U.S. Justice Department commends agency for compliance in providing translation for Latino inmates.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has met terms in a portion of a settlement agreement involving language access for inmates held in county jails, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

In a letter to the county sent Aug. 3, the Justice Department said it has concluded enforcement and oversight of the Sheriff’s Office providing translation to Latino inmates. 

DOJ officials commended MCSO and Maricopa County for their compliance, describing the reforms as a “significant accomplishment” that will create a “safer and more suitable environment” for Latinos held in county jails. 

“We recognize the hard work and dedication that went into development and implementation of these reforms, and appreciate the cooperation of MCSO …,” wrote Steven Rosenbaum, DOJ’s chief of the Special Litigation Unit. “As a result of their efforts, we believe that there has been a significant shift in MCSO jail personnel’s attitudes toward and treatment of Latinos in MCSO jails.”

A lawsuit filed in 2012 alleged the Sheriff’s Office, then headed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, engaged in discriminatory police practices, unfairly targeted Latinos during traffic stops and workplace raids and did not provide adequate services to inmates with limited English proficiency.

Federal investigators alleged Latino inmates with poor or no English proficiency were frequently punished for not understanding English, were required to fill out forms in a language they did not understand or were denied critical services available to English-speaking inmates.

After a settlement was approved in 2015, the Sheriff’s Office was required to continue to provide adequate access and resources to non-English-speaking inmates and to implement a policy that made it clear that officers should not rely on other inmates to translate. 

The agreement also required the Sheriff’s Office to ensure that classes and programs are available to non-English-speaking inmates.

The Justice Department had access to quarterly reports the Sheriff’s Office was required to compile that detailed how often interpretation services are used and how frequently non-English-speaking inmates file grievances, among other items.

“We have determined that MCSO and Maricopa County have met the terms of the jails agreement and, accordingly, that it is appropriate for DOJ to conclude its enforcement and oversight of the agreement,” Rosenbaum wrote.

He added that the DOJ will “look forward to hearing of your sustained and continuing dedication to projecting and improving safe and equitable conditions” for Latino inmates.

The Justice Department’s letter noted the Sheriff’s Office used televisions and interactive video kiosks to communicate with inmates in the jails’ intake area and housing units. The jails effectively marked their rules and regulations with signs in both English and Spanish, the Justice Department said. 

The Sheriff’s Office had also offered a salary increase to employees with foreign-language skills, to serve as an incentive for employees to self-identify as Spanish speaking, the Justice Department noted.

“Our Custody Leadership and our Detention Officers have worked long and hard to ensure that we were in compliance with this settlement agreement, and I am very proud of what they’ve accomplished,” Sheriff Paul Penzone said in a statement Wednesday. “We are committed to building on this foundation for the long term.”


Ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio: I’d take a pardon from President Donald Trump

Sentencing and other questions: What could happen to Joe Arpaio?

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt

Man in Arpaio profiling case speaks for first time

Read or Share this story: http://azc.cc/2vSc5zB