factor analysis. If, for instance, a prison serves a high proportion of LEP individuals who speak Spanish, then the prison health care provider should likely have available qualified bilingual medical staff or interpreters versed in medical terms. If the population of LEP individuals is low, then the prison may choose instead, for example, to rely on a local community volunteer program that provides qualified interpreters through a university. Due to the private nature of medical situations, only in unpredictable emergency situations or in non-emergency cases where the inmate has waived rights to a non-inmate interpreter would the use of other bilingual inmates be appropriate.

e. Participation Affecting Length of Sentence

If a prisoner's LEP status makes him/her unable to participate in a particular program, such a failure to participate should not be used to adversely impact the length of stay or significantly affect the conditions of imprisonment. Prisons have options in how to apply this standard. For instance, prisons could: (1) make the program accessible to the LEP inmate; (2) identify or develop substitute or alternative, language-accessible programs, or (3) waive the requirement.

Example: State law provides that otherwise eligible prisoners may receive early release if they take and pass an alcohol counseling program. Given the importance of early release, LEP prisoners should, where appropriate, be provided access to this prerequisite in some fashion. How that access is provided depends on the three factors other than importance. If, for example, there are many LEP prisoners speaking a particular language in the prison system, the class could be provided in that language for those inmates. If there were far fewer LEP prisoners speaking a particular language, the prison might still need to ensure access to this prerequisite because of the importance of early release opportunities. Options include, for example, use of bilingual teachers, contract interpreters, or community volunteers to interpret during the class, reliance on videos or written explanations in a language the inmate understands, and/or modification of the requirements of the class to meet the LEP individual's ability to understand and communicate.

f. ESL Classes

States often mandate English-as-a-Second language (ESL) classes for LEP inmates. Nothing in this Guidance indicates how recipients should address such mandates. But recipients should not overlook the long-term positive impacts of incorporating or offering ESL programs in parallel with language assistance services as one possible strategy for ensuring meaningful access. ESL courses can serve as an important adjunct to a proper LEP plan in prisons because, as prisoners gain proficiency in English, fewer language services are needed. However, the fact that ESL classes are made available does not obviate the need to provide meaningful access for prisoners who are not yet English proficient.

g. Community Corrections

This guidance also applies to community corrections programs that receive, directly or indirectly, federal financial assistance. For them, the most frequent contact with LEP individuals will be with an offender, a victim, or the family members of either, but may also include witnesses and community members in the area in which a crime was committed.

As with other recipient activities, community corrections programs should apply the four factors and determine areas where language services are most needed and reasonable. Important oral communications include, for example: interviews; explaining conditions of probations/release; developing case plans; setting up referrals for services; regular supervision contacts; outlining violations of probations/parole and recommendations; and making adjustments to the case plan. Competent oral language services for LEP persons are important for each of these types of communication. Recipients have great flexibility in determining how to provide those services.

Just as with all language services, it is important that language services be competent. Some knowledge of the legal system may be necessary in certain circumstances. For example, special attention should be given to the technical interpretation skills of interpreters used when obtaining information from an offender during pre-sentence and violation of probation/parole investigations or in other circumstances in which legal terms and the results of inaccuracies could impose an enormous burden on the LEP person.

In addition, just as with other recipients, corrections programs should identify vital written materials for probation and parole that should be translated when a significant number or proportion of LEP individuals that speak a particular language is encountered. Vital documents in this context could include, for instance: probation/parole department descriptions and grievance procedures, offender rights information, the pre-sentence/release investigation report, notices of alleged violations, sentencing/release orders, including conditions of parole, and victim impact statement questionnaires.

C. Other Types of Recipients

DOJ provides federal financial assistance to many other types of entities and programs, including, for example, courts, juvenile justice programs, shelters for victims of domestic violence, and domestic violence prevention programs. The Title VI regulations and this Guidance apply to those entities. Examples involving some of those recipients follow:

1. Courts (5)

Application of the four-factor analysis requires recipient courts to ensure that LEP parties and witnesses receive competent language services, consistent with the four-factor analysis. At a minimum, every effort should be taken to ensure competent interpretation for LEP individuals during all hearings, trials, and motions during which the LEP individual must and/or may be present. When a recipient court appoints an attorney to represent an LEP defendant, the court should ensure that either the attorney is proficient in the LEP person's language or that a competent interpreter is provided during consultations between the attorney and the LEP person.

Many states have created or adopted certification procedures for court interpreters. This is one way for recipients to ensure competency of interpreters. Where certification is available, courts should consider carefully the qualifications of interpreters who are not certified. Courts will not, however, always be able to find a certified interpreter, particularly for less frequently encountered languages. In a courtroom or administrative hearing setting, the use of informal interpreters, such as family members, friends, and caretakers, would not be appropriate.

Example: A state court receiving DOJ federal financial assistance has frequent contact with LEP individuals as parties and witnesses, but has experienced a shortage in certified interpreters in the range of languages encountered. State court officials work with training and testing consultants to broaden the number of certified interpreters available in the top several languages spoken by LEP individuals in the state. Because resources are scarce and the development of tests expensive, state court officials decide to partner with other states that have already established agreements to share proficiency tests and to develop new ones together. The state court officials also look to other existing state plans for examples of: codes of professional conduct for interpreters; mandatory orientation and basic training for interpreters; interpreter proficiency tests in Spanish and Vietnamese language interpretation; a written test in English for interpreters in all languages covering professional responsibility, basic legal term definitions, court procedures, etc. They are considering working with other states to expand testing certification programs in coming years to include several other most frequently encountered languages. These actions constitute strong evidence of compliance.

Many individuals, while able to communicate in English to some extent, are still LEP insofar as ability to understand the terms and precise language of the courtroom. Courts should consider carefully whether a person will be able to understand and communicate effectively in the stressful role of a witness or party and in situations where knowledge of language subtleties and/or technical terms and concepts are involved or where key determinations are made based on credibility.

Example: Judges in a county court receiving federal financial assistance have adopted a voir dire for determining a witness' need for an interpreter. The voir dire avoids questions that could be answered with "yes" or "no." It includes questions about comfort level in English, and questions that require active responses, such as: "How did you come to court today?" etc. The judges also ask the witness more complicated conceptual questions to determine the extent of the person's proficiency in English. These actions constitute strong evidence of compliance.

Example: A court encounters a domestic violence victim who is LEP. Even though the court is located in a state where English has been declared the official language, it employs a competent interpreter to ensure meaningful access. Despite the state's official English law, the Title VI regulations apply to the court.

When courts experience low numbers or proportions of LEP individuals from a particular language group and infrequent contact with that language group, creation of a new certification test for interpreters may be overly burdensome. In such cases, other methods should be used to determine the competency of interpreters for the court's purposes.

Example: A witness in a county court in a large city speaks Urdu and not English. The jurisdiction has no court interpreter certification testing for Urdu language interpreters because very few LEP individuals encountered speak Urdu and there is no such test available through other states or organizations. However, a non-certified interpreter is available and has been given the standard English-language test on court processes and interpreter ethics. The judge brings in a second, independent, bilingual Urdu-speaking person from a local university, and asks the prospective interpreter to interpret the judge's conversation with the second individual. The judge then asks the second Urdu speaker a series of questions designed to determine whether the interpreter accurately interpreted their conversation. Given the infrequent contact, the low number and proportion of Urdu LEP individuals in the area, and the high cost of providing certification tests for Urdu interpreters, this "second check" solution may be one appropriate way of ensuring meaningful access to the LEP individual.

Example: In order to minimize the necessity of the type of intense judicial intervention on the issue of quality noted in the previous example, the court administrators in a jurisdiction, working closely with interpreter and translator associations, the bar, judges, and community groups, have developed and disseminated a stringent set of qualifications for court interpreters. The state has adopted a certification test in several languages. A questionnaire and qualifications process helps identify qualified interpreters even when certified interpreters are not available to meet a particular language need. Thus, the court administrators create a pool from which judges and attorneys can choose. A team of court personnel, judges, interpreters, and others have developed a recommended interpreter oath and a set of frequently asked questions and answers regarding court interpreting that have been provided to judges and clerks. The frequently asked questions include information regarding the use of team interpreters, breaks, the types of interpreting (consecutive, simultaneous, summary, and sight translations) and the professional standards for use of each one, and suggested questions for determining whether an LEP witness is effectively able to communicate through the interpreter. Information sessions on the use of interpreters are provided for judges and clerks. These actions constitute strong evidence of compliance.

Another key to successful use of interpreters in the courtroom is to ensure that everyone in the process understands the role of the interpreter.

Example: Judges in a recipient court administer a standard oath to each interpreter and make a statement to the jury that the role of the interpreter is to interpret, verbatim, the questions posed to the witness and the witness' response. The jury should focus on the words, not the non-verbals, of the interpreter. The judges also clarify the role of the interpreter to the witness and the attorneys. These actions constitute strong evidence of compliance.

Just as corrections recipients should take care to ensure that eligible LEP individuals have the opportunity to reduce the term of their sentence to the same extent that non-LEP individuals do, courts should ensure that LEP persons have access to programs that would give them the equal opportunity to avoid serving a sentence at all.

Example: An LEP defendant should be given the same access to alternatives to sentencing, such as anger management, batterers' treatment and intervention, and alcohol abuse counseling, as is given to non-LEP persons in the same circumstances.

Courts have significant contact with the public outside of the courtroom. Providing meaningful access to the legal process for LEP individuals might require more than just providing interpreters in the courtroom. Recipient courts should assess the need for language services all along the process, particularly in areas with high numbers of unrepresented individuals, such as family, landlord-tenant, traffic, and small claims courts.

Example: Only twenty thousand people live in a rural county. The county superior court receives DOJ funds but does not have a budget comparable to that of a more-populous urbanized county in the state. Over 1000 LEP Hispanic immigrants have settled in the rural county. The urbanized county also has more than 1000 LEP Hispanic immigrants. Both counties have "how to" materials in English helping unrepresented individuals negotiate the family court processes and providing information for victims of domestic violence. The urban county has taken the lead in developing Spanish-language translations of materials that would explain the process. The rural county modifies these slightly with the assistance of family law and domestic violence advocates serving the Hispanic community, and thereby benefits from the work of the urban county. Creative solutions, such as sharing resources across jurisdictions and working with local bar associations and community groups, can help overcome serious financial concerns in areas with few resources.

There may be some instances in which the four-factor analysis of a particular portion of a recipient's program leads to the conclusion that language services are not currently required. For instance, the four-factor analysis may not necessarily require that a purely voluntary tour of a ceremonial courtroom be given in languages other than English by courtroom personnel, because the relative importance may not warrant such services given an application of the other factors. However, a court may decide to provide such tours in languages other than English given the demographics and the interest in the court. Because the analysis is fact-dependent, the same conclusion may not be appropriate with respect to all tours.

Just as with police departments, courts and/or particular divisions within courts may have more contact with LEP individuals than an assessment of the general population would indicate. Recipients should consider that higher contact level when determining the number or proportion of LEP individuals in the contact population and the frequency of such contact.

Example: A county has very few residents who are LEP. However, many Vietnamese-speaking LEP motorists go through a major freeway running through the county that connects two areas with high populations of Vietnamese speaking LEP individuals. As a result, the Traffic Division of the county court processes a large number of LEP persons, but it has taken no steps to train staff or provide forms or other language access in that Division because of the small number of LEP individuals in the county. The Division should assess the number and proportion of LEP individuals processed by the Division and the frequency of such contact. With those numbers high, the Traffic Division may find that it needs to provide key forms or instructions in Vietnamese. It may also find, from talking with community groups, that many older Vietnamese LEP individuals do not read Vietnamese well, and that it should provide oral language services as well. The court may already have Vietnamese-speaking staff competent in interpreting in a different section of the court; it may decide to hire a Vietnamese-speaking employee who is competent in the skill of interpreting; or it may decide that a telephonic interpretation service suffices.

2. Juvenile Justice Programs

DOJ provides funds to many juvenile justice programs to which this Guidance applies. Recipients should consider LEP parents when minor children encounter the legal system. Absent an emergency, recipients are strongly discouraged from using children as interpreters for LEP parents.

Example: A county coordinator for an anti-gang program operated by a DOJ recipient has noticed that increasing numbers of gangs have formed comprised primarily of LEP individuals speaking a particular foreign language. The coordinator may choose to assess the number of LEP youths at risk of involvement in these gangs, so that she can determine whether the program should hire a counselor who is bilingual in the particular language and English, or provide other types of language services to the LEP youths.

When applying the four factors, recipients encountering juveniles should take into account that certain programs or activities may be even more critical and difficult to access for juveniles than they would be for adults. For instance, although an adult detainee may need some language services to access family members, a juvenile being detained on immigration-related charges who is held by a recipient may need more language services in order to have access to his or her parents.

3. Domestic Violence Prevention/Treatment Programs

Several domestic violence prevention and treatment programs receive DOJ financial assistance and thus must apply this Guidance to their programs and activities. As with all other recipients, the mix of services needed should be determined after conducting the four-factor analysis. For instance, a shelter for victims of domestic violence serving a largely Hispanic area in which many people are LEP should strongly consider accessing qualified bilingual counselors, staff, and volunteers, whereas a shelter that has experienced almost no encounters with LEP persons and serves an area with very few LEP persons may only reasonably need access to a telephonic interpretation service. Experience, program modifications, and demographic changes may require modifications to the mix over time.

Example: A shelter for victims of domestic violence is operated by a recipient of DOJ funds and located in an area where 15 percent of the women in the service area speak Spanish and are LEP. Seven percent of the women in the service area speak various Chinese dialects and are LEP. The shelter uses competent community volunteers to help translate vital outreach materials into Chinese (which is one written language despite many dialects) and Spanish. The shelter hotline has a menu providing key information, such as location, in English, Spanish, and two of the most common Chinese dialects. Calls for immediate assistance are handled by the bilingual staff. The shelter has one counselor and several volunteers fluent in Spanish and English. Some volunteers are fluent in different Chinese dialects and in English. The shelter works with community groups to access interpreters in the several Chinese dialects that they encounter. Shelter staff train the community volunteers in the sensitivities of domestic violence intake and counseling. Volunteers sign confidentiality agreements. The shelter is looking for a grant to increase its language capabilities despite its tiny budget. These actions constitute strong evidence of compliance.

1. The Department's Federal Bureau of Investigation makes written versions of those rights available in several different languages. Of course, where literacy is of concern, these are most useful in assisting an interpreter in using consistent terms when providing Miranda warnings orally.

2. Some state laws prohibit police officers from serving as interpreters during custodial interrogation of suspects.

3. In this Guidance, the terms "prisoners" or "inmates" include all of those individuals, including Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) detainees and juveniles, who are held in a facility operated by a recipient. Certain statutory, regulatory, or constitutional mandates/rights may apply only to juveniles, such as educational rights, including those for students with disabilities or limited English proficiency. Because a decision by a recipient or a federal, state, or local entity to make an activity compulsory serves as strong evidence of the program's importance, the obligation to provide language services may differ depending upon whether the LEP person is a juvenile or an adult inmate.

4. A copy of that guidance can be found on the HHS Web site at and at

5. As used in this appendix, the word "court" or "courts" includes administrative adjudicatory systems or administrative hearings administered or conducted by a recipient.

Updated August 6, 2015