Enforcement of Civil Rights Law Declined Under Bush Administration

A study released on Sunday shows that enforcement of civil rights laws by the federal government has declined in the past five years. The study, performed by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, found that while the number of complaints received by the Justice Department in regard to civil rights violations remained constant, the number of criminal charges filed by federal prosecutors declined from 159 in 1999 to 84 in 2003, the New York Times reports. Similarly, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other federal investigative agencies recommended prosecution in one-third less civil rights cases in the same period of time, from 3,053 cases in 1999 to 1,903 in 2003. Cox News Service reports that out of these recommendations, prosecutors filed charges in only 5 percent of the cases. “This confirms what everyone in the civil rights community has known for the past four years, which is that President Bush’s Justice Department does not have a commitment to full enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws,” Christopher Anders, legislative counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told the Associated Press. Civil rights violations generally include racial violence, abusive police tactics, blocked access to women’s health and abortion clinics, and slavery or involuntary servitude. The Justice Department responded to the study on Monday, dismissing the research as “incorrect,” according to Cox News Service. David Burnham, one of the reports’ co-authors, defended the research, explaining that the statistics were obtained from the Executive Office of United States Attorneys, a part of the Justice Department, through the Freedom of Information Act. These statistics are the same numbers used in the Justice Department’s reports to Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Burnham told the Associated Press. Additionally, records obtained from federal courts substantiated the decline in civil rights cases. Civil rights cases account for a small percentage of the 99,341 criminal prosecutions put forth by the Justice Department last year, the New York Times reports. While the department’s overall caseload rose approximately 10 percent in the past five years, civil rights and environmental cases were the only two kinds of prosecutions that experienced a decrease.


New York Times 11/21/04; Cox News Service 11/22/04; Associated Press 11/22/04

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