February 8, 2016
Language has power, especially in highly charged situations where criminal suspects face police arrest. The American Anthropological Association supports efforts to ensure that all suspects are informed of their rights in an effective and meaningful manner without regard to language or background. We endorse the following “Guidelines for communicating rights to non-native speakers of English in Australia, England and Wales, and the USA,” prepared by the Communication of Rights Group (which includes legal and linguistic experts). As anthropologists we recognize that native language and linguistic competency vary, and support these recommendations to help ensure that suspects demonstrably understand their rights. We offer these guidelines in the spirit of improving effective communications.