The reasons for communication problem in correctional facilities



Criminal Justice System is a term that is commonly used in various regions of the world which means, a set of agencies and procedures that have been established by the respective governments for controlling crime and imposing penalties for law violators. Since the emergence of developmental theories which emphasize on reasons for people engaging in crime, laws have been established in the world according to relevant developmental theories and principles (Frick, 2011). There are three main components of criminal justice which are the law enforcement sector, the courts, and the correctional facilities.  The law enforcement department in the United States includes police officers, the FBI, and the department of homeland security while in other countries, relevant police departments are involved. The court sector of criminal justice is constituted by attorneys and judges while the correctional constituents are the jails, prisons, and probation centers.

The paper will discuss the communication problem that is experienced in the correctional facilities which in some cases result in death. However, it will take into consideration three significant problems that have been researched and analyzed by various scholars and highlight possible ways of improving or eradicating the problem. It is essential to note that the paper will give a definitive conclusion which will act as a recap of the crucial details that will be in the body section of the paper. Also, it is inevitable to note that criminal justice is one of the departments that any government needs to invest in wholly not only for public safety but also to keep top government officials within the parameters of his or her senior position (Howard, 2007).


Communication is the process of sending and receiving information from one place to another, and from one person to another without the presence of a language barrier. Language barrier represents factors that make the sender and the receiver of the particular information not to understand the message. Therefore, if there is any form of a language barrier, then there is no existence of effective communication. Communication is important in that it facilitates sending and receiving of information, giving orders, making inquiries, and allowing legal transactions in this case. Therefore, communication in the correctional facilities is essential for the sake of the prisoners and the officers. Effective communication, therefore, guarantees peace and co-existence within the facility. The following are the significant problems that bring about language barrier;

Existence of one-way Technology

The one-way technology in this issue is the language assistance devices which are mainly handled by officers and can be or are programmed with hundreds of pre-recorded instructions in several languages. These devices have major setbacks including the fact that they cannot switch to the desired language immediately. In the case of dealing with foreign prisoners, the officers in a given correctional facility waste a lot of time in trying to get the device to work in the preferred language. In particular cases, the device fails to recognize the particular chosen language which makes communication difficult. Insha Rahman argues that despite the fact that the one-way technology works in several languages the police officers lack the training to choose the right language in the shortest time possible quickly.

However, Rahman provides that the one-way gadgets in the correctional centers tie up the user’s hands which can be a hindrance to safety. Here, he insists that the devices have to be used while in the hands of an officer making him or her vulnerable to cruel or peace breakers in the prisons. Another problem with the technology in the discussion is that it may be complicated and cumbersome to trigger a change in back and forth between languages for the officers. Finally, the gadgets are not mature enough to assist in situations that call for an immediate response keeping in mind that the correctional centers have people from different parts of the world and who use various languages (Rahman, 2007).


Various stakeholders in the welfare of the police officers in prison and the prisoners have come up with the suggestion of coming up with a two-way technology. The two-way technology serves the same purposes as the one-way devices but will be designed to effect change from one language to another effectively. It will be an advancement of the one-way devices, and it will aid in reducing the language barrier in the correctional institutions.


Multilingualism or bilingualism is the act of speaking more than two languages and two languages effectively. Due to the evolution in various sectors of the economy, there have been interactions of people from all regions of the world. It has resulted in people moving from one country to another for education or transaction purposes which make them answerable to the laws of the particular country. Therefore, in the case that people are taken to prison, and they do not belong to that country, officers are not able to communicate effectively with the individual. It is because the government does not invest in training police officers in various language to meet the demands of the correctional centers. It is of great essence that state officials can speak two or more languages to be able to undertake or perform duties on behalf of the national government. In the case where police officers are not communicating effectively with the prisoners, then there is a possibility of violation of fundamental rights of the prisoners since the officers cannot understand the language of the prisoner (Spangenberg, 2008).


The government of any country should establish learning facilities or their police officers to learn the different languages. It is crucial that a significant number of police officers can understand most of the world’s languages to promote understanding of different cultures of people. However, it will facilitate fair treatment in the correctional entities since there will be no language barrier. However, the government can take the initiative of outsourcing qualified individuals to work in the prisons as interpreters to various languages. Here, it is straightforward communicating with any individuals within the correctional facilities since there are individuals who understand the particular language.


The major problem that has curbed communication within the correctional department of the criminal justice system is the lack of transfer treaties among nations. Somboon Prasopnetr argues that foreign prisoners that are incarcerated in other countries have already become one of the contributing factors to the language barrier within the correctional facilities.  He argues that the increase in tourism, migration due to employment opportunities, and the changes that have occurred in the economic and political regime have increased the number of individuals moving and working abroad. Therefore, the number of people engaging in crime such as drug trafficking, illegal entry to the country, and credit card fraud among other unlawful acts have increased the number of foreigners in prison. Since many countries are not prepared for such cases, foreigners are taken to court and then to prison, but the prison wardens are unable to communicate with the law offenders (Rahman, 2007).


It is vital that nations come up with prisoner transfer treaties that will help reduce the problem of communication in prison. The respective nations can come up with either multilateral treaties or bilateral treaties. The suggested methods will ensure that all involved countries can get their citizens to their prisons to avoid any unwanted circumstances. However, the treaties will ensure that countries maintain a good streak of cooperation which will be useful in the long run.  The Multilateral treaties involve joining up of different countries to agree on the terms and conditions of prisoner transfer (Prasopnetr, 2010). On the other hand, the bilateral treaties apply when there are no multilateral treaties; therefore, a country has to approach another for negotiating the bilateral treaties. Samboon states that the conditions and procedures for transferring prisoners of each nation may differ from another treaty depending on the negotiation of the affected states.


Communication is a vital aspect of human beings given that for anything to be done there has to be clear information which is enhanced by the availability of efficient transfer of information. Therefore, communication enhances the lives of people through giving and receiving instructions, allows transaction processes, and facilitates the occurrence of inquiries. When there is a language barrier among people, there is a likelihood of quarrels or any unwanted circumstance. In the case of a language barrier in the correctional centers, there is a possibility of an eruption of violence, lack of respect, or mistreatment. The three particular problems identified in the paper which bring along communication barriers in one of the departments of criminal justice are inadequate bilingual or multilingual officers, lack of foreign prisoner transfer treaties and existence of one-way technology. It is essential to note that the paper has provided recommendations to each of the identified problems.

The problem of lack of prisoner transfer treaties allows the accumulation of prisoners in a foreign land. It establishes a room for language barrier given that the prisoner is not in his or her homeland making the police officers unable to communicate effectively with the prisoner. The recommendation provided is that countries should establish prisoner transfer treaties. However, inadequate prison officers with little or no knowledge of foreign languages should be solved through the government investing in educating police officers on foreign languages. It will lay a strong foundation for communicating with prisoners eradicating the possibility of an eruption of violence. Finally, one-way technology should be replaced with two-way technology. One-way technology has many drawbacks such as it is cumbersome to switch back and forth from one language to another, it is not suitable in cases demanding an immediate response, and the prison officers have no adequate training with the one-way technology.  It is the responsibility of the government and the concerned private institutions to ensure that prisoners have the right treatment and are in a conducive environment for human existence. Hence, communication barriers should be addressed entirely to avoid any unlawful activities in prison.

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  3. JUSTICE, D. O. (2010). Effective Communication with the Criminal Justice System , 1-4.
  7. Kingsholm, M. (2016). Case Characteristics of Prisoners with Communication Problems, 1-5.
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