Issues in Communication and the Legal System
Communication is defined as the “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior (“Communication,” 2011). The two most common types of communication are verbal and non-verbal forms of communication as professionals in the criminal justice system must be able to speak and write clearly and coherently. Being able to effectively communicate verbally also requires attentive listening skills to adequately understand what a person is saying. A lack of listening skills is an issue within the criminal justice system as the average listener only hears, understands, and retains 50 percent of what is actually being said (Mathewson, 2009). With the significant increase in cultural diversity in the United States, language barriers are another issue in the criminal justice system. A non-native person that does not speak English and has learned English as a second language may cause a decrease in the clarity of a verbal conversation; as a result, many law enforcement agencies are not sufficiently staffed to communicate in different languages (Mathewson, 2009). Almost 25 million people living in the United States are not proficient English speakers, which mean that they require an interpreter to ensure that their rights are protected (Chen, 2009). Out of 35 states with significant immigration, almost half of these states do not guarantee interpreters in some court cases (Chen, 2009). For example, one study identified a Korean domestic violence survivor that could not speak fluent English. The judge denied her request for a restraining order because he could not understand what she was saying (Chen, 2009). Law enforcement personnel should also be aware of cultural differences in non-verbal communication in order to effectively communicate with different cultures. For example, people of Hispanic origin often embrace physical closeness while touching and...
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