This article was originally published in May of 2018 on DSTidbit News.

Updated: 7:42 PM PST 

Inmates that are incarnated under the Department of Corrections in Louisiana has an option to become interpreters for other deaf inmates.  In 2016, Mishka Zena, a blogger mentioned that the former president of RID, Dr. Daniel D. Burch helped establish an ITP (Interpreting Training Program) at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center.

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The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS&C) announced that they held a graduation ceremony Thursday, February 19, 2015, at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center for eight male and female offenders who have recently completed a three-year sign language interpretation program. This had been the third graduating class since the program began in 2009.  

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An owner of an interpreting agency jokingly said that ex-cons are welcome as interpreters because of their knowledge of legal jargon. While prisoners are encouraged to learn a trade, working directly with individuals providing a service that covers sensitive topics should be frowned upon according to many interpreters. RID has already tried to reach out to discuss with people whether a Criminal Conviction Policy should be in place. Shonna Magee Hudson shared her thoughts about a new bill that is now encouraging the state of Louisiana to utilize such programs for inmates needing interpreters and members of the community. “they are training inmates to be interpreters. It’s a program that’s been in effect for quite some time. The inmates in training are interpreting for medical appointments and disciplinary hearings of Deaf inmates. No neutrality and they’re getting leverage on Deaf inmates. Absolutely unethical.” This was to clarify what this bill was to somebody that asked if this bill was providing more access to training for deaf individuals. 

People might wonder if RID is aware of what’s happening in Louisana. They are, after all the former president of RID, Dr. Daniel D. Burch is the one that helped establish this program and is currently the Vice President of an interpreting agency. On top of being “entrusted” with other inmates’ personal information, thirteen out of thirty-four have earned a “national certification” on the Educational Interpreting Performance Assessment test. There has been no formal response to the bill by the Louisiana branch of RID. Mishka Zena has shared with us the bill so everybody can read it and have a better understanding of what exactly is being proposed.

Update: The bill has been pulled by Representative Smith from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Smith responded to our LIVE verifying that the bill has indeed been pulled. 

EIPA assessment is generally reserved for those that are trying to become educational interpreters so the main issue here is, are school districts going to be careful about using interpreting agencies to fill voids in their school system without utilizing background checks of their own? It has already been made clear that interpreting agencies do not do their own background checks and when asked, somebody that does hiring for freelance interpreters said, “I’ve never asked any of my interpreters “Have you done jail time?”” William Vicars

Correction: William Vicars is not an individual that does hiring for freelance interpreters, however, he is somebody that uses interpreters on a regular basis and that quote was intended to be perceived coming from a consumer. He has reached out to DSTidbit News and expressed a very detailed opinion on the situation and expressed his appreciation however wanted us to clarify that he is not somebody that works for interpreting agencies. To see his comment, please see below. 

Daniel D. Burch has taken advantage of the penal system by providing a “service that only they provide” and is being recognized by the State of Louisiana as the provider of services for inmates to obtain training to become interpreters. “WHEREAS, Sign Language Services International, Inc., has administered programs to inmates housed at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center; these programs certify inmates as sign language interpreters;” HLS 18RS-1547  

National Association for the Deaf is quoted in this bill as a supporting factor in why the state of Louisiana should utilize inmates as interpreters.  NAD has been aware of this for years and has done nothing about it. 

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on DSTidbit News under the same author. This article has been placed on Deaf Vee Journal for archiving purposes.