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Attorney General Holder Visits the Potomac Job Corps Center
October 13, 2011 Posted by
Attorney  General Holder visits the Potomac Job Corps Training Center

Attorney General Holder visits the Potomac Job Corps Training Center

Today, Attorney General Eric Holder joined the Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis for a tour of the Potomac Job Corps Center in Washington, D.C. With 120+ nationwide campuses in over 40 states and Puerto Rico, Job Corps centers train over 60,000 students each year.

The U.S. Department of Labor administers the Job Corps career technical and education training program free-of-cost to help youth ages 16 through 24 improve their quality of life and find a career.  Since Job Corps’ beginning in 1964, the program has remained committed to offering students a positive environment for professional and educational success.

The Potomac Job Corps Center lives up to the mission of teaching eligible young people the skills they need to become employable, independent and professionally trained in variety of technical and academic areas.

Attorney General Holder and Secretary Solis speak with young people at the center.

Attorney General Holder and Secretary Solis speak with young people at the center.

During the tour of the Center,  Attorney General Holder joined students of all career areas in a round table discussion to listen to their personal stories, passions and plans for the future, saying:

 “I want to thank all of the students for their inspiring stories. They are the future leaders of this nation and I know their futures will be bright.”

During lunch, students in the Culinary Arts career program showcased their culinary skills for the Attorney General and Department of Labor Secretary Solis. Jobs Corps Center Director, Steven Belk, along with the center’s Student Government Association President, Andrea Williams, thanked Attorney  General Holder and Secretary Solis for visiting and taking time to talk with  the young people there. 

For more information, youth interested in applying to Job Corps should visit: http://www.jobcorps.gov/home.aspx

First National Summit On Campus Safety for College and University Presidents – Beginning the Dialogue
October 13, 2011 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of Susan B. Carbon, Director, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

Earlier this month, at the first-ever National Summit on Campus Safety for College and University Presidents, nearly 70 representatives from colleges and universities across the country and Puerto Rico came together to discuss the critically important issue of campus safety.

Attendees shared information related to campus crime and worked to strengthen safety programs by developing campus-based coordinated community responses to domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  Although these problems and other forms of violent crime exist all around us, our discussions focused on the college population of 16-24 year olds — the age of the highest prevalence of violence against a very vulnerable population.

The Office on Violence Against Women was honored to host this historic summit and engage in town hall format discusssions about implementing policies and practices that address the needs of victims, hold offenders accountable, and are pro-active in preventing and intervening in these crimes.  From the outset, our main objective was to develop clearly-defined and transparent policies that create a culture of safety and non-violence in the university or college environment.

The summit’s ambitious agenda highlighted the most enduring lessons as well as the best examples of student success and campus leadership and achievement.   Expert panelists provided an overview of the federal agencies that support campus programs; survivors and victim advocates shared their experiences; and guest presenters discussed legal concerns, the latest statistics on these crimes, and the breadth of campus threats and what we can do to address them.

Finally, our experts talked about major gaps in the public’s understanding of sexual violence, and explained critical strategies for communicating about it as a public and educational issue.

At the end of the summit, OVW was particularly thrilled to welcome back the first director of our office, Attorney Bonnie Campbell, former Regent of the University of Iowa system, who closed the session with a compelling challenge and invitation to all presidents to make campus safety their signature achievement.

We covered a lot of important ground – and reaffirmed our joint commitment to moving forward in this work – over the course of just two days.  But great challenges, and a number of key questions, remain before us.  What can we do to make it easier for victims to find information and get help?  How can we better engage students in the campus safety discussion, and ensure that our message is getting through?  What hiring and training techniques can be employed to ensure that college and university personnel understand the priorities of safety?

Of course, few of these questions will be met with easy answers.  And, despite our best efforts, it will undoubtedly take longer than we would like to make the progress we seek.  But this month’s summit was a promising step in the right direction.

Administrators agreed that acts of violence do not belong on any campus, and affect the entire student body, faculty, staff and surrounding communities.  “Sexual sovereignty – every student is entitled to their own.  Respect it,” said Diane Rosenfeld, of Harvard Law School.  With the leadership – and shared commitment — of these and other college and university presidents, I am confident that healthier campus environments, where tomorrow’s leaders can learn and grow, are becoming a reality.

We look forward to further conversations, and invite you to join us.

For more information about the Office on Violence Against Women, visit ovw.usdoj.gov.

We remind all those in need of assistance, or other concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Civil Rights Protections for Service Members and their Families
October 13, 2011 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of Tom Perez,  Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. It originally appeared on WhiteHouse.gov.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of meeting with service members at the Ft. Knox Military Installation and discussing the civil rights protections that we at the Department of Justice are working hard to enforce on their behalf, and on behalf of their families.  While there, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky David J. Hale and I met with LTG Benjamin C. Freakley, Commanding General, U.S. Army Accession Command at Fort Knox, and toured the newly opened Maude Complex, home to Human Resources Command where more than 4,400 military and civilian workers are employed.

We also met with Staff Judge Advocate Col. Robert J. Cotell and Ft. Knox’s Legal Assistance Division to discuss a number of significant laws that the Civil Rights Division enforces to protect service members and their families, including the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Military judge advocate general’s (JAG) offices advise service members of their rights under these laws.  JAG lawyers also partner with local U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Civil Rights Division to ensure that these rights are protected and enforced.

While at Ft. Knox, I spoke with approximately 100 soldiers from various units — including the Warrior Transition Unit, which assists wounded soldiers — to discuss the Civil Rights Division’s recent efforts to protect important economic, housing, voting, loan and employment rights of our nation’s service members.  I wanted to hear directly from the men and women serving our nation in uniform about the challenges they face, so that we can do our best to address those challenges.  The meeting was very informative, and I learned about particular issues and cases in a wide range of civil rights areas.  I was inspired by their commitment to service and the sacrifice that our soldiers are making on behalf of the nation.

As I told the soldiers: “There is a posse of people in the federal government making sure that the remarkable sacrifice that you make on behalf of our country is a sacrifice that is matched by our commitment to help you in so many different [civil rights] areas.” 

I encouraged Ft. Knox’s soldiers to seek advice from their JAG office about their rights under these laws and to report violations of their rights.  I also talked about the Department’s recent enforcement actions, including successful efforts to avoid the foreclosure of homes owned by soldiers serving overseas and to compensate soldiers who return from deployment to find that they no longer have a civilian job.  At the end of May, the Division announced two multi-million dollar settlements under SCRA, including a $20 million settlement with Bank of America/Countrywide to resolve allegations that the mortgage servicer unlawfully foreclosed on approximately 160 service members.  This was the largest SCRA settlement we have ever reached.  To date in the current administration, 34 cases have been filed under USERRA to protect the employment rights of service members, more than were filed in the previous four years combined.  In the 2010 elections, the Division aggressively enforced UOCAVA to ensure that Americans serving in our armed forces and citizens living overseas received their absentee ballots in time to ensure that they had the opportunity to vote and to have their votes counted.

But we can do more. While at Ft. Knox, I also discussed the package of legislative proposals that the Department of Justice sent to Congress on September 20th.  These proposals would significantly strengthen the existing laws that protect the civil rights of members of the military and their families.  The package of reforms addresses all three of the service member civil rights statutes that the Civil Rights Division enforces.  These three laws were all enacted with broad, bipartisan support, and these new proposals will make the protections afforded to our service members even stronger.

For more information about the Department’s work on behalf of service members, please visit www.servicemembers.gov.

POSTED IN: Civil Rights Division  |  PERMALINK
Champions for Justice
October 13, 2011 Posted by

 

Attorney General Holder hosts a panel with a selection of the honorees to discuss how to increase access to justice.

Attorney General Holder hosts a panel with a selection of the honorees to discuss how to increase access to justice.

 

 “Equal justice under the law” is more than just a phrase. It is an American ideal, at the core of our belief system.   And yet, for too many Americans, sound legal advice and assistance has been out of reach.

 That is why last year the President and the Attorney General launched the Access to Justice Initiative. It was formed to address this crisis – to ensure that basic legal services are available, affordable and accessible to everyone in this country – regardless of status, income, or wealth.  Across the country, the department has been diligently working with federal, state, local and private partners towards enhancing the availability, and quality of legal representation available to all.

Most defendants are dependent on the service of public lawyers, and in some cases, public defender caseloads are so excessive that they struggle to fulfill their basic obligations to their clients. Many times, these circumstances leave our criminal justice system falling short. Those who suffer most from these shortcomings are often the most vulnerable among us – immigrants, juveniles, the homeless, disabled veterans, or victims of domestic and sexual violence.

However, the innovation and perseverance of dedicated legal professionals across the nation is making a difference. 

 Today the Department of Justice and the White House, came together to celebrate and honor some of these “Champions of Change” who promote access to justice in their communities.  As Attorney General Eric Holder said:

All across the country, each one of them is making a difference – by helping people in dire need access legal services; by securing much-needed benefits for disabled children, military families, and veterans; by paving the way for individuals transitioning out of our prisons and jails to become productive members of their communities; and by helping to safeguard – and to empower – the most vulnerable among us.

Leading advocates from the private and public sector, including defense lawyers, prosecutors, law professors and law students attended the event.  There are 118 law schools watching the event via a live-feed, thousands more students got to witness as the Champions shared their successes and had an open discussion about the work that still remains to be done.

 Beginning on Oct. 17, 2011, a video of the event and Champions’ individual stories will be highlighted at www.whitehouse.gov/champions.  In addition, the Champions’ blogs, as well as entries from each of the 118 participating law schools describing their commitment to public service, will be featured.

 Since its launch, Access to Justice has made an impact in beginning to improve the legal system for all Americans, regardless of status. If you would like to learn more about the Access to Justice Initiative and how you can help in your own community, visit justice.gov/atj  

$130 Million Dollars in Cost Savings and Efficiency Measures
October 7, 2011 Posted by

 The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder

Since this Administration’s earliest days, President Obama has signaled his commitment to conserving resources – and saving precious taxpayer dollars – by cutting costs, streamlining government operations, and working to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse wherever we find it.  Across the Justice Department, achieving these goals has been a top priority.  And we’ve made critical – and, at times, extremely difficult – decisions to improve efficiency and reduce spending.

For example, at the beginning of this year, I ordered a Justice Department-wide hiring freeze, and instructed my colleagues at every level to limit travel, training, and other costs to only those needs that are absolutely essential.  This order remains in effect – and, to date, the reductions in conference spending alone have already provided savings of $14 million over the same period last year.

In June, President Obama and Vice President Biden launched an Administration-wide Campaign to Cut Waste, and directed every office and agency in the Federal Government to take their cost-cutting efforts to the next level.  Once again, the Justice Department rose to the challenge.

I am proud to report that the Department has taken significant, aggressive action to make good on our promise to act as sound stewards of taxpayer funds.  [Earlier this week/Last week], we announced a series of measures that will increase our efficiency, maintain our critical law enforcement and public safety activities, and save more than $130 million.

We’re determined to meet current budgetary challenges by more effectively using the Department’s resources, realigning functions in various offices, and lowering lease costs by consolidating or reducing office space wherever possible.  Based on the guidance of Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the recommendations of Justice Department leaders at every level, and the robust efforts of the Advisory Council for Savings and Efficiencies – which I created in July 2010, and which has already provided more than $50 million in savings – my colleagues and I will continue to seek new ways to reduce spending and increase the efficiency of our day-to-day-operations, without compromising our effectiveness.

In this time of uncommon challenges and unprecedented threats, the need to conserve scarce resources – and to accomplish more with less – has never been more apparent, or more urgent.  Across the Department of Justice, we are fully committed to these efforts.  And, throughout the Administration, I am confident in our ability to build on this record of success.

Learn more about the cost-saving measures recently announced by the Justice Department.

Improving Public Safety & Creating Jobs
October 5, 2011 Posted by

 

Attorney General Holder announces COPS grants in Ohio.

Attorney General Holder announces COPS grants in Ohio.

 

The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Today, along with COPS Director Barney Melekian, I traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, to discuss the Justice Department’s most recent efforts to support our nation’s law enforcement community – and to ensure that police officers from coast to coast have the resources that they need and deserve.

In recent years, police departments like Cincinnati’s – and law enforcement agencies nationwide – have faced extraordinary budget difficulties and have been asked to do more with less.  All across the country, law enforcement officials have risen to the challenge – and found innovative, collaborative ways to improve public safety and to keep crime trends heading in the right direction.  But at a time when approximately 10,000 officer jobs have been cut, and three times as many positions are currently unfilled due to fiscal constraints, we have a looming national crisis on our hands, both in terms of public safety and public employment.  In short, our citizens need protection – and our police officers and other first responders need jobs.

As part of the Department’s ongoing effort to meet these needs, I’m proud to report that the COPS Office is providing more than $240 million in new grants to support the hiring and retention of more than 1,000 officers in nearly 240 agencies and municipalities across the country.  The Cincinnati Police Department alone was awarded more than $6.8 million in grant money from the COPS Hiring Program, which will fund 25 critical positions for three years. 

Such targeted investments are essential to advancing the Department’s mission to be smart, as well as tough, on crime.  These same priorities are reflected in President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act, which – in addition to creating new employment opportunities and bolstering economic growth – aims to put more officers on the beat and strengthen public safety efforts nationwide. 

Although we all can be proud of – and inspired by – the courage and commitment that our nation’s law enforcement officers exhibit every day, we must find ways to take this work to the next level.  The COPS Hiring Program – and this Administration’s determination to create and restore law enforcement jobs across the country – will allow us to do just that.

To learn more about the COPS Hiring Program and the Department’s ongoing work to support our law enforcement partners at every level, read the press release or visit http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/

 
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