Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


Attorney General Eric Holder: Maintaining Public Safety While Safeguarding Constitutional Rights

From the United States Department of Justice...

The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) today announced the release of a resource guide intended to help law enforcement officers build stronger community-police relations. The Resource Guide for Enhancing Community Relationships and Protecting Privacy and Constitutional Rights is a collaboration between BJA and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office).

“The Justice Department encourages law enforcement officials, in every jurisdiction, to work with the communities they serve to minimize needless confrontation,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.  “It is vital to engage in planning and preparation, from evaluating protocols and training to choosing the appropriate equipment and uniforms.  This is the hard work that is necessary to preserve the peace and maintain the public trust at all times—particularly in moments of heightened community tension.”

“The role of law enforcement is not only to enforce the law, but to preserve peace, minimize harm, and sustain community trust,” said BJA Director Denise O’Donnell.  “The resources available through this guide will help police departments and sheriffs’ offices maintain order and build effective police-community relationships, while promoting the rights and protecting the civil liberties of the citizens they serve.”

Read the full DOJ Resource Guide press release... here

View and download the new Resource Guide (PDF, 10 pages)... here

Visit the DOJ video library... here

Attorney General's video commentary published on Friday, November 21, 2014

In today’s video, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services are providing a new guide to law enforcement officers that compiles information, tools, and best practices to maintain public safety while safeguarding constitutional rights during First Amendment-protected events.   Attorney General Holder reiterated that the Department of Justice encourages law enforcement officials, in every jurisdiction, to work with the communities they serve to minimize needless confrontation.  And he reminded all individuals that—while demonstrations and protests have the potential to spark a positive national dialog and bring about critical reform—history has shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression and nonviolence.


DOJ Probe Reveals Use Of Violence and Excessive Force At New York Prison Rikers Island


You're encouraged to download and read the full report here (PDF, 79 pages).

From the official statement, posted by the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this week:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Attorney General Eric Holder and United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara announced today the completion of the Justice Department’s multi-year civil investigation pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (“CRIPA”) into the conditions of confinement of adolescent male inmates on Rikers Island.   The investigation, which focused on use of force by staff, inmate-on-inmate violence, and use of punitive segregation during the period 2011-2013, concluded that there is a pattern and practice of conduct at Rikers Island that violates the rights of adolescents protected by the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.   The investigation found that adolescent inmates are not adequately protected from physical harm due to the rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force by New York City Department of Correction (“DOC”) staff and violence inflicted by other inmates.   In addition, the investigation found that DOC relies too heavily on punitive segregation as a disciplinary measure, placing adolescent inmates in what amounts to solitary confinement at an alarming rate and for excessive periods of time.   Many of the adolescent inmates are particularly vulnerable because they suffer from mental illness.

Attorney General Eric Holder said: “The extremely high rates of violence and excessive use of solitary confinement for adolescent males uncovered by this investigation are inappropriate and unacceptable.   The Department of Justice is dedicated to ensuring the effectiveness, safety and integrity of our criminal justice systems.   Going forward, we will work with the City of New York to make good on our commitment to reform practices that are unfair and unjust, and to ensure that – in all circumstances, and particularly when it comes to our young people – incarceration is used to deter, punish, and ultimately rehabilitate, not merely to warehouse and forget.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As our investigation has shown, for adolescents, Rikers Island is a broken institution.   It is a place where brute force is the first impulse rather than the last resort; where verbal insults are repaid with physical injuries; where beatings are routine while accountability is rare; and where a culture of violence endures even while a code of silence prevails.   The adolescents in Rikers are walled off from the public, but they are not walled off from the Constitution.   Indeed most of these young men are pre-trial detainees who are innocent until proven guilty, but whether they are pre-trial or convicted, they are entitled to be detained safely and in accordance with their constitutional rights – not consigned to a corrections crucible that seems more inspired by Lord of the Flies than any legitimate philosophy of humane detention.   These young men, automatically charged as adults despite their age under New York law, may be on an island and out of sight, but they can no longer remain out of mind.   Attention must be paid immediately to their rights, their safety and their mental well-being, and in the wake of this report we will make sure that happens one way or another.”

In its report to the City of New York, made public today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office notes that “a deep-seated culture of violence is pervasive throughout the adolescent facilities at Rikers, and DOC staff routinely utilize force not as a last resort, but instead as a means to control the adolescent population and punish disorderly or disrespectful behavior.”

Below is a very brief discussion about these latest findings from NPR earlier this week (approx. 4 mins.):

The Justice Department found constitutional rights violations of adolescent inmates at Rikers Island. Corrections officers are said to use solitary confinement as a first-resort disciplinary action.


The Department of Justice to analyze and reduce racial bias within the criminal justice system

From the United States Department of Justice, April 29, 2014:

The Department of Justice is launching an initiative to analyze and reduce the effect of racial bias within the criminal justice system. Through the new National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice, the Department will collect data regarding a broad range of areas in which fairness and trust can come into question-from stops and searches to wrongful convictions. By employing a data-driven approach that builds on the work of the Department's Smart on Crime initiative, this program will implement evidence-based strategies to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color. This new effort will be funded by an initial $4.75 million competitive grant award.