Monday, November 22, 2004

Eyes on the Prize?

That is a reference to the title of a PBS series and a book about the Civil Rights Movement. The eyes that today appear to be glued on the prize are not those of black Americans but those of our faith-based administration. As a consequence, the enforcement of civil rights has been asked to take a seat at the back of the bus. (Isn't this about the worst mess of writing you have ever come across?)

Federal enforcement of civil rights laws has declined sharply since 1999 although the number of complaints received by the Justice Department has remained relatively constant, according a study released yesterday.
Criminal charges alleging civil rights violations were brought last year against 84 defendants, down from 159 in 1999, according to Justice Department data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
In addition, the study found that the number of times the FBI or other federal investigative agencies recommended prosecution in civil rights cases has fallen by more than a third, from more than 3,000 in 1999 to more than 1,900 last year. Federal court data also suggest that the government has sought fewer sanctions against civil rights violators.
The study's coauthor, David Burnham of TRAC, said the results indicate that civil rights enforcement declined across the board during President Bush's first term in office. The Justice Department enforces a range of civil rights laws, from guaranteeing fair housing access to prosecuting hate crimes.
''Collectively, some violators of the civil rights laws are not being dealt with by the government," Burnham said. ''They've declined by a huge number of cases. This trend, we think, is significant."

According to Burnham, the reason for the drop in cases is not fewer claims as claims have remained constant for the last five years. What could be behind this trend, then? One possible answer is hidden in this quote:

Civil rights cases made up a tiny fraction of the Justice Department's total of 99,341 criminal prosecutions in 2003. But the study found that only civil rights and environmental prosecutions were down from 1999 to 2003 as the caseload rose by about 10 percent.

I guess the government doesn't care for civil rights. They are not like, you know, moral values and stuff.