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TIP Survey Measures Satisfaction
A recent survey of users of the Judiciary’s Telephone Interpreting Program (TIP) shows that a majority of court interpreters surveyed strongly agree or agree that TIP provides interpretation services at levels comparable to face-to-face interpretation in the court. Feedback from the survey is already being used to improve the program.
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How would you rate the overall effectiveness of the TIP courtroom equipment and audio quality?
TIP provides remote interpretation for short court proceedings where a certified or highly qualified court interpreter may not be available locally. By way of a two-line telephone system in a courtroom, staff interpreters at eight provider courts may simultaneously interpret nationwide in short proceedings such as pretrial hearings, initial appearances, arraignments, and probation and pretrial services interviews. TIP helps ensure defendants receive quality interpreting services in a timely manner, while reducing the travel and costs associated with sending certified or highly qualified court interpreters to the courts that need services. The program has saved the Judiciary an estimated $9 million since fiscal year 2001.
Fifty-one districts that receive or provide TIP services were asked to participate in the survey. Within those districts, the TIP survey asked 1,074 stakeholders—district and magistrate judges, attorneys, interpreters and technical or administrative staff—about their level of satisfaction with TIP and about areas that might need improvement.
A majority of judges surveyed strongly agreed or agreed that TIP helps ensure access to justice for individuals with limited English proficiency, and a majority of judges and attorneys said they would use TIP again. All staff interpreters responding to the survey rated the effectiveness of the two-line telephone system as excellent. The response of administrative and technical staff also was overwhelmingly positive.
TIP provides remote interpretation for short court proceedings where a certified or highly qualified court interpreter may not be available locally
Some suggestions for improvements related to possible telephone line or equipment malfunctions. Noise or echoes in the system were cited, and some interpreters thought their ability to provide services had been inhibited by the inability to hear the parties during proceedings, a problem that may be tracked to the placement of microphones in the courtroom. Some judges and attorneys indicated that the lack of three-way communication to facilitate private attorney/client exchanges during a hearing and the inability to receive interpretation over TIP for multiple defendants created challenges. Scheduling interpreters across time zones was also a concern.
Solutions to the concerns expressed by stakeholders already are on the way. The AO began by bringing coordinators of court interpreter services together for training in July and offering special TIP sessions. A review of new technologies has begun that will address audio quality concerns. The TIP equipment currently in use is very cost effective and reliable, but it is also 10 years old. Digital audio and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems may provide better audio over the Judiciary data communications network. VoIP also allows for multiple channels, which would give attorneys the three-way communication they want for client conferences, as well as allow interpreters to serve multiple defendants. Also in the works are a new scheduling system and an on-line forum—taking the form of either a ListServ or Community of Practice—for TIP provider and receiver courts. Stakeholders will have a forum where they can connect, discuss issues, and work together on any problems that may arise in the future.