Federal court mentorship program creates ‘psychologically safe space’ for ‘minoritized staff’
( Fox )
The federal court system is working to establish a mentorship program aimed at creating a "psychologically safe space" for "minoritized staff" within its probation and pretrial offices, according to a memo obtained by Fox News Digital.
Non-executive employees that identify as a minority within the Probation and Pretrial Services System (PPSS), which works on probation cases for all 94 U.S. district courts, will have an opportunity to participate in a two-year Assistance Inclusion Diversity Equity (AIDE) mentorship program, which the memo says will contribute to recruitment and retention efforts.
The program memo does not define who is included in "minoritized staff" but emphasizes the importance of diversity and equity in the workplace after the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery "sparked outrage about police brutality and social injustice."
"We are traumatized by unlawful police acts; we experience racism fueled by fear tactics; and systemic barriers continue to espouse false stereotypes about us," said the memo.
The memo was issued by the national PPSS office in November. A spokesperson for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said two of the nation's 13 circuits have adopted the mentorship program so far, the 6th and 7th circuits, which oversee Tennessee,
Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
The spokesperson said people other than racial minorities can participate in the program.
"The employees may fall into any number of categories defined very broadly – race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or more broadly, a single father, the sole female on a management team or a young staff member, for example," the spokesperson told Fox News Digital. "The idea is to provide mentors that the employees relate to as they navigate the early phases of their careers or transition to new roles or responsibilities. The goal is to improve recruitment and retention of excellent pretrial and probation staff."
Mentors for the program will work to build a "psychologically safe space for mentees," the memo said. Employees that identify with a minority group can apply to be assigned to a subgroup with regular virtual meetings.
"Categories are intentionally left undefined to provide space for staff who self-identify within any minoritized group in their district," the memo states. "This program is not limited to serving traditional demographics."
Three legal experts who reviewed the document say it may violate civil rights laws because it is structured to benefit exclusive groups of employees. Giancarlo Canaparo, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former federal law clerk, said the program promotes a "divisive left-wing ideology."
"This looks to me a violation of not only civil rights but the judicial cannon," Canaparo told Fox News Digital. "It parts them into arbitrary classification. It assumes mentors will have beneficiary advice for employees solely based on the shared identity of their group."
PPSS offices conduct investigations for federal courts and oversee offenders post-trial. This includes federal parole officers who also work in collaboration with the Department of Justice.
Andrew McCarthy, the former assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the program is "counter-constitutional and runs afoul of the civil rights laws."
"Aside from being bad law, this program is bad business," McCarthy told Fox News Digital. "A good working unit at an agency wants to promote unity, with everyone buying into the agency ethos and working toward common goals. This pamphlet promotes divisiveness and, inevitably, dissension."