Immigrant Jailed in Virginia Is Lost in Translation


The Washington Post tells the story of a Spanish-speaking man who kept in a Virginia jail months after his case was dismissed, apparently because of language barriers. Kerry Kaiser, a self-taught Spanish-speaker who works at the Prince William County courthouse, noticed a familiar face one day at work–a troubled man she’d seen before. She decided to listen to what he had to say. “I didn’t know exactly what he was saying, something about his brother,” she said. “He was just desperate: ‘This is my brother. I need to find him.’ ”

He said that his brother, Fernando Antonio Cruz, had been left in the county jail and that he should have been freed already. With a few clicks, Kaiser opened a file on her computer and confirmed that his case had been dismissed in December. It was February. She alerted the clerk’s office, which faxed a release order to the jail. Court records show that it was dated 3:01 p.m. Feb. 15, with the handwritten words “was dismissed 12-12-05!!” Through human error complicated by language and cultural differences, Cruz had been forgotten. Like many immigrants, he had become as invisible inside the criminal justice system as he was outside.


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