Forensic Assessment with Hispanic and Limited English-Proficient Hispanic Evaluees: A Survey of Practice

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Abstract

Given the changing demographics in the United States, most forensic evaluators will likely be asked to evaluate someone of Hispanic background, including those who are limited English-proficient (LEP). Little is known about forensic practice with these evaluees, including evaluations of competency to stand trial (CST) and criminal responsibility (CR). The authors recruited psychologists from 3 professional organizations via email and surveyed them about their experience with Hispanic and LEP-Hispanic forensic evaluees. Of the 79 respondents, about 90% reported assessing at least 1 English-speaking Hispanic evaluee, whereas about 55% reported assessing at least 1 LEP-Hispanic evaluee. Forty respondents reported willingness to evaluate LEP-Hispanic individuals, but only 8 indicated they are able to conduct forensic interviews in Spanish themselves. A subset reported using ad hoc interpreters (e.g., bilingual staff member, client family member, correctional officer), using interpreters to administer psychological testing or translating English-language tests in Spanish on their own. In addition, respondents reported lower test usage with LEP-Hispanic than with Caucasian/European American or English-speaking Hispanic evaluees in CST or CR evaluations. Finally, most respondents reported they consider the evaluee’s acculturative status, but only 2 reported using acculturation measures. Results suggest that although some common practices are consistent with guidelines (e.g., taking acculturation into account), other practices (e.g., using ad hoc interpreters) are not. The authors offer suggestions for future research as well as clinical practice and training.

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