Office of Cultural and Language Access Services
The Office of Cultural and Language Access Services, formerly known as the Division of Hispanic and Cultural Affairs, is responsible for implementing DOCCS’ Language Access Plan and related procedures, coordinating and tracking the Department’s language assistance efforts, and ensuring that individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) can access the Department’s programs, services and benefits. The Office is part of the Division of Education and under the general direction of the Director of Education.
It is the policy of DOCCS that individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) shall receive free language assistance so that they can access the same programs, services and benefits that are available to individuals who are not limited English proficient, whether DOCCS provides that program, service or benefit directly or indirectly, such as through a contract or a memorandum of understanding. It is especially important to ensure that the length of an LEP inmate’s incarceration or an LEP individual’s post-release status is not adversely affected because of any failure to provide free language assistance to that person. If it is an undue burden to provide qualified interpretation or translation services for a program, then an individual with Limited English Proficiency cannot be penalized for nonparticipation and DOCCS must waive the program requirement.
To assist staff in identifying an LEP individual’s primary language, DOCCS will have "I Speak" cards distributed to staff and place "Language Identification Tool" posters at locations where staff may encounter individuals with Limited English Proficiency. The Language Access Coordinator (LAC) ensures that these resources are readily available to employees throughout the Department.
Interpretation services will be provided to inmates, releases, relatives, visitors, and others free of charge. Staff will identify the language by asking the LEP individual to identify the language by asking them verbally or by guiding the LEP individual with the aforementioned tools. Once the language has been identified, the staff member will contact the vendor to secure interpretation services.
The translation of DOCCS’ vital documents into the most common non-English primary languages identified by New York State and any other languages identified by the Department will be executed. In addition to English, the following languages have been identified in New York State as the most common: Chinese, Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean, Russian and Spanish.
The Office of Cultural and Language Access Services will coordinate translation services for correctional facilities and Central Office units. To maintain appropriate levels of safety, security and good order in all facilities, DOCCS requires staff to adhere to specific procedures for document translations.
All privileged or confidential information obtained during the course of providing language access services shall only be disclosed to authorized persons. Authorized recipients of any person’s health information shall adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Health Services Policy Manual, other applicable legal requirements and applicable professional licensure requirements. When DOCCS relies on external interpreters or translators, these individuals are subject to HIPAA’s requirements as well.
- To improve communication between inmates and releasees with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and employees throughout the Department.
- To provide seminars and training workshops for Department employees with the objective that the employees gain a better understanding and recognition of cultural, linguistic and ethnic differences with the inmate population.
- To provide comprehensive translation services specifically geared to efficiently function with a population ensuring that inmates and releasees with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and those from other ethnic backgrounds in the system obtain the same resources and program opportunities that the Department offers to English speaking inmates and releasees.
Liaison between the Department and diverse ethnic community agencies and representatives for the purpose of providing resources and support to inmates and releasees in need of these services.
Translation and Interpretation Services.
Key Program OfferingsCompadre Helper Program (English and Spanish)
All interested Department staff, or inmates or of any ethnic background are eligible to participate in these programs and services.
Varies by programs and services.
All correctional facilities are offered these programs and services.
COMPADRE HELPER PROGRAM
The Compadre Helper Program is a peer counseling course designed to provide students with the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills to help their peers and themselves cope with the psychological aspect of personal development based on Maslow’s self-actualizing philosophy. This program is offered in English and Spanish.
- To help the students look for answers pertaining to personal concerns within themselves and to adjust to the environment.
- To learn four basic helping skills clusters:
- Attending Skills Cluster
- Adding Skills Cluster
- Confronting Skills Cluster
- Problem Solving Skills Cluster
Basic Program - 40 hours
Train the Trainer - 100 hours
Basic Program - any inmate who is interested.
Train the Trainer - inmates should have either a High School Diploma or meet the requirements for Inmate Program Assistants.
Attendance -- attend classes on a regular basis.
Participation -- quantity and quality of interaction.
Demonstration of skills clusters -- test and role-play.