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The Justice Department Celebrates the United States’ Entry into the Open Government Partnership
September 20, 2011 Posted by

President Obama made openness a priority of his Administration, committing to an “unprecedented level of openness in Government” on his first full day in office. 

In the years since that declaration more information has been released under Freedom of Information Act, and made available on government websites, than ever before. The federal government continues to use technology in innovative ways that harness government information to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.

As President Obama today signs the Open Government Partnership declaration, the Justice Department is proud to highlight some of the ways that it has advanced America’s open government agenda and created a more efficient and effective government through greater transparency, participation, and collaboration.

As the “flagship initiative,” of its Open Government Plan, the Justice Department pledged a new “FOIA Dashboard.” The site, FOIA.gov, launched earlier this year. It is a comprehensive resource for government-wide FOIA compliance data and educational information.

FOIA.gov presents data on agency FOIA processing, including the numbers of FOIA requests made and processed by each agency, the disposition of those requests, the time taken to respond, and any backlogs of pending requests.  That data can be compared and contrasted between agencies and over time.  Users can select the criteria they want to examine and then run a report on the site. 

As an educational resource, FOIA.gov contains material about how the FOIA works and what to expect during the process, and also provides contact information for all government agencies with links to their FOIA websites. 

The department has also begun posting newly digitized reference materials – including legislative histories and archived speeches of former Attorneys General. These materials were previously available only to department employees. 

The legislative histories track the development and passage of laws that were deemed of interest to the department or in which the department played a vital role.  

In addition, speeches from past  Attorneys General are being digitized and posted online. Dating from 1933 to 2009, many of these documents have never before been widely available. These documents will prove to be a treasure trove to librarians, researchers and anyone else interested in the department’s history and documents.

An open and good government is much more than releasing information.  It is about harnessing the skills and talents of the American people, establishing greater collaboration among Federal agencies, and ensuring that the taxpayer’s money is wisely spent.  To that end, today, the department is recommitting itself to the principles that the President announced on his first day in office and exemplified in our work since then. 

In the upcoming months the Department of Justice plans to convene an Interagency Technology Working Group to focus on expanding the use of technology in the core elements of FOIA administration. 

Agencies across the government have already embraced technology to assist in receipt and tracking of requests and generation of Annual FOIA Reports.   The next step is to improve and streamline administration of the FOIA. Improving this process will allow agencies to respond to requests more quickly and will further reduce backlogs. 

In the coming months, the Office of Information Policy, will seek input from interested stakeholders and lead an effort to transform the administration of the FOIA.

For more information on the Justice Department’s Open Government efforts, visit justice.gov/open.

Database of Effective Programs Can Help Make Communities Safer
September 16, 2011 Posted by

This post is based on the remarks of Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant Attorney for DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs, before the International Community Corrections Association on September 13, 2011.  ICCA presented Ms. Robinson with its Margaret Mead award in recognition of her leadership and innovation in advancing the goals of community-based correctional programming. 

Our knowledge of effective criminal justice programs has grown considerably in recent years. Evidence has become our lodestar, and I’ve watched with pride as practitioners, policymakers, and politicians have turned to science for answers.  With today’s budget challenges, our need for answers—that have proven results, based on research—has never been greater.

Even before I returned to the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) in 2009 as the Assistant Attorney General, I thought we needed to improve the way OJP and the justice community use evidence to make program and policy decisions.  While I was at the University of Pennsylvania in 2007, I testified before Congress about the need for a “What Works” Clearinghouse to help spread knowledge about effective programs and practices in the criminal and juvenile justice fields. 

This June, we proudly announced CrimeSolutions.gov, a searchable database of 150 justice-related programs, each accompanied by an effectiveness rating.  Database users can locate programs across an array of justice topics, ranging from corrections and reentry to courts, crime and crime prevention, drugs and substance abuse, forensics and technology, juvenile justice, law enforcement, and victims and victimization.  Each program profile includes a description of its target audience, evaluation outcomes, costs, and other important details practitioners look for when deciding how to best meet the needs of their communities.

Most importantly, every program has been assessed by a team of researchers and subject matter experts. These experts have rigorously examined evaluation findings and related research to figure out which programs are effective, promising, or have no effects. These ratings give policymakers a sense of which programs are tried-and-true, and which programs may require adjustments or new approaches to get the best results.

I encourage practitioners and policymakers to visit the site– and to use it. CrimeSolutions.gov is a practical tool to translate research about effective justice programs into practices that will make our communities safer.

Supporting Tribal Nations through Comprehensive Engagement & Investment
September 14, 2011 Posted by

In line with Attorney General Holder’s commitment to enhancing public safety in Indian Country, Assistant Attorney General Tom Perrelli announced grants totaling $118.4 million to support law enforcement practices and sustain crime prevention and intervention efforts.

Tribal governments received awards in areas including public safety and community policing; methamphetamine enforcement; justice systems and alcohol and substance abuse; corrections and correctional alternatives; violence against women; elder abuse; juvenile justice; and tribal youth programs. 

“This year, we encouraged comprehensive safety planning– because we know innovative and holistic approaches work,” said Perrelli, who made the announcement at the department’s Four Corners Indian Conference in Ignacio, Colorado.

Perrelli also spoke about the department’s streamlined grant application for federal funding.  Now in its second year, the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) serves as a single application for existing tribal government-specific grant programs administered by the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs  (OJP), Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

Through consultations and listening sessions tribes expressed a desire for a less cumbersome and flexible application system for grant funding. CTAS does both. The effort has been held up as an example of how federal coordination can better meet the critical needs of tribal nations.

Perrelli told the group:

“Our government-to-goverment consultations have been critical to our understanding of how to better serve and support our tribal partners. By deepening our engagement with tribal governments, we have sought to help put an end to the unacceptable and sobering crime rates witnessed in Indian Country.”

In the past two and a half years of the Obama administration, the Justice Department has taken a number of steps to deepen its commitment to Indian nations and to develop more effective partnerships with tribal leaders, police, prosecutors, courts and advocates to address and combat crime.

To learn more about the department’s efforts, visit justice.gov/tribal.

Celebrating 17 Years of the Violence Against Women Act
September 13, 2011 Posted by

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

Marking the 17th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) helps us both appreciate the great strides that have been made in addressing all types of violence against women and recognize the fact that more needs to be done to create a society free from domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) remains committed to addressing these crimes in a broad and comprehensive manner.

The concept of a coordinated community response is one of the most critical and visible achievements of VAWA.   In the years since VAWA’s enactment by Congress in 1994, we have witnessed a sea-change in the ways that communities respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  VAWA encourages communities to bring together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to share information and to use their distinct roles to improve our responses to and prevention of violence against women. These groups include, but are not limited to: victim advocates, police officers, prosecutors, judges, probation and corrections officials, health care professionals, leaders within faith communities, and survivors of violence.  New programs and amendments have strengthened the law and enhanced our work.

We continue to be grateful to this administration and its role in bringing greater attention to and awareness of these crimes.  The ongoing support of the President and Vice President inspires and encourages us in our day-to-day work. In his Proclamation marking the 15th Anniversary of VAWA, President Obama described some accomplishments and important tasks ahead.  His words continue to strengthen our resolve: 

…Communities recognize the special needs of victims and appreciate the benefits of collaboration among professionals in the civil and criminal justice system, victim advocates, and other service providers. With the support of VAWA funds, dedicated units of law enforcement officers and specialized prosecutors have grown more numerous than ever before. Most importantly, victims are more likely to have a place to turn for help — for emergency shelter and crisis services, and also for legal assistance, transitional housing, and services for their children.

Despite this great progress, our Nation’s work remains unfinished. More families and communities must recognize that the safety of our children relates directly to the safety of our mothers. Access to sexual assault services, especially in rural America, must be increased. American Indian and Alaska Native women experience the highest rates of violence, and we must make it a priority to address this urgent problem. We must also work with diverse communities to make sure the response to violence is relevant and culturally appropriate. We must prevent the homicide of women and girls who have suffered from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Far too many women in our communities and neighborhoods, and across the world, continue to suffer from violence. Inspired by the promise and achievement of the Violence Against Women Act, our Nation stands united in its determination to end these crimes and help those in need.

We invite everyone to add his or her voice to putting an end to violence against women.  Specific opportunities are available in many communities during the four observance months:  October (Domestic Violence Month), January (Stalking Awareness Month), February (Teen Dating Violence Month) and April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month).     For more information about OVW or these awareness months, please visit www.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.

Remembering 9/11
September 9, 2011 Posted by

The Department of Justice is marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks today and throughout the weekend with a number of events. This morning department employees gathered together in the Great Hall for a shared moment of silence led by Attorney General Holder.

The Attorney General addresses the employees gathered in the Great Hall to remember and honor the victims of 9/11.
The Attorney General addresses the employees gathered in the Great Hall to remember and honor the victims of 9/11.

Later in the morning, the Attorney General attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial’s 9/11 Commemorative Ceremony.

The Attorney General attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial’s 9/11 Commemorative Ceremony.

The Attorney General attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial’s 9/11 Commemorative Ceremony.

This morning, as we reflect on the profound sacrifices and contributions of the many law enforcement officers and military service members who have risen to the challenge of securing our nation over the last decade – let us also reaffirm the enduring legacy of those we have lost: a nation that is not only safer, but stronger, than ever before…Let us carry on their unfinished work and strive – in their honor – to promote, not only safety and security, but also peace – and, above all, justice.   And – as we leave this place today – let us do everything in our power to ensure that – in our own time, in the lives of our children, and in the work of future generations – the stories, the memories, and the rich legacies of those we lost on September 11th will never be forgotten.

Finally, this afternoon, the Attorney General joined current and former Department of Justice employees for the Department of Justice 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony. 

Attorney General Holder speaks at the Justice Department 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony. he is joined onstage by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Solicitor General Ted Olson, and 9/11 family members and victim advocates, Carie Lemack and Major Abraham Scott.

Attorney General Holder speaks at the Justice Department 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony. he is joined onstage by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Solicitor General Ted Olson, and 9/11 family members and victim advocates, Carie Lemack and Major Abraham Scott.

On September 11th, 2001, when those towers were reduced to rubble – along with the western side of the Pentagon, and a patch of land in rural Pennsylvania – and as so many lives were cut short – we learned, in the most painful of ways, about the human capacity for evil.   But in the moments, months, and years since, we have seen – in the compassion and generosity of people across the world – the human capacity for good.   We also have witnessed our nation’s ability to transform sorrow into strength, into unity, into resiliency – and into a nationwide call to service…

…Despite all that was lost and destroyed on September 11th – when I think back on that terrible day, these are the qualities that shine through – at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and in the skies above Shanksville, Pennsylvania.   These are the defining attributes that brought our nation together – and will continue to make this country an example of strength.

 Since America’s earliest days – even in the darkest of moments – the citizens of this country have proven that – no matter the challenge, no matter the obstacle, no matter the differences that, at times, can divide us from one another – we are, and always will be, one nation.   One people.   Conceived in liberty; dedicated to the highest ideals of justice; and striving – always – to carry forward the difficult but essential work of building a more perfect union.

Former Solicitor General Ted Olson, and 9/11 family members and victim advocates, Carie Lemack and Major Abraham Scott, also spoke at the event.

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, Attorney General Holder will join President Obama and other Cabinet members at Ground Zero where they will honor the men, women and children whose lives were abruptly ended on that autumn day.

To learn more about how the Department of Justice is remembering 9/11 and how we continue to remain vigilant to protect Americans and the American way of life, visit justice.gov/911

The American Jobs Act
September 9, 2011 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Last night, President Obama laid out a bold, comprehensive plan to save and create jobs, to advance our continuing recovery efforts, and to restore our nation’s economic strength.  In the coming days, as Congress considers legislation aimed at accomplishing these goals – and as a robust national debate unfolds – it’s more important than ever to remember that economic conditions across the country are inextricably linked to the security of our communities, and the safety of the American people.

That’s why a central component of the President’s plan includes several proposals designed to preserve – and to create – critical jobs for members of the first responder community – including police officers, firefighters, and other essential public safety personnel.  At a time when federal, local, state, and tribal authorities have been forced to contend with rapidly growing demands and increasingly limited budgets, this support could hardly be more necessary – or more urgent.

By providing basic resources to keep cops on the beat and firefighters on the job, we can reinforce local departments whose ranks have been depleted by budget constraints.  We can maintain the core emergency response capabilities that so many Americans depend on every day.  And we can reaffirm our commitment to keeping our neighborhoods safe from crime and terror.

As we look to the future, my colleagues and I across the Justice Department – and throughout the Administration – will continue to work diligently and collaboratively to prevent and combat violent crime, to protect the American people from an array of global threats, and to safeguard the sacred rights of all those we are privileged to serve.  The American Jobs Act represents an essential step forward in these efforts – and will also provide the enhanced resources and authorities that are necessary not only to ensure public safety and create jobs, but to increase fairness in employment and hiring practices from coast to coast.

In moving ahead with this work, we don’t have a moment to lose.  The time for decisive action is now.  The American Jobs Act provides law enforcement officers and other critical public safety officials with the support – and the resources – they desperately need.

 
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