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A stenograph is a specialised keyboard which has fewer keys than a conventional alphanumeric keyboard and is used by court reporters to transcribe information.
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Story Highlights

  • When persons think of a career in the justice sector, what comes readily to mind are judges, lawyers and bailiffs; however, court reporting is an essential profession within the system.
  • The Justice Training Institute (JTI) is, therefore, inviting persons with swift fingers, impeccable hearing and a vast vocabulary to explore a worthwhile career in court reporting.
  • The JTI operates as the training arm of the Ministry of Justice and is the only institute locally that offers training in court reporting and steno writing.

When persons think of a career in the justice sector, what comes readily to mind are judges, lawyers and bailiffs; however, court reporting is an essential profession within the system.

The Justice Training Institute (JTI) is, therefore, inviting persons with swift fingers, impeccable hearing and a vast vocabulary to explore a worthwhile career in court reporting.

The JTI operates as the training arm of the Ministry of Justice and is the only institute locally that offers training in court reporting and steno writing.

“Most court reporters within our jurisdiction work with the Supreme Court, the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, the Office of the Services Commission, the Houses of Parliament and the Jamaica Defence Force. However, there is a shortage in the number of court reporters available locally,” Director and Principal of the JTI, Karen Campbell-Bascoe tells JIS News.

Mrs. Campbell-Bascoe notes that the number of practising court reporters dwindles each year as persons approach retirement age.

“What we are doing at the JTI is ramping up the programme, as it was on a break. We intend to roll it out this year to increase the number of court reporters available locally,” she points out.

She says that a court reporter’s job is always “almost guaranteed”, because there are few persons with the skill set and there is usually a demand within government or private entities for such writers.

“As a court reporter/steno writer, you have to be able to capture the spoken word at a particular speed, writing shorthand and then use software available to translate it, so that it can be read,” she adds.

During a court proceeding, a court reporter/steno writer documents, verbatim, everything which is said during the hearing. A professional court reporter/steno writer in Jamaica is expected to write at a speed of 225 words per minute (wpm), with a 97 per cent level of accuracy.

To help candidates build speed and accuracy over time, the course offered by the JTI is a full-time two-year programme administered Mondays to Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

“At the end of the programme, students would have completed subjects related to the fundamentals of English, vocabulary development, current affairs, legal terminologies and court procedures. While studying these topics, we have our students build speed, an important skill for any court reporter,” Mrs. Campbell-Bascoe says.

The programme prerequisites are a minimum of five CXC passes, including English and mathematics.

Past graduate, Phebe-Ann Henry, describes her time in the programme as difficult but worthwhile, and encourages interested persons to kick-start a career in steno writing by attending the JTI.

“Once you’ve mastered the theory, speed building kicks in and that’s where most persons find a challenge. However, as daunting as it may seem, once a person practices, they’ll become better,” Ms. Henry says.

She currently works with the Office of the Services Commission and is dispatched as needed to other government entities.

“Based on my estimation, what matters most is to have a good grasp of the English language, as you have to write verbatim. For example, if someone uses a homonym and you write the incorrect one, then it is no longer a correct representation of what that person said,” she explains.

The ability to maintain focus for lengthy periods was another attribute Ms. Henry says a good court reporter/steno writer should have.

“Court reporting is a fulfilling job which is on the demand, so anyone interested should enroll with the JTI to become trained. They’ll be valued within the field and the job overall provides a sense of patriotism, as you are helping to administer justice,” she says.

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