The Miranda Project
Creating affordable tools for police officers to deliver Miranda Rights in translation. We’re currently running a micropilot with the New Orleans Police Department in order to test these prototypes in the field before full-scale implementation.
American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation
New Orleans Police Department
Initial sprint May – August 2017
Implementation September 2017 – Present
Lead strategist and researcher
Adobe After Effects
Foam core/Exacto blades
In the fifty years since the Miranda warning has been implemented, we’ve made strides in adult learning and comprehension yet Miranda delivery remains the same. Police officers read the warning from a card while suspects are expected to listen to and understand complex legal privileges. The situation is even worse for those with little to no understanding of the English language. As a result, studies estimate that 78- 96% of suspects waive their Miranda rights (1).
While our initial design brief focused on delivering Miranda rights to LEP individuals, our prototypes launched a discussion of designing tools for Miranda delivery and comprehension in a tense and negative learning environment.
(1) Richard A. Leo, Miranda and the Problem of False Confessions in Richard A. Leo and George C. Thomas III, Eds. THE MIRANDA DEBATE: LAW, JUSTICE AND POLICING 275.
How might we develop a solution that ensures that a person who is not fully fluent in English understands their Miranda rights so that police, lawyers, judges and the public have confidence that the warning was properly given and (if applicable) knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waived?
For suspects, an arrest is a high pressure learning environment where comprehension is paramount.
Officers need situation-specific tools to consistently deliver Miranda rights in translation.
Officers tend to consult their fellow officers as a resource when confronted with language or cultural barriers. They seek out other options only after this first, trusted source is exhausted.
We created three technology-enabled tools from which officers can choose based on the situation in which Miranda rights are consistently delivered.
Our lowest tech option - a laminated document with an attached audio module that can be used virtually anywhere. The 8.5 x 11 inch card easily fits into officers’ clipboards or folders.
Sit & Watch Miranda
A video-based approach originally intended for use in computer stations within police cars to deliver Miranda rights.
An interactive app in which suspects walk through the Miranda warning at their own pace. For use mainly in interrogation settings.
Agile design process
Over 11 weeks, our team followed ID's design process augmented with agile design techniques. This approach to design created a constant feedback loop within our team and with our clients at the ABA. Our clients gained a better understanding of the development process and understood the greater context of how our realized visions would exist in the field. This was especially key in bridging the multiple disciplines and expectations of the project's myriad stakeholders.
For example, rather than beginning with exploratory interviews, we presented a catalog of concepts during our first interviews with police officers. The low fidelity sketches and simple descriptions helped the officers understand our how we were envisioning our interventions and the situations in which they would be used. The catalog made our work more tangible and opened the door to very candid feedback from the officers.
Through multiple rounds of testing and the introduction of concepts early in their development, we were able to gather responses and iterate on a micro and macro level. Since implementation and feasibility were extremely important components of this project, this type of iteration and feedback was highly valuable during development. While this was a new and somewhat unusual process for our clients, they better understood the end realized vision and experienced fewer surprises along the way.
Unique Research Challenges
We conducted in-person user research before the ideation phase of the project and during the prototype and iteration phases. We spoke with multiple stakeholders within the legal field from retired judges, criminal lawyers, and public defenders to police officers, legal advocacy organizations, and individuals with experience in the criminal justice system.
Speaking with homeless youth about their experiences with police. Facilitating prototype feedback through an interpreter in an interview cell at Orleans Justice Center. Sitting in the back of a police car. The various stakeholders and individuals involved with this project have been generous with their stories and experiences. The sensitivity of the topic presented some unique research challenges such as
How do you get accurate firsthand knowledge of the arrest process?
How do you engage a skeptical user group?
How do you entice a vulnerable population to speak about unpleasant experiences?
How do you implement a low-budget and user-centered technology solution?
The challenges of this project made me a more creative researcher and a more empathetic designer.
After the initial twelve week sprint, I have spent the past year working with the NOPD and the ABA to implement two of our three proposed prototypes. After some refinement of the prototypes including professional audio recordings and certification of the text and imagery from translators, we have begun a micropilot of the Miranda Cards and Sit & Watch Miranda. Through this process, we’ve added additional backing and protection for buttons to the Miranda Cards and refined the Sit & Watch videos to add to NOPD servers for access during interrogations. We are hoping to implement the finalized tools across the department. Implementation has taken much longer than I had initially expected, but I’ve learned patience, persistence, and appreciation for our clients who navigate within the criminal justice system.
Presentations & Press
Sharing this work with others in the design and legal fields has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve enjoyed sharing the design process with people within the law and criminal justice fields. Our collaboration has created new energy within their field and brought discipline and rigor to my design work.
ABA Annual Conference, Panel Presentation - August 2018
PBL 2018 International Conference, Poster Presentation - February 2018 - Blending active learning, technology, and social justice
How a greeting card is changing the way New Orleans police Mirandize Spanish speakers - Nola.com / The Times-Picayune - September 6, 2018
ABA Annual Meeting 2018: The Miranda Rights Warnings Project - Legal Talk Network - August 7, 2018
Non-English language Miranda tools promise major changes in criminal justice arena - ABA News - August 5, 2018