We recently completed an 8 week session
of the Trial Court Academy. 40 People signed up. We averaged
attendance of 35 people for the two hour evening sessions.
The evaluations completed by the participants have been overwhelmingly
positive. Trial Court employees from judges on down have been
enthusiastic about the experience. Grant funds provided a
looseleaf binder for participants for materials and refreshments
for each session, as well as a bus for transportation for
the field trip to the Plymouth County Correctional Facility.
We have printed brochures for District, Juvenile, Probate
and Family, and Housing Courts. Translations have been completed
and are being printed. When completed, they will be available
in Spanish, Haitian Creole, Portugese, and Cape Verdean. They
are available in the individual courts as well as at our information
desk in the lobby of the Brockton Trial Court Building. We
have recruited 8 Information Volunteers to staff an information
desk. Six of the volunteers are graduates of this year's Trial
Court Academy: 2 are graduates of previous sessions of the
Academy. We had a training day for them on May 24. Grant funds
paid for binders for their materials. They will work in pairs
from 8am to 10:30 am in the lobby of the Trial Court Building
beginning June 4.
Recruitment efforts relied heavily on
numerous community agencies. The Trial Court Academy is a
collaborative effort of the District Attorney, the Brockton
Community Policing Leadership Council and the Trial Courts.
Other agencies which participate in sessions include the Sheriff's
Department, Committee for Public Counsel Services (both staff
and private attorney), Greater Brockton Center for Alternative
Dispute Resolution, Safeplan, Office of the Jury Commissioner
and the Trial Court Law Libraries.
We completed all activities funded and
planned. Brochures have been printed for the four courts in
English, Spanish, Portuguese, Cape Verdean and Haitian Creole.
A reunion/meeting was held for the graduates of our past three
Trial Court Academies to give the graduates an opportunity
to tour the new courthouse and to learn about the Information
Volunteers Program. An outreach drive, involving many organizations,
was held for the 2001 Trial Court Academy and for the Information
Volunteers. The Fourth Plymouth County Trial Court Academy
was held Tuesday nights from March 27 to May 15. Forty people
signed up. Thirty-five people attended regularly. We have
8 reliable Information Volunteers who are staffing an information
table in the main public lobby of the Brockton Trial Court
Building daily from 8:15 am to 10:30 am. They work in pairs
with two coming in twice a week and the other six, once a
week. Six of the volunteers were recruited from this year's
Trial Court Academy and two, from prior years.
The Trial Court Academy is a collaborative
effort of the District Attorney, the Brockton Community Policing
Leadership Council and the five Trial Courts in the area.
Other agencies which participate in the sessions include the
Sheriff's Department, Committee for Public Counsel Services
(both staff and private attorney), Plymouth County Bar Association,
Greater Brockton Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution,
Safeplan, Office of the Jury Commissioner, and Trial Court
Law Libraries. The staff of the Trial Court Security Department
assigned to Brockton courts have played a vital role both
by providing security at sessions and by making excellent
presentations. Many agencies assisted in our recruitment efforts
either by including announcements in their communications,
by providing mailing lists, or by allowing presentations at
meetings. These included Brockton Community TV, Brockton Enterprise,
Massasoit Community College, Old Colony YMCA, and Brockton
The impact of the Plymouth County Trial
Court Academy has been primarily on the participants and can
be measured by the evaluations they completed. As can be seen
from the evaluations, the response has been overwhelmingly
positive. The most typical responses from this and prior years'
evaluations are generally "I never knew what went on in the
courts," "more people need to take this," "can I do it again?"
"Everybody here is terrific." People who have taken the course
are supportive of the work the courts do as can be seen by
the volunteers. The program is frequently referred to, and
always positively, at community meetings. The attendance and
commitment of participants should also be noted - 2 evening
hours per week on hard courtroom benches. We get many inquiries
as to when it will be given again.
The impact of the Information Volunteers
is primarily measured by anecdotal, personal observation.
The Information Volunteers are staffing an information desk
during the busy early morning hours of a new large courthouse
that houses 4 very busy trial courts - Brockton District Court,
Plymouth County Probate and Family, Plymouth County Juvenile,
and Southeast Housing. In addition the building houses offices
of the Department of Revenue Child Support, the District Attorney,
Safeplan (domestic violence advocates), Greater Brockton Center
for Alternative Dispute Resolution, Court Clinics, and a Child
Care Center. The addition of the information desk has reduced
the backup at the security entrance as the security personnel
can now focus on screening entrants to the building, rather
than helping people to determine where in the building they
need to be. Personal observations of the grateful and relieved
looks on the faces of anxious visitors to the courthouse when
a volunteer assists them with directions to the appropriate
location support the conclusion that this program is having
a very positive impact on the courts and the public's perception
of the courts. Moreover, it is unlikely that the volunteers
would be able to sustain the commitment and enthusiasm that
they have without getting some very positive response from
the public they are aiding.
We had the local Community TV station
tape most of last year's Trial Court Academy. We have not
determined a way to make use of this yet. Other courts may
want to look into such avenues in order to reach more people.
There really are no significant changes
recommended to a court considering a project of this kind.
Although there have been no signs from the volunteers themselves
of a loss of enthusiasm, we are quite concerned that we have
not built any recognition or reward for the volunteers into
the program or any avenues for growth when what they are doing