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Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 70 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2003 Pages: 134-135
Ralph F. Boyd Jr.
Date Published
April 2003
2 pages
This article outlines the U.S. Justice Department's guidelines to recipients of Federal financial assistance regarding the provision of meaningful access to funded services by individuals who are Limited English Proficient (LEP).
The guidelines were issued on June 18, 2002. The document explains how law enforcement agencies and other recipients of U.S. Justice Department funds can help ensure meaningful access for LEP persons by providing qualified interpreters and translators and by considering the need of LEP constituents during planning. The guidance is based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and is inspired by Executive Order 13166. Together, they require Federal agencies and recipients of Federal funds to take reasonable steps to ensure that LEP persons have meaningful access to programs and activities provided by or funded by the Federal Government. The precise steps a recipient must take to provide meaningful access to LEP persons through a program or services are determined by a four-factor balancing test. The balancing test focuses on the number of LEP persons eligible to be served or encountered; the frequency of contact with LEP persons; the nature and importance of the program to LEP persons; and the resources available, including costs of providing LEP services. This guidance for giving access to LEP individuals is not an attempt to create a bilingual or multilingual society. The guidance is an interim measure that works alongside the commitment to English language acquisition. A new language cannot be learned overnight, and many people, particularly many of the elderly, may not have a realistic potential to learn English. Through the programs it funds, the Justice Department intends that the millions of LEP members of the American public can obtain meaningful access to statements of rights, complaint processes, government benefits and services, and other critical information and programs, so they may be helped to become full participants in the rights, protections, and benefits of American society.


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