MIL-OSI Security: Justice Department Launches Access DOJ

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Source: United States Department of Justice

The Justice Department announced the launch of Access DOJ, a new and innovative Department-wide initiative led by the Office for Access to Justice (ATJ) that will use human-centered design to improve access to Justice Department programs and services for all communities and stakeholders.

“The Access DOJ Initiative will provide a path for us to make the Justice Department’s services more accessible, effective, and efficient at meeting the needs of the diverse communities we serve,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer. “It will ensure that the Department, for the first time, has a localized hub of expertise focused on assisting components broadly with human-centered design practices.”

The Access DOJ Initiative will:

  • Annually conduct high-impact projects in partnership with offices across the Justice Department to improve and streamline access to programs, services, and resources for the public;

  • Provide resources, trainings, and hands-on coaching and support in methods like usability testing and writing with plain language; and

  • Chair a newly launched community of practice with representatives from across the Justice Department to share successes and challenges and identify solutions to advance the work together.

“Access to Justice includes Access to the Department of Justice. In our public-facing materials, we must prioritize what makes sense for the people we serve, above technical nuances,” said ATJ Director Rachel Rossi. “This will require that lawyers and subject matter experts work with designers to get feedback from the public. We cannot be the judge of whether our materials are accessible and effective — only the people using our services can do that.”

Setting the groundwork for the launch of Access DOJ, ATJ has been partnering with Justice Department offices to employ human-centered design practices to simplify access to programs and services. This includes working with the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney to revise the form people use to request a presidential pardon after finishing their sentence to restore their civil rights, regain their standing in the community, or improve their employment opportunities. The revisions were based on feedback from the public, usability testing, best practices in design, and access to justice research with the goal of reducing burdens on everyone involved — applicants and Justice Department staff — to promote both trust in government and fiscal responsibility.

The Access to Justice team also worked with the Office of the U.S. Trustees Program (USTP) to gather feedback on newly piloted virtual bankruptcy meetings. The partnership included engagement with legal aid providers in the pilot region who work with low-income and rural communities, leading to plans for development of a series of short videos of mock meetings to give people a preview of the meetings, demystify them, explain them in plain language, and reduce the psychological costs of going through the process unprepared.

ATJ hosted an event for Justice Department components to launch the initiative and encourage participation across the department. Additional Justice Department officials delivered remarks, including Director Steve Dettelbach of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), USTP Director Tara Twomey, and Deputy Pardon Attorney Kira Gillespie. The event also featured external experts who discussed their work using human-centered design and customer experience methodologies in other federal agencies as well as with state and local legal service organizations. This included Executive Director for Customer Experience Dana Chisnell of the Department of Homeland Security, the Executive Director of the Legal Design Lab at Stanford Law School Margaret Hagan, and the Managing Director of Contact Center and Customer Experience in the General Services Administration Centers of Excellence Lashanda Hodge.

The event also included a gallery walk with case studies and resources to further illustrate the concepts.

Access DOJ’s next high-impact project will focus on making it easier for communities to report actionable tips about crime or other violations of law to the department. Access DOJ will review reporting portals across the Department to ensure all communities can more effectively report crime to the department when necessary. 

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