This guide outlines the Trial Court’s efforts focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and experience. The final section of the guide outlines activities planned for the upcoming fiscal year.
Guide Diversity, equity, inclusion, and experience activities guide
Table of Contents
Strategic Plan: Diversity, equity, and inclusion domain
The Trial Court’s Strategic Plan 3.0 started on July 1st, 2019 and outlines priorities for Fiscal Years 2020-2022. For the first time, “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” is 1 of 5 core areas in the court’s strategic plan. It is part of every court and department’s operations. Plan elements include:
- Building leadership abilities
- Increasing staff diversity
- Offering training on cultural competency, and
- Forming policies, data, and compliance standards to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion
Annual diversity report
The Trial Court publishes an Annual Diversity Report to share information about employee demographics and updates on diversity and inclusion efforts. Data in the report includes:
- A demographic snapshot of the Trial Court staff at the end of the fiscal year
- Total hires and promotions by race and gender during the fiscal year, and
- Five years of data for certain positions.
The report compares court staffing to workforce availability data from the 2010 census. The report also includes an overview of the court’s work to address race and gender diversity concerns.
Trial Court Race and Implicit Bias Advisory Committee (TRIBAC)
The TRIBAC was formed in 2016 and includes senior leaders from the Executive Office, chief justices, and justices from the Superior Court, Housing Court, Juvenile Court, Probate and Family Court, Land Court, and Boston Municipal Court. This committee meets monthly and addresses bias issues related to race and gender in the Trial Court.
Signature Counter Experience training (SCE)
SCE is an interactive training delivered across the court system to help staff support each other and court users. This training builds on the court’s strong customer service by discussing the impact bias has in their daily practice. Court staff from the Clerk’s Department, Probation Department, Security Department, and the Judge’s lobby participate in this program together to better understand the importance of teamwork. Only 15 courts haven’t participated in the program yet.
In January 2018, the Trial Court launched a required online training for all employees to provide insight into how transgender persons experience the court system as users or employees. The training helps employees understand the expectations that they treat all members of the transgender community fairly and with dignity and respect. Leaders across court departments developed this training with grant funding from the Boston Bar Foundation (BBF). The BBF supports Trial Court staff using pronoun pins to show inclusivity. If your organization is interested in watching this training, see: Transgender People in the Trial Court.
Internal listening sessions
Trial Court leaders held a series of internal listening sessions to hear employee perspectives on diversity, equity, and inclusion. In these sessions, leaders shared the court’s efforts to work on these important topics. They also asked for suggestions on how to include employees and court users in these sessions. In the future, the court will continue to ask for employee feedback on personal experiences and the importance of creating a welcoming and supportive environment.
Community listening sessions
The Trial Court holds public listening sessions to hear about the community’s experience with the courts firsthand. In January, a group of Trial Court judges and representatives from Probation and Security met with a group of detainees at a local House of Corrections to listen to their thoughts and concerns about their court experiences. They talked about topics like:
- Experiences with different court departments
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Specialty courts
In February 2020, 25 judges participated in a listening session at Roxbury Community College. This session was the Trial Court’s first listening session specifically for African American communities. Over 200 community members had the chance to share their experiences and comments with the court on how to achieve justice for everyone.
After the Roxbury event, the Trial Court was invited to virtually co-facilitate a Conversation on Race by the Brockton Branch of the NAACP in June 2020. Participants learned about the Trial Court’s work to fight disparate treatment of marginalized groups, and shared their thoughts on how the court could improve. The court will host regional virtual Community Conversations on Race in 2020. Local leadership will facilitate discussions about race and achieving justice for communities and individuals who have historically experienced disparate treatment in the justice system.
Cultural appreciation events
The Trial Court celebrated its second Cultural Appreciation Week in September 2019. The celebration’s theme was “Being Who You Are in the World, As You Are.” During this statewide event, Trial Court employees shared food, music, art, and stories, and participated in activities to learn about each other’s cultures. The Trial Court partnered with community groups to participate in the events, including:
- Law enforcement
- Interfaith organizations
- Community organizations
- Arts and performing groups
Leadership capacity building workshops
Massachusetts is participating in cutting edge work to build leader’s abilities to address race and bias in the workplace. These workshops are designed to help people in formal and informal leadership roles help other Trial Court employees to:
- Address race and bias
- Promote diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Join those concerns into regular practice
More than 30 Trial Court employees participated in the new workshop in FY 2019.
New policies regarding sexual harassment and discrimination
In November 2019, the Trial Court published the Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation, and Complaint Resolution Procedures. This Policy is the result of a long process to revise internal policies and procedures for investigating complaints. It restates the Trial Court’s commitment to an inclusive workplace with no unlawful discrimination.
Implicit bias training for security staff
In February 2019, the Trial Court launched an implicit bias training program for mid-level security staff. The training helps participants become aware of court staff and court users’ perceptions of racial and other biases. The goals of the training are for security personnel to:
- Have a better understanding of their own biases
- Develop new skills to have important conversations about race and racial bias
- Understand the impact bias has in the organization and in day-to-day work
Access and fairness survey
The Massachusetts Trial Court administered an Access and Fairness Survey created by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) in 2009 and 2017 to measure the court's progress towards access to justice and improving court user’s experience. Court user ratings on access to justice measures and fairness scores increased from 2009 to 2017. The Court will use these findings to shape the Trial Court’s priorities and focus, including the need to make sure all court users receive access, fairness, and a positive experience.
Additional Resources for Access and fairness survey
Employee pulse check
In October 2019, the Trial Court conducted its first employee pulse check, a short survey measuring employee engagement. The survey included 15 questions about workplace experiences and employee engagement. Employees were also asked for suggestions on how the Trial Court could meet the needs of court users and what the system could improve over the next 3 years. The pulse check will be sent out on a regular schedule to continue measuring the court’s progress towards improving the work environment.
Beyond Intent: Understanding the Impact of Your Words and Actions is a new training program that started in fall 2019. The program explains the negative effect of micro-aggressions. It also gives participants the chance to develop the skills they need to improve communication and team dynamics. 4 program sessions took place in FY20. Sessions in 2021 will be virtual.
Plans for fiscal year 2021 (July 2020-June 2021)
Virtual town halls
Since March 2020, the Trial Court has held community sessions virtually. The Trial Court is hosting virtual town halls with community partners to address concerns about court access during COVID-19. Sessions are held in communities that are most impacted by COVID-19. Interpreters provide translations in the top languages spoken in each community.
Community conversations on race
The Trial Court is organizing virtual conversations about race with community organizations. These sessions invite the public to share their ideas on how to achieve justice for everyone. At these sessions, community members can ask questions and share their comments on how race impacts their court experience.
Guidelines for discussing race
Due to recent national events that have highlighted our contentious history with race and racism, the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Experience (ODEIE) is developing a resource for participating in workplace discussions about race. The document is called Guidelines for Discussions around the Impact of Race in Society and the Workplace. It will provide strategies for Trial Court managers to begin and keep up race-related conversations with each other and the employees they supervise.
Cultural awareness and racial empathy
The Trial Court is preparing to launch a new training program that will focus on cultural and racial experiences. This training was piloted in September 2019. It is currently being reformatted for a virtual experience. The training will help court employees reflect on the role identities play in their personal and professional lives to support them in their work with court users. This program will be presented at individual courthouses and involve all court teams.