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The Third Branch

Remote interpreting capabilities assessed

By Carmel A. Capati, Manager, Court Interpreter Program

During May, National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Consultant Kevin O'Connell visited five courts throughout the state over three days as part of the final phase of a State Justice Institute (SJI) technical assistance grant the Director of State Courts Office received from the NCSC to assess remote interpreting capabilities in Wisconsin courts.

Kevin O'Connell, Carmel Capati, Sheila Reiff, Saul Arteaga and local jail staff (on screen) participated in a recent video conference demonstration in Walworth County.

Kevin O'Connell, Carmel Capati, Sheila Reiff, Saul Arteaga and local jail staff (on screen) participated in a recent video conference demonstration in Walworth County. The demonstration connected the courtroom, jail and an interpreter located at a remote location. Walworth County has the ability to bridge up to five locations.

The primary purpose of the site visits was to understand issues with interpretation broadly, and remote interpreting specifically. In these meetings, O'Connell met with key stakeholders such as judges, clerks of court, district court administrators, court staff, interpreters (staff and contract), as well as administrative heads from the Director's Office. The five locations were Dane, Dodge, Richland, Walworth, and Waukesha counties. These sites varied in volume of interpreting, from Dane county and its 2,200 hours of interpretation to Richland with 12 hours in 2013, as well as business practices around the use of interpreters, video, and technology usage.

Each of the counties employs different processes for arrangement of interpreter services, ranging from the use of staff interpreters to a county-wide contract with an interpreting agency and reliance on freelance interpreters. The counties also were selected because they have the technology to implement video remote interpreting (VRI) and expressed a desire to expand in this area.

In general, VRI can be a viable alternative to in-person interpreters when a certified interpreter is not available locally or when the language need is rare. According to an article entitled "Video Remote Interpretation as a Business Solution" authored by NCSC Vice President of Research and Technology Thomas Clarke in its 2014 Trends in State Courts publication, 13 states have implemented pilot VRI projects or are expanding existing projects while another 14 states are planning to explore or evaluate VRI during the next year. Wisconsin is one of the 14 states that will continue to explore VRI as the site visits categorically showed a high level of interest in using technology to its fullest potential, in particular with interpreter services.

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