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Office for Civil Rights News

December 1, 2016
DOJ Officials Back HUD's Effort to Help Domestic Violence Victims
In a recent blog post, Bea Hanson, Principal Deputy Director of the Office on Violence Against Women; Ron L. Davis, Director of the Office on Community Oriented Policing Services; and Karol V. Mason, Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs highlighted recent guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concerning the enforcement of nuisance abatement ordinances and crime-free lease provisions against, most notably, victims of domestic violence, and the potential Fair Housing Act violations that may result.
In recent years, a growing number of municipalities have enacted these types of ordinances, which may present safety risks and may potentially discriminate against victims of domestic violence, the majority of whom are women. As described in the blog post, nuisance abatement ordinances may require or encourage landlords to evict tenants for "excessive" use of police services. Similar crime-free lease provisions may allow landlords to evict tenants based on one incident of alleged criminal activity.
The DOJ authors concluded the blog post by noting that DOJ grants prohibit grantees from engaging in discrimination. As a consequence, they too should be mindful of the potential discriminatory effects that nuisance abatement ordinances and crime-free lease provisions have on protected classes. Although not discussed in the blog post, the HUD guidance also addresses instances in which a local government's enactment or enforcement of nuisance abatement ordinances may constitute intentional discrimination. Recipients of DOJ funding may contact OJP's Office for Civil Rights if they have any questions about compliance with applicable civil rights laws.
OCR is responsible for ensuring that recipients of federal financial assistance from the COPS Office, OVW, and OJP comply with applicable federal civil rights laws.

Featured Items

August 10, 2016
Office of Justice Programs' Office for Civil Rights Enters into Agreement with the Richland County Sheriff's Department to Ensure Civil Rights Protections for Students
On August 10, 2016, the Office of Justice Programs' Office for Civil Rights entered into an agreement with the Richland County Sheriff's Department to resolve a compliance review of its School Resource Officer (SRO) program, in order for RCSD to promptly enact changes to ensure full compliance with federal civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination against students based on race, color, national origin and disability. The agreement requires RCSD to undertake a comprehensive assessment and overhaul of its SRO program, including:
  • Developing policies to minimize school-based seizures and arrests and meet the needs of students with disabilities;
  • Providing intensive, annual training to its SROs on de-escalation, bias-free policing, and youth development;
  • Conducting detailed data collection and analysis; and
  • Establishing a community working group to recommend program improvements.

The DOJ is working to stem the "school-to-prison pipeline," which is the collection of local policies and practices that can push students out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. To support the DOJ's effort, OCR launched a compliance review initiative to evaluate whether SRO programs, including the RCSD's, are complying with the federal civil rights laws that DOJ enforces. Ensuring that school-based law enforcement programs adhere to their civil rights responsibilities is a critical component of dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline beause of the disproportionate impact school-based arrests and referrals to law enforcement have on students of color and students with disabilities.

OCR selected the RCSD SRO program for a compliance review in May 2015 based on several factors, including the amount of federal financial assistance awarded to the RCSD and data collected by the DOJ and other federal agencies on the county's juvenile population and arrest rates; information on school-based arrests, referrals to law enforcement and exclusionary discipline in the county; and concerns about the SRO program voiced by Richland County community members to the DOJ. The OJP Diagnostic Center, a technical assistance resource that uses data-driven approaches to help communities address criminal justice and public safety issues, will support RCSD in implementing terms of the agreement.

OCR is responsible for ensuring that recipients of federal financial assistance from the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Office on Violence Against Women, and OJP comply with applicable federal civil rights laws. Information about OCR and instructions on how to receive updates are available on our website.

February 24, 2016
OCR Ends Investigation of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision's Provision of Language-Access Services
February 17, 2016
Inauguration of the Office for Civil Rights News Updates
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