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National Institute of Justice Challenge: Create High Speed Software Applications that Improve Law Enforcement, Community Safety
January 27th, 2014 Posted by

Courtesy of NIJ Acting Director Greg Ridgeway, Ph.D.

Recently, I was pleased to be part of a discussion at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy about using open data to support the Department of Justice’s core responsibility: protecting public and officer safety.

It was part of a series of conversations that began in September 2012, when the White House held its first “Safety Datapalooza.”  At that event NIJ announced the first Justice Department Challenge, seeking innovative solutions for determining the performance of body armor.  In November we announced the winner of that challenge — the team from Purdue University’s school of Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering.

The Challenge process represents a unique approach to innovation for those of us in government, while it gives the field tremendous creative leverage to develop ideas and products to enhance our ability to meet our public service mission across the government.

The Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs has long been active in improving public access to data.  To date, OJP has released almost 700 datasets to Data.gov, covering 20 years of crime victimization statistics, 35 years of prisoner statistics, and 10 years’ worth of grant awards, among many others.  This has allowed developers and the public access to important criminal justice data in open and useable formats.

Keeping the momentum going, we issued another challenge: we’re looking for ideas for the design and creation of Ultra-High Speed Network (UHS)-compatible apps that measurably improve the efficiency and effectiveness of criminal justice and public safety services and operations. 

These could be apps that alert criminal justice and public safety agencies to threats and disasters and help avoid or mitigate the impact of those disasters.  They could be apps that provide simulation for law enforcement and first responders.  Or they could enhance training and provide new methods of analysis.

Protecting America’s law enforcement officers is one of our top priorities at the Justice Department.  Through body armor standards and testing programs, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program and our VALOR training initiative, we’ve devoted substantial resources to keeping our law enforcement officers safe.

But we’re always looking for ways to do an even better job of protecting officers.  Our task is how to deliver the rich supply of data available to support public and officer safety quickly and in a manner that improves service delivery.

Until now, we’ve been limited by Web-based technology pipelines, which are subject to buffering and other delays and restrict the amount of data that can be transmitted.  The expansion of UHS networks gives us increased opportunities for the development of “disruptive” criminal justice apps – apps that actually change the way services and information are delivered to criminal justice and other public safety practitioners. 

New UHS apps have the potential to provide ubiquitous, real-time, individually tailored information and decision support for criminal justice and public safety practitioners in rapidly evolving emergency situations.  Some of these changes have already taken place in citywide and local networks in the US, where they have given startups and students  the same opportunity as industry and researchers to develop, test and deploy next-generation apps and services. 

The Challenge is open to everyone who has ideas about ways to use ultra-high-speed apps to keep law enforcement and communities safer. Please accept this Challenge, and create innovative software applications that employ freely available government data to advance public safety.

Learn more about the UHS Challenge, including deadlines and announcement dates.

People with Disabilities Find Middle Class Jobs, Thanks to the ADA
January 22nd, 2014 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eve Hill for the Civil Rights Division

President Obama recently emphasized the serious problem of income inequality across the United States and the Administration’s commitment to making sure our economy works for everyone.  People with disabilities, in particular, are being excluded from the middle class and from accessing important ladders of opportunity.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an important tool for challenging assumptions and discrimination that trap people with disabilities in poverty and segregation.  And people with disabilities are showing that, when given a chance, they can participate in the middle class economy, contribute to their communities and achieve the American Dream. 

For the past 30 years Steven Porcelli has done what millions of Americans do: he wakes up, goes to work and earns a paycheck.  The fact that Steven has an intellectual disability has never stopped him from seeking to earn a living.  But, for most of Steven’s life he has had little choice other than to work in a segregated, sheltered workshop where he’s earned a sub-minimum wage and has had little to no contact with workers without disabilities. 

Steven is one of about 90 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who spent years working at the sheltered workshop and day program provider in Rhode Island.  There, workers sat along cafeteria-style tables for long hours and were assigned tasks such as assembling, sorting, packing and labeling various products.  Because this company held a Section 14(c) certificate under the Fair Labor Standards Act, it was permitted to pay individuals with disabilities sub-minimum wages, however, the Department of Labor found that the company was violating its Section 14(c) certificate and paying its workers  far less than they should have been paid—usually under $2 per hour. 

In June 2013 the U.S. Department of Justice entered into an interim settlement agreement with the state of Rhode Island and the city of Providence that addresses the rights of workers with disabilities to receive employment and day activity services in their community.  After an investigation, the Department of Justice found that individuals at the sheltered workshop were not being served in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, in violation of Title II of the ADA, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C.

Since implementation of the agreement, with the help of state and federal employment services, Steven is flourishing in his new job at a local small business headquartered in Warwick, R.I.  Steven works Monday through Friday alongside peers without disabilities and earns minimum wage (which increased on Jan. 1, 2014 under a new state law).  When asked what it means to Steven to realize his 30-year goal of working in the community, Steven responded, “It is a big achievement for me; I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”  Steven enjoys working in an office setting, and because of his self-advocacy, he persuaded his employer to provide him with computer training, which will enable him to expand his skill set and advance his career.

The president of the company initially did not know what to expect from Steven, but quickly realized he had invested well.  As company president, he initially thought hiring Steven was an important demonstration of his civic responsibility, but he now acknowledges that it simply made good business sense, as his business’ bottom line is served by Steven’s hard work, dedication, and positive attitude. He has expressed feeling very fortunate to count Steven among his staff.

For the past seven years, Peter Maxmean, another former sheltered workshop service recipient, was earning approximately $1.50 per hour.  Now, however, Peter has a job earning more than minimum wage working for the state of Rhode Island as a custodian at a hospital.  Peter points out that janitorial work is a great fit for him because he is “good with his hands and loves to clean,” and that he has a great relationship with his supervisors, who entrust him with significant responsibility to accomplish his work independently.   

Peter’s new job has also provided financial freedom.  For the first time in his life, at age 37, Peter was able to purchase a new mattress.  Before, he slept on a couch and a 30-year-old mattress he inherited from his mother.  Peter has recently completed driving lessons, received his driver’s license and is saving up to purchase a car.  

Peter has been together with his fiancé Laurie for almost five years.  They met at their prior employer and Laurie is currently in the process of transitioning to community employment.  For this couple, Steven Porcelli, and the rest of the service recipients at the sheltered workshop, the dreams that other Americans take for granted can now be theirs and the future looks brighter than ever.   

Click here to learn more about the Rhode Island interim settlement agreement.  For more general information about the Justice Department’s ADA Olmstead enforcement efforts, visit the Civil Rights Division’s Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone website.

POSTED IN: Civil Rights Division  |  PERMALINK
Improving Services for Victims of Human Trafficking
January 16th, 2014 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) Director Joye E. Frost

This week I was proud to host the Office for Victims of Crime’s Human Trafficking Survivor Forum and Listening Session at the White House Conference Center. Nineteen brave and inspiring men and women, U.S. born and foreign nationals, survivors of sex and labor trafficking, joined more than 40 federal representatives to explore how federal agencies could more strategically engage survivors in federal anti-trafficking efforts. 

Together, we brought to life President Obama’s pledge to survivors at the Clinton Global Initiative: “We see you. We hear you. We insist on your dignity.” 

During the forum, the White House announced the release of the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States. The plan identifies concrete steps that agencies from across the federal government will take over the next four years to ensure that the response to victims of human trafficking is more coordinated, comprehensive and effective. Offices across the Department of Justice will conduct research, increase training of staff, service providers and law enforcement partners on how to support trafficking victims, and coordinate funding to improve access to trauma-informed and culturally-appropriate services. 

OVC is proud to have served as a co-chair in this effort, along with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families and the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign. The plan could not have been developed without the insights of human trafficking survivors and advocates who lent their voices and expertise through public comments last spring. 

OVC knows that survivors have more to contribute than their stories of victimization. Survivors know, better than anyone, the challenges of identifying victims, accessing services, working with law enforcement and reaching underrepresented survivor populations.

Survivors’ unique insights can help federal agencies create meaningful partnerships to overcome these challenges. As Attorney General Eric Holder has stated so clearly before, “we will never be able to make the progress we need on our own…We must work with victims and victim advocates to extend our impact in helping to make lives whole again.”

I know that our work will be stronger with their continued help.

In OVC’s new public service announcement “The Faces of Human Trafficking” released at the event, one survivor tells us, “I’m so much more than what happened to me.”  That’s why our video shows that trafficking can impact anyone – mothers, sons, advocates, educators, authors, sisters, brothers – and why OVC is committed to listening to and learning from crime victims. We are moved by their words and more inspired than ever to walk with them on their journey of healing. 

And we encourage you to join us.  Please visit www.ovc.gov/trafficking to learn more about human trafficking and ways to identify and support victims.

For information on OVC’s events and activities for National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, please visit http://www.ovc.gov/news/HumanTraffickingPreventionMonth/.

Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission Officials Meet with Chinese Antitrust Agencies Officials at Second Annual High-Level Meetings
January 10th, 2014 Posted by

Justice Department Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer participated in high-level meetings with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and officials from China’s three antitrust agencies – Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) Vice Minister Jiang Zengwei, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) Vice Minister Hu Zucai and State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) Vice Minister Sun Hongzhi.

The meetings took place at MOFCOM in Beijing, China, on Jan. 9, 2014. This was the second high-level meeting of the agencies since the Justice Department and FTC signed the antitrust memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Chinese antitrust agencies on July 27, 2011. The officials discussed promoting competition in a global economy and various aspects of general civil and criminal antitrust enforcement.

The MOU is designed to promote communication and cooperation among the agencies in the two countries. The MOU provides for periodic high-level consultations among all five agencies.

 DOJ_FTC_China1

 

Chinese National Development and Reform Commission Vice Minister Hu Zucai, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division Bill Baer, Ministry of Commerce Vice Minister Jiang Zengwei, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, and State Administration for Industry and Commerce Vice Minister Sun Hongzhi

 DOJ_FTC_China2 

 Department of Justice and FTC Officials participated in high-level meetings with China’s three antitrust agencies – MOFCOM, NRDC and SAIC

 

 

POSTED IN: Antitrust Division  |  PERMALINK
Remembering Newtown
December 13th, 2013 Posted by

Blog courtesy of Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.

No words can express the shock and horror that our nation witnessed one year ago tomorrow, in Newtown, Connecticut, when a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and took the lives of 20 young children and six staff members.

Although the people of Newtown experienced the very worst of humankind on that terrible day, they have responded to that senseless tragedy with remarkable resilience.  From the determined law enforcement officers and other first responders who entered the school, confronted the unspeakable acts that took place there, and helped get students to safety; to the counselors, community leaders, and service providers who have rallied around those who lost friends and loved ones – the days, weeks, and months since the tragedy at Sandy Hook have been marked by healing and compassion.

I had the great honor of meeting with a few of the first responders, investigators, and others when I visited Newtown the week after this horrific shooting.  On that day, which I will always regard as the most difficult of my professional life, I walked the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary School and saw the devastating crime scene.  I spoke with the men and women who helped secure the building, worked to save lives, and comforted those in need.  And I will never forget the courage displayed by every one of the people with whom I met.

Over the past year, their bravery has been matched only by the strength and resolve of the parents and other family members of those whose lives were cut short last December.  As a father of three children, I can only imagine the pain and heartbreak that each of them must feel.  My thoughts and prayers remain with them and with others who have lost young children, family members, or friends to similar tragedies.  Our nation has been inspired by their grace in the aftermath of incomprehensible loss.  And I will continue to carry their stories with me every day.

Today, I am honored to join the families of Sandy Hook in calling for all Americans to mark this solemn anniversary as an occasion for remembrance.  This weekend, let us pause to think of those who were taken from us – far too suddenly, and far too soon.  Let us lift up, and hold in our hearts, the memories of the 20 little angels and six brave adults we lost last December.  Let us pledge that we will always stand with and support those they left behind.  And let us join the people of Newtown in paying tribute to the victims of this heinous crime by engaging in acts of kindness for our fellow citizens – ensuring that the legacy of this hateful act will be forever defined by compassion, by solicitude, and by love.

Bureau of Prison’s Universal Children’s Day
December 6th, 2013 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of the Bureau of Prison’s Director Charles E. Samuels

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis past weekend, the Bureau of Prisons held its first ever Universal Children’s Day, a visiting event for inmates and their families. This special visiting weekend provided a wonderful opportunity for inmates to deepen bonds with their children and strengthen their roles as parents through various activities and workshops. With more than 123,000 federal inmates who have children under the age of twenty-one, BOP is committed to giving inmates opportunities to enhance their relationship with their children and their role as parents. There is no substitute for looking your children in the eye and letting them know you care about them.

I was pleased by the large number of children that were able to visit with their incarcerated parents. Nearly 8,500 children visited more than 4,000 federal inmates during this special weekend. Our institutions across the country collaborated with their local communities to make the event a tremendous success and many featured activities such as storytelling, face painting, parenting workshops, family worship services and holiday-themed arts and crafts. At Oklahoma’s Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, dairy calves were on hand for a petting zoo and fire trucks were featured from the local fire department. In addition to activities, each institution provided families with a helpful toolkit including Sesame Street’s “Little Children, Big Challenges” booklets and DVDs, “Mommies and Daddies in Prison” by Sue Jeweler and Judi Goozh, and children’s coloring pages and parenting tip sheets. These materials are aimed to help provide support to children and help them understand, express and cope with the feelings that come with having incarcerated parents.

For some inmates this was the first time they read a book to their child or drew a picture together. My hope is that this is just the beginning, for many mothers and fathers, of a sustained journey back into the lives of their children and their roles as parents. We are always looking for new ways to help inmates enhance their parenting and other skills that are related to a successful return to the community. This weekend’s events were certainly a great start!

For more information and additional resources and supports for children of incarcerated parents, please visit http://findyouthinfo.gov/youth-topics/children-of-incarcerated-parents.

 
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