Smart on Crime


Smart on Crime 

SMART on CRIME Reforming The Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century 

August 2013 

“By targeting the most serious offenses, prosecuting the most dangerous criminals, directing assistance to crime ‘hot spots,’ and pursuing new ways to promote public safety, deterrence, efficiency, and fairness – we can become both

INTRODUCTION At the direction of the Attorney General, in early 2013 the Justice Department launched a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system in order to identify reforms that would ensure federal laws are enforced more fairly and—in an era of reduced budgets—more efficiently. Specifically, this project identified five goals:

  • To ensure finite resources are devoted to the most important law enforcement priorities; To promote fairer enforcement of the laws and alleviate disparate impacts of the criminal justice system;
  • To ensure just punishments for low-level, nonviolent convictions; To bolster prevention and reentry efforts to deter crime and reduce recidivism;
  • To strengthen protections for vulnerable populations.

As part of its review, the Department studied all phases of the criminal justice system—including charging, sentencing, incarceration and reentry—to examine which practices are most successful at deterring crime and protecting the public, and which aren’t. The review also considered demographic disparities that have provoked questions about the fundamental fairness of the criminal justice system.

The preliminary results of this review suggest a need for a significant change in our approach to enforcing the nation’s laws. Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it. smarter and tougher on crime.” Remarks to American Bar Association’s Annual Convention in San Francisco, CA —Attorney General Eric Holder August 12, 2013

The reality is, while the aggressive enforcement of federal criminal statutes remains necessary, we cannot prosecute our way to becoming a safer nation. To be effective, federal efforts must also focus on prevention and reentry. In addition, it is time to rethink the nation’s system of mass imprisonment. The United States today has the highest rate of incarceration of any nation in the world, and the nationwide cost to state and federal budgets was $80 billion in 2010 alone. This pattern of incarceration is disruptive to families, expensive to the taxpayer, and may not serve the goal of reducing recidivism. We must marshal resources, and use evidence-based strategies, to curb the disturbing rates of recidivism by those reentering our communities.

These findings align with a growing movement at the state level to scrutinize the cost-effectiveness of our corrections system. In recent years, states such as Texas and Arkansas have reduced their prison populations by pioneering approaches that seek alternatives to incarceration for people convicted of low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.

It is time to apply some of the lessons learned from these states at the federal level. By shifting away from our over-reliance on incarceration, we can focus resources on the most important law enforcement priorities, such as violence prevention and protection of vulnerable populations.

The initial package of reforms described below—dubbed the Justice Department’s “Smart on Crime” initiative—is only the beginning of an ongoing effort to modernize the criminal justice system. In the months ahead, the Department will continue to hone an approach that is not only more efficient, and not only more effective at deterring crime and reducing recidivism, but also more consistent with our nation’s commitment to treating all Americans as equal under the law.

We of course must remain tough on crime. But we must also be smart on crime.


I. PRIORITIZE PROSECUTIONS TO FOCUS ON MOST SERIOUS CASES Given scarce resources, federal law enforcement efforts should focus on the most serious cases that implicate clear, substantial federal interests. Currently, the Department’s interests are:

  1. Protecting Americans from national security threats
  2. Protecting Americans from violent crime
  3.  Protecting Americans from financial fraud
  4. Protecting the most vulnerable members of society

Based on these federal priorities, the Attorney General is, for the first time, requiring the development of district-specific guidelines for determining when federal prosecutions should be brought. This necessarily will mean focusing resources on fewer but the most significant cases, as opposed to fixating on the sheer volume of cases.

For more: .


Attorney General Holder: Justice Department Set to Expand Clemency Criteria, Will Prepare for Wave of Applications from Drug Offenders in Federal Prison
Monday, April 21, 2014

“In 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, reducing unfair disparities in sentences imposed on people for offenses involving different forms of cocaine.

“But there are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime – and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime.

“This is simply not right.

“Legislation pending in Congress would help address these types of cases.  In the meantime, President Obama took a sensible step towards addressing this situation by granting commutations last December to eight men and women who had each served more than 15 years in prison for crack cocaine offenses.  For two of these individuals, it was the first conviction they’d ever received – yet, due to mandatory minimum guidelines that were considered severe at the time, and are profoundly out of date today – they and four others received life sentences.

“These stories illustrate the vital role that the clemency process can play in America’s justice system.

“The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety.  The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.

“Later this week, the deputy attorney general will announce new criteria that the department will consider when recommending applications for the President’s review.  This new and improved approach will make the criteria for clemency recommendation more expansive.  This will allow the Department of Justice and the president to consider requests from a larger field of eligible individuals.

“Once these reforms go into effect, we expect to receive thousands of additional applications for clemency.  And we at the Department of Justice will meet this need by assigning potentially dozens of lawyers – with backgrounds in both prosecution and defense – to review applications and provide the rigorous scrutiny that all clemency applications require.

“As a society, we pay much too high a price whenever our system fails to deliver the just outcomes necessary to deter and punish crime, to keep us safe, and to ensure that those who have paid their debts have a chance to become productive citizens.

“Our expanded clemency application process will aid in this effort.  And it will advance the aims of our innovative new Smart on Crime initiative – to strengthen the criminal justice system, promote public safety and deliver on the promise of equal justice under law.”

The full video message is available at


Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole at the Press Conference Announcing the Clemency Initiative

Washington, D.C. ~ Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Good morning and thank you all for being here.  I am pleased to announce a Department of Justice initiative to encourage qualified federal inmates to petition to have their sentences commuted, or reduced, by the President of the United States.

Last year, the Attorney General launched a new “Smart on Crime” initiative.  Smart on Crime was conceived with an eye toward addressing the crises caused by a vastly overcrowded prison population and with a goal of redirecting some of the dollars we spend on prisons to prosecutors and law enforcement agents working to keep our streets safer.  It is designed to strengthen the criminal justice system, promote public safety, and deliver on the promise of equal justice under law. 

In 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced unfair disparities in sentences for offenses involving crack cocaine.  But the Fair Sentencing Act did not apply to those who were sentenced before its passage.  And now there are many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime – and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime.  The fundamental American concept, equal justice under law, requires that our laws be enforced fairly – and not just going forward, but it is equally important that we extend this fairness to those who are already serving prison sentences for their crimes.

Last December, President Obama took steps toward addressing this situation by granting commutations to eight men and women who had each served more than 15 years in prison for crack cocaine offenses.  For two of these individuals, it was the first conviction they’d ever received – yet, due to mandatory guidelines that were considered severe at the time, and are out of date today – they and four others had received life sentences.  Since that time, the President has indicated that he wants to be able to consider additional, similar applications for commutation of sentence, to restore a degree of fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals.  The Justice Department is committed to responding to the President’s directive by finding additional candidates who are similarly situated to those granted clemency last year, and recommending qualified applicants for reduced sentences.

We are launching this clemency initiative in order to quickly and effectively identify appropriate candidates, candidates who have a clean prison record, do not present a threat to public safety, and were sentenced under out-of-date laws that have since been changed, and are no longer seen as appropriate.  While those sentenced prior to the Fair Sentencing Act may be the most obvious candidates, this initiative is not limited to crack offenders.  Rather, the initiative is open to candidates who meet six criteria:  they must be

(1) inmates who are currently serving a federal sentence in prison and, by operation of law, likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense today

(2) are non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large-scale criminal organizations, gangs, or cartels

(3) have served at least 10 years of their sentence

(4) do not have a significant criminal history

(5) have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and (6) have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.

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Behind bars Life Sentence Ex-felons like Richard Martin face life-long legal penalties even after they’ve paid their debt to society

4/2/14 By Richard Martin – KQED Perspectives

Whether you’re trying to get a job or rent an apartment, you know the application will ask The Question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”

For most people it’s an automatic “no.” But for millions The Question is an automatic disqualifier – a reminder that even though they’ve paid their debt to society they’re still shadowed by the stigma of a felony conviction.

I’m one of them.

More than 20 years ago – after growing up in San Francisco, going to Catholic schools, and playing music in the city’s nightclubs – I was convicted of drug possession for a third time. That earned me a sentence of three to five years in state prison.

I was lucky. The judge offered me rehab rather than prison. I knew I needed treatment. I entered a residential drug program and emerged 18 months later, clean and sober.

It turned my life around. I earned my master’s degree in English, published stories and books. But because of my record, I’m barred from what I really want to do – teach high-school English.

I’ve stopped applying for jobs in the private sector, where my answer to The Question sends my application to the trash. I’ve been turned down twice for places to live. My wife and I weren’t allowed to adopt children.

My felony conviction is a life sentence. But the stigma is starting to fade.

Last year California prohibited state and local governments from asking about conviction history in the first stage of job applications. Recently San Francisco limited the power of most private companies, as well as landlords for affordable housing, from asking about criminal records. They also must consider how long ago an offense occurred and whether it’s relevant to the application.

Punishing prisoners after they’ve done their time is unfair. It makes finding a job or an apartment harder and is one reason why recidivism is up 500 percent in California since my convictions and the prison population is so high a federal judge has ruled it cruel and unusual punishment.

Listen, if I can turn my life around, anyone can. Our jails and prisons are filled with untapped potential, people who could help lift our country up. We just need a fair chance.

With a Perspective, I’m Richard Martin. Richard Martin is development director for a nonprofit that helps incarcerated people and their families. He lives in San Francisco.

For the audio interview:  .



National Institute of Justice Recidivism is one of the most fundamental concepts in criminal justice. It refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime. Recidivism is measured by criminal acts that resulted in the rearrest, reconviction or return to prison with or without a new sentence during a three-year period following the prisoner’s release.

Current National Statistics on Recidivism

Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) studies have found high rates of recidivism among released prisoners. One study tracked 272,111 prisoners in 15 states after their release from prison in 1994. The researchers found that:

  • Within three years:
    • 67.5 percent were rearrested (almost exclusively for felonies or serious misdemeanors)
    • 46.9 percent were reconvicted
    • 25.4 percent were resentenced to prison for a new crime
  • The offenders accumulated 4.1 million arrest charges before their most recent imprisonment and another 744,000 charges within three years of release.
  • Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2 percent), those in prison for possessing, using or selling illegal weapons (70.2 percent), burglars (74.0 percent), larcenists (74.6 percent), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4 percent), and motor vehicle thieves (78.8 percent).

Within three years, 2.5 percent of released rapists were arrested for another rape, and 1.2 percent of those who had served time for homicide were arrested for another homicide.

Desistance from Crime

In an effort to build on what is currently known about desistance from crime, NIJ issued a directed solicitation in 2012. RTI International, in partnership with Pennsylvania State University’s Justice Center for Research, was awarded funds to conduct research that builds on earlier work that examined the main effects of re-entry programming on recidivism.

The research team theorizes that although offender services and programs may have a direct effect on desistance, individuals must decide independently to transform themselves into ex-offenders. Programs and services may facilitate transformation, just as individual transformation — or the lack thereof — may moderate the effects of re-entry assistance.

To examine the cognitive transformation theory of desistance, the RTI-Penn State study involves a long-term follow-up of more than 700 individuals who were originally interviewed between 2004 and 2005 as participants in the Multisite Evaluation of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI).

The participants include 582 men, 79 of whom were juveniles at the time of the original interviews, and 168 women. These individuals have extensive criminal histories, and more than 80 percent of the men and 75 percent of the women experienced at least one arrest in the four-and-a-half-year period following their release from prison in 2004-2005. Researchers will conduct interviews with participants focusing on cognitive transformation. These interviews will take place about a decade after the participants were first interviewed as part of SVORI and an average of 20 to 25 years after they were first arrested. In addition to conducting interviews for their study, the RTI-Penn State researchers are using existing administrative and interview data from SVORI, as well as current official arrest and reincarceration data.

President Obama’s Travel to Asia


PBO Asia Trip Spring 2014

February 12, 2014

Statement by the Press Secretary on the President’s Travel to Asia in April The President will travel to Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in late April as part of his ongoing commitment to increase U.S. diplomatic, economic and security engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

In Japan, the President will meet with Prime Minister Abe to highlight the historic steps the United States and Japan are taking to modernize our 54-year alliance, deepen our economic ties, including through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and expand our cooperation on a range of diplomatic challenges in Asia and globally.

The President will then travel to the Republic of Korea, where he will meet with President Park to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to a strong alliance, review recent developments in North Korea and our combined efforts to promote denuclearization, and discuss our ongoing implementation of the Korea-United States FTA.

In Malaysia, the President will meet with Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia to showcase the substantial progress made in deepening our diplomatic, economic, and defense ties with such an important partner in Southeast Asia.

The President will then travel to the Philippines, the fifth Asian treaty ally he will have visited during his presidency. He will meet with President Aquino to highlight our economic and security cooperation, including through the modernization of our defense alliance, efforts to expand economic ties and spark economic growth through the Partnership for Growth, and through our deep and enduring people-to-people ties.

U.S.-Japan Trade

U.S.-S. Korea Trade

U.S.- Malaysia Trade

U.S.- Phillipine Trade


President Obama’s Asia Travel Itinerary


April 23

President Obama arrives in Tokyo, Japan

President  Obama has a private dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Abe
Sukibayashi Jiro, Tokyo, Japan

President  Obama overnights in Japan

April 24

President Obama is welcomed in a official arrival ceremony
Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan

President Obama Inspects the Guard of Honor
Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan

President Obama holds a state call with Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko
Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold a bilateral meeting
Akasaka Palace, Tokyo, Japan

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold a joint press conference
Akasaka Palace,  Tokyo, Japan

President Obama tours the Miraikan Science Expo
National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Odaiba, Tokyo, Japan

President Obama delivers remarks at the Miraikan Science Expo, a youth and science event with students
National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Odaiba, Tokyo, Japan

President Obama visits the Meiji Shrine
Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

President Obama host a roundtable meeting with business leaders to discuss SelectUSA and KORUS, our free trade agreement
Tokyo, Japan

President Obama arrives to the Imperial Palace
Tokyo, Japan

President Obama participates in a receiving line with guests
Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan

The Japanese Imperial Family hosts a State dinner for President Obama
Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan

President Obama overnights in Tokyo, Japan

April 25

President Obama meets with employees and family members U.S. Embassy to Japan
Tokyo, Japan

President Obama travels to The Republic of Korea

South Korea

April 25

President Obama arrives in The Republic of Korea

President Obama participates in a wreath laying ceremony  to honor fallen soldiers
National War Memorial, Seoul, South Korea

President Obama tours Gyeongbok Palace
Seoul, South Korea

President Obama and President Park of the Republic of Korea hold a bilateral meeting
Blue House, Seoul, South Korea

President Obama and President Park of the Republic of Korea hold ajoint press conference
Blue House, Seoul, South Korea

President Obama and President Park of the Republic of Korea hold a working dinner
Seoul, South Korea

President Obama overnights in Seoul, South Korea

April 26

President Obama participates in a roundtable meeting with business leaders to discuss trade policy
Seoul, South Korea

President Obama is briefed by U.S.-ROK Combined Forces Command officers
Yongsan Garrison, Seoul, South Korea

President Obama visits US troops and their families
Yongsan Garrison, Seoul, South Korea

President Obama deliver remarks to US service members and US embassy staff
Yongsan Garrison, Seoul, South Korea

President Obama travels to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


April 26

Malaysian King Abdul Halim and Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia hosts a State dinner for Presidnet Obama
Istana Negara Palace, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

President Obama overnights in Malaysia

April 27

President Obama visits the National Mosque of Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

President Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib hold a bilateral meeting Malaysian
Prime Minister’s Office, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

President Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib hold a working lunch Malaysian
Prime Minister’s Office, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

President Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib hold a joint press conference Malaysian
Prime Minister’s Office, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

President Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister participates in an event Malaysian
Global Innovation and Creativity Center, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

President Obama participates in a town hall with participants in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative
Malaya University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

President Obama overnights in Malaysia


April 28

President Obama travels to the Philippines

President Obama and Philippines President Akino hold a bilateral meeting
Manila, Philippines

President Obama and Philippines President Akino hold a joint press conference
Manila, Philippines

Philippines President Akino hosts a state dinner for President Obama
Manila, Philippines

President Obama overnights in the Phillipines

April 29

President Obama views the Comet, a new electric vehicle
Manila, Philippines

President Obama delivers remarks to US and Filipino service memebers and veterans
Fort Bonifacio, Manila, Philippines

President Obama participates in a wreath laying ceremony to honor fallen soldiers
American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines

President Obama departs the Philippines for the White House


136th White House Easter Egg Roll


136th-wh-easter-eggroll-banner2014 WH Easter Egg RollWH 2014 Easter Egg Roll banner The White House Easter Egg Roll is a tradition that dates to 1878. Originally, young children in Washington, DC, would flock to Capitol Hill every Monday after Easter for egg rolling and a day of activities. Members of Congress grew tired of the growing crowds and passed an Act of Congress which prohibited egg rolling on the Capitol grounds. The event was moved to the White House in 1878 after President Hayes was approached by young children to use his backyard to roll eggs. Nearly every Easter since, the White House has invited young children to roll eggs on the White House lawn.

Today, the Easter Egg Roll has grown from a few local children rolling eggs on the White House lawn to become the largest event held at the White House, filled with live entertainment, sports and interactive cooking demonstrations. And, of course, the traditional rolling of the Easter eggs. The Easter Egg Roll promotes healthy and active living and is designed for children 13 years of age and under.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle announced the theme for this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll: “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape.”  Part of the President and First Lady’s ongoing effort to open the White House to as many people as possible, the event will open its South Lawn for children ages 13 years and younger and their families.   In support of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative to help kids grow up healthy and  have the opportunity to reach their full potential, the event will feature sports courts, cooking stations, and, of course, Easter egg rolling in addition to live music and storytelling.

National Park Foundation (NPF), the official charity of America’s national parks, produces and sells the White House Easter egg.  An egg is given as a souvenir to all children 13 years and younger who attend the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House, which is part of the National Park System. To place your commemorative egg order, please visit, and follow the link to the online Easter egg store.

Visit the Official White House website to view photos and videos of past events and learn more about the history of the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Follow the Easter Egg Roll on Twitter with the hashtag #EasterEggRoll

WH Easter Egg Roll 2014


April 21, 2014

8:00 AM ET
136th White House Easter Egg Roll South Lawn Live Stream:

10:30 AM ET
President Obama delivers remarks at the 136th Annual White House Easter Egg Roll
South Lawn


Immigration Reform – Another Year Lost


April 16, 2014

Statement by the President

One year ago, the Senate introduced comprehensive bipartisan legislation to fix our broken immigration system. Both sides worked together to pass that bill with a strong bipartisan vote. The Senate’s commonsense agreement would grow the economy by $1.4 trillion and shrink the deficit by nearly $850 billion over the next two decades, while providing a tough but fair pathway to earned citizenship to bring 11 million undocumented individuals out of the shadows, modernizing our legal immigration system, continuing to strengthen border security, and holding employers accountable. Simply put, it would boost our economy, strengthen our security, and live up to our most closely-held values as a society.

Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives have repeatedly failed to take action, seemingly preferring the status quo of a broken immigration system over meaningful reform. Instead of advancing commonsense reform and working to fix our immigration system, House Republicans have voted in favor of extreme measures like a punitive amendment to strip protections from “Dreamers”. The majority of Americans are ahead of House Republicans on this crucial issue and there is broad support for reform, including among Democrats and Republicans, labor and business, and faith and law enforcement leaders. We have a chance to strengthen our country while upholding our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and I urge House Republicans to listen to the will of the American people and bring immigration reform to the House floor for a vote.





1963 Birmingham Campaign


MLK Birmingham Jail

April 16, 1963
Martin Luther King, Jr., is arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, Ala.; he writes his seminal “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” arguing that individuals have the moral duty to disobey unjust laws.


Birmingham Campaign (1963)

In April 1963 King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joined with Birmingham, Alabama’s existing local movement, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), in a massive direct action campaign to attack the city’s segregation system by putting pressure on Birmingham’s merchants during the Easter season, the second biggest shopping season of the year. As ACMHR founder Fred Shuttlesworth stated in the group’s ‘‘Birmingham Manifesto,’’ the campaign was ‘‘a moral witness to give our community a chance to survive’’ (ACMHR, 3 April 1963).

The campaign was originally scheduled to begin in early March 1963, but was postponed until 2 April when the relatively moderate Albert Boutwell defeated Birmingham’s segregationist commissioner of public safety, Eugene ‘‘Bull’’ Connor, in a run-off mayoral election. On 3 April the desegregation campaign was launched with a series of mass meetings, direct actions, lunch counter sit-ins, marches on City Hall, and a boycott of downtown merchants. King spoke to black citizens about the philosophy of nonviolence and its methods, and extended appeals for volunteers at the end of the mass meetings. With the number of volunteers increasing daily, actions soon expanded to kneel-ins at churches, sit-ins at the library, and a march on the county building to register voters. Hundreds were arrested.

For more:




While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here In Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

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Birmingham, Alabama Civil Rights Movement

In the 1950s and 1960s Birmingham received national and international attention as a center of the civil rights struggle for African-Americans. Locally the movement’s activists were led by Fred Shuttlesworth, a fiery preacher who became legendary for his fearlessness in the face of violence, notably a string of racially motivated bombings that earned Birmingham the derisive nickname “Bombingham”.

A watershed in the civil rights movement occurred in 1963 when Shuttlesworth requested that Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which Shuttlesworth had co-founded, come to Birmingham, where King had once been a pastor, to help end segregation. Together they launched “Project C” (for “Confrontation”), a massive assault on the Jim Crow system. During April and May daily sit-ins and mass marches organized and led by movement leader James Bevel were met with police repression, tear gas, attack dogs, fire hoses, and arrests. More than 3,000 people were arrested during these protests, almost all of them high-school age children. These protests were ultimately successful, leading not only to desegregation of public accommodations in Birmingham but also the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

While imprisoned for having taken part in a nonviolent protest, Dr. King wrote the now famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, a defining treatise in his cause against segregation. Birmingham is also known for a bombing which occurred later that year, in which four black girls were killed by a bomb planted at the 16th Street Baptist Church. The event would inspire the African-American poet Dudley Randall’s opus, “The Ballad of Birmingham“, as well as jazz musician John Coltrane‘s song “Alabama”.

In 1998 the Birmingham Pledge, written by local attorney James Rotch, was introduced at the Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast. As a grassroots community commitment to combating racism and prejudice, it has since then been used for programs in all fifty states and in more than twenty countries. In 2011, the Highland Park neighborhood of Birmingham was named as a 2011 America’s Great Place by the American Planning Association.



Remembering Birmingham’s ‘Dynamite Hill’ Neighborhood

July 06, 2013 4:48 AM by DEBBIE ELLIOTT – NPR

Long before the Civil Rights marches of 1963 thrust Birmingham, Ala. into the national spotlight, black families along one residential street were steadily chipping away at Jim Crow segregation laws — and paying a price for it. As part of our series looking back at the seminal events that changed the nation 50 years ago, NPR’s Debbie Elliott paid a visit to Birmingham’s Dynamite Hill.

In many ways, the story of modern Birmingham starts on Center Street, a leafy hill lined with neat brick ranch-style houses. In the 1940s, Center Street was the city’s color line. To some, the west side was the white side and the east side was in transition.

Standing at the top of the hill, Jeff Drew remembers when the first black families tried to cross that divide.

“If you wanted to get a house on the west side of Center Street chances are you were going to have some resistance from white folks,” Drew says.

But Drew’s family, along with other up-and-coming black professionals, moved to the west side of Center Street anyway in a determined effort to take on one of the most segregated cities in America. At first, Drew says, the Ku Klux Klan would burn the doors of the houses that African-Americans moved into. Sometimes members of the Klan would fire shots into the dark of night.

“Those big cathedral windows were what were being shot at all of the time,” Drew recalls.

And then there was dynamite. Drew says they knew a blast was coming when they heard decommissioned police cruisers burning rubber up Center Street.

“Flying up the hill. They’d throw that bomb, and we used to marvel at how fast those guys could drive. Cowards. Right up this hill,” Drew says.

Those trips were so frequent that Center Street became known as Dynamite Hill, which was quite a distinction in a city that had its own notorious nickname: “Bombingham.”

Birmingham historian Horace Huntley says white supremacists, with the power of the government and police behind them, were trying to intimidate civil rights pioneers.

“There were 40 plus bombings that took place in Birmingham between the late 40s and the mid 60s. Forty-some unsolved bombings,” says Huntley.

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Fair Housing Act


Housing Discrimination

The Civil Rights Act of 1968, (Pub.L. 90–284, 82 Stat. 73, enacted April 11, 1968) is a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that provided for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, creed, or national origin and made it a federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone … by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin.” The Act was signed into law during the King assassination riots by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had previously signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act into law.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 is commonly known as the Fair Housing Act and was meant as a follow‑up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibited discrimination in housing, there were no federal enforcement provisions.The 1968 act expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and since 1974, gender; since 1988, the act protects people with disabilities and families with children.

Victims of discrimination may use both the 1968 act and the 1866 act via section 1983 to seek redress. The 1968 act provides for federal solutions while the 1866 act provides for private solutions (i.e., civil suits). A rider attached to the bill makes it a felony to “travel in interstate commerce…with the intent to incite, promote, encourage, participate in and carry on a riot”. This provision has been criticized for “equating organized political protest with organized violence”.

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The Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq., prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing, such as landlords and real estate companies as well as other entities, such as municipalities, banks or other lending institutions and homeowners insurance companies whose discriminatory practices make housing unavailable to persons because of:

In cases involving discrimination in mortgage loans or home improvement loans, the Department may file suit under both the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Under the Fair Housing Act, the Department of Justice may bring lawsuits where there is reason to believe that a person or entity is engaged in a “pattern or practice” of discrimination or where a denial of rights to a group of persons raises an issue of general public importance. Where force or threat of force is used to deny or interfere with fair housing rights, the Department of Justice may institute criminal proceedings. The Fair Housing Act also provides procedures for handling individual complaints of discrimination. Individuals who believe that they have been victims of an illegal housing practice, may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] or file their own lawsuit in federal or state court. The Department of Justice brings suits on behalf of individuals based on referrals from HUD.

For more:

Forward For Equality_sml

GOP Kills Paycheck Fairness Act AGAIN


GOP Blocks Equal Pay
Senate Republicans again kill Paycheck Fairness Act

4/09/14 01:06 PM - Steven Benen – maddowblog

The third time was not the charm. Democratic efforts to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act failed to overcome Republican opposition in the 111th Congress and the 112th Congress, and as of this morning, it failed once again at the hands of a GOP filibuster.

Senate Republicans filibustered a debate on a Democratic pay equity bill backed by President Barack Obama Wednesday.

Sixty votes were needed to allow the bill to be debated on the Senate floor, but Republicans refused to allow the bill to come up for debate after complaining Democrats weren’t allowing votes on their amendments.

The roll call from the vote is online here. Note that the final tally was 54 to 43 – six votes shy of the supermajority needed to end Republican obstructionism – but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) switched his vote for procedural reasons, leaving it at 53 to 44.

The legislation received exactly zero Republican votes, as was the case with previous efforts to pass the bill.I

In case anyone needs a refresher, the Paycheck Fairness Act is a perfectly credidble piece of legislation that would “enhance the remedies available for victims of gender-based discrimination and require employers to show that wage differences are job-related, not sex-based, and driven by business necessity. The measure would also protect employees from retaliation for sharing salary information, which is important for deterring and challenging discriminatory compensation.”

As we’ve discussed, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was an important step forward when it comes to combating discrimination, but it was also narrowly focused to address a specific problem: giving victims of discrimination access to the courts for legal redress. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a broader measure.

Republicans have responded that they endorse the idea of equal pay for equal work, but in recent years, much of the party remains opposed to policymakers’ efforts to do something about it. (This morning, some GOP senators also raised procedural objections about amendments.)

As for the electoral considerations, aren’t GOP lawmakers worried about rejecting measures like these in an election year?

Apparently not.

Senate Republicans aren’t sweating a ramped-up push by Democrats and President Barack Obama for new pay equity legislation – pushing forward women Republicans to rebut charges they have a woman problem and doubting the issue will resonate with voters. […]

Republicans argue that the Democrats’ bill – along with their so-called “Fair Shot” agenda for the year – is a political ploy that will not fool voters.

I’m not sure who’s trying to fool whom in this model. Dems put together a bill; the bill is popular; and they’ve pushed it repeatedly for six years. That sounds less like a p.r. stunt and more like an effort to address a problem.

As for the midterms, Republicans have struggled of late with the gender gap. At a minimum, today’s vote won’t help.



Paycheck Fairness Act Vote Blocked By House GOP

4/11/2013 4:56 pm EDT Laura Bassett – huffingtonpost

House GOP leadership is not likely to bring the Paycheck Fairness Act up for a vote any time soon, but House Democrats used a procedural move to force them to go on record opposing the bill on Thursday.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the sponsor of the equal pay legislation, filed a discharge petition on the bill Thursday morning that would immediately force a vote on it if she could collect 218 signatures. Democrats also put forth a motion on Thursday known as the “Previous Question,” which would have enabled them to put the Paycheck Fairness Act up for a vote, but Republicans killed the effort by a vote of 226 to 192.

Recent Census Bureau data shows that full-time working women make 77 cents for every dollar men make per year. The Paycheck Fairness Act, which DeLauro has introduced in eight consecutive Congresses, would expand the Equal Pay Act to close certain loopholes and allow employees to share salary information with their coworkers. It would also require employers to show that pay disparities between their male and female employees are related to job performance, not gender.

Most Republicans oppose the bill, and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said on the House Floor Thursday afternoon that the bill is a “liberal plot” to perpetuate the narrative that Republicans are anti-woman. DeLauro countered that she has yet to hear a reasonable excuse for Republicans to oppose the bill.

“I think we’re looking at a group of people who either don’t believe there is a pay gap or who just want to be contrary,” DeLauro told HuffPost in a phone interview. “This bill isn’t a liberal plot. We have enough statistical information to demonstrate that no matter what the job is, whether you’re a waitress or bus driver or civil engineer, women are paid less money.”

Every Republican that was present for the vote on Thursday voted against the motion to bring the bill up for a vote, so DeLauro is unlikely to get the number of signatures she needs for her discharge petition. But she said she has managed to drum up bipartisan support for the bill in the past, and she is going to continue to work on her Republican colleagues this session.

For more:


Equal Pay - Women Breadwinners

The Paycheck Fairness Act is legislation twice introduced and twice rejected by the United States Congress to expand the scope of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act as part of an effort to address male–female income disparity in the United States. A Census Bureau report published in 2008 indicated that women’s median annual earnings were 77.5% of men’s earnings, a disparity attributed to both systematic discrimination against women and women’s lifestyle choices.

The House of Represen­tatives approved the bill in January 2009. The United States Senate failed to move the bill forward in November 2010. President Barack Obama said in March 2011 that he will continue to fight for the goals in the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill was reintroduced in both houses of Congress in April 2011.

The 2010 bill had no Republican Party co-sponsors, though a group of four Republican senators had supported an earlier bill to address gender-based wage discrimination, including Susan CollinsKay Bailey HutchisonLisa Murkowski and Olympia Snowe. On June 5th, 2012 the bill fell short of the 60 votes necessary to override a filibuster and did not make it to the Senate floor for debate. The vote went along party lines, excluding a vote against by Democrat Harry Reid. (A vote which left Democrats the option to introduce the bill again at a later time.)



June 04, 2012

FACT SHEET: Fighting for Equal Pay and the Paycheck Fairness Act

Today, the President continues to advocate for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a comprehensive bill that strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially equal work.   The Paycheck Fairness Act is commonsense legislation that, among other things, would achieve the following:

  • Better align key Equal Pay Act defenses with those in Title VII.
  • Bring remedies available under the Equal Pay Act into line with remedies available under other civil rights laws.
  • Make the requirements for class action lawsuits under the Equal Pay Act match those of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
  • Protect employees who share their own salary information at work from retaliation by an employer.

The existing legal tools available to remedy pay discrimination are not enough, so Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act now.

For more:


Did You Know That Women Are Still Paid Less Than Men?

On average, full-time working women earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. This substantial gap is more than a statistic — it has real life consequences. When women, who make up nearly half the workforce, bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families, and over a lifetime of work, far less savings for retirement.

President Obama supports passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a comprehensive and commonsense bill that updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially equal work.


The Civil Rights Summit

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

PBO 50th Annv 1964 Civil Rights Act

Civil Rights Summit

Apr 08, 2014


When President Lyndon Johnson spoke those words before a Joint Session of Congress, he made the cause of overcoming injustice the cause of all Americans.

Johnson began his quest for a more just and honorable America with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most transformational civil rights legislation since Reconstruction and a crucial step in the realization of America’s promise. In the years that followed, LBJ passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Together, this triumvirate of laws would ban discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin.

The three-day Civil Rights Summit commemorates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The Act, along with the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act in 1968, helped establish the legal foundation in fulfilling the long elusive promise of equality among all Americans.  The three-day Civil Rights Summit, comprised of afternoon panel discussions followed by evening keynote addresses, will reflect on the seminal nature of the civil rights legislation passed by President Johnson while examining civil rights issues in America and around the world today.

The Civil Rights Summit –  Program
The Civil Rights Summit - Speakers

Live Stream:


April 8
Former President Jimmy Carter delivers remarks

April 9
Former President Bill Clinton delivers remarks

April 10
Former George W. Bush delivers remarks

President Barack Obama delivers the keynote address


Civil Rights Summit
April 8-10, 2014
LBJ Presidential Library
Austin, Texas


Executive Order: Equal Pay Rules For Federal Contractors


Your Right To Equal Pay


Obama To Sign Executive Order With Equal Pay Rules For Federal Contractors

APRIL 6, 2014 JIM KUHNHENN – tpm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lacking congressional backing to raise wages or end gender pay disparities, President Barack Obama is imposing his policies directly on federal contractors, following a long-established tradition of presidents exerting their powers on a fraction of the economy directly under their control.

This week, the president will sign an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with each other. The prohibition on the wage “gag rules” is similar to language in a Senate bill aimed at closing a pay gap between men and women. That legislation is scheduled for a vote this week, though it is not likely to pass.

In addition, Obama on Tuesday will direct the Labor Department to adopt regulations requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data based on sex and race. The president will sign the executive order and the presidential memo during an event at the White House where he will be joined Lilly Ledbetter, whose name appears on a pay discrimination law Obama signed in 2009.

This week’s steps showcase Obama’s efforts to take action without congressional approval and illustrate how even without legislation, the president can drive policy on a significant segment of the U.S. economy. At the same time, it also underscores the limits of his ambition when he doesn’t have the backing of Congress for his initiatives.

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“Equal pay is a family issue. Women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force and are a growing number of breadwinners in their families. More women are also working in positions and fields that have been traditionally occupied by men. When women are not paid fairly, not only do they suffer, but so do their families.”


“I’m eager to work with Congress whenever I can find opportunities to expand opportunity for more families. But wherever I can act on my own, without Congress, by using my pen to take executive actions, or picking up the phone and rallying folks around a common cause, that’s what I’m going to do.”

2/12/14 President Barack Obama


Understand the Basics of Equal Pay


Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader of the African-American civil rights movement and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who became known for his advancement of civil rights by using civil disobedience. He was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on Thursday April 4, 1968, at the age of 39. King was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:05pm that evening. James Earl Ray, a fugitive from the Missouri State Penitentiary, was arrested on June 8, 1968 in London at Heathrow Airport, extradited to the United States, and charged with the crime. On March 10, 1969, Ray entered a plea of guilty and was sentenced to 99 years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. Ray later made many attempts to withdraw his guilty plea and be tried by a jury, but was unsuccessful; he died in prison on April 23, 1998, at the age of 70.

For more:,_Jr.#Assassination


The National Civil Rights Museum is the site of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The Museum is located at South Main and Huling Streets, in the historic art district of downtown Memphis.

Dedicated on September 28, 1991, the Museum exists to assist the public in understanding the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement and its impact and influence on human rights movements worldwide, through its collections, exhibitions, research and educational programs. It chronicles the civil rights movement from 1619 to 2000 with historical exhibits, including Room 306, the hotel room where Dr. King stayed in April of 1968.

For more:


The National Civil Rights Museum - April 2014 Events

Friday, April 04, 2014
An educational forum addressing the impact of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. What led to the legislation? What promises were granted, what’s left unfulfilled and what now? Moderated by Tavis Smiley, the Forum is comprised of three panel sessions.

1950 – 1964: Turbulent Times
Panelists – Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Professor Bill Robinson

1964 – 1970: Accelerated Activism
Panelists – Attorney Ray Terry, Attorney Barry Goldstein

1970 – Present: Promises Delivered, Promises Denied
Panelists – Marian Wright Edelman, Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries

Fee($): Free, but Limited Seating, Overflow in Auditorium
Time : 2:00pm
Location : National Civil Rights Museum Hooks•Hyde Hall (overflow in theater)

Friday, April 04, 2014
Remembering and reflecting on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, with a salute in speech, song, and laying of wreath.

Fee($): Free, Open to the Public
Time : 6:00pm
Location : National Civil Rights Museum Courtyard

Saturday, April 05, 2014
9:30am, Freedom Forward Parade: The Freedom Forward Parade begins at the Memphis Cook Convention Center and proceeds along Second Street to Vance, then Main to the National Civil Rights Museum

11:00am, Breaking of the Chains: Grand reopening ceremony concluding with the official opening of the doors to the public.

12:00-7:00pm, Freedom Forward Main Stage: A full day of performances, speeches, and reflections from the Freedom Forward main stage as visitors tour the Museum.

12:00-7:00pm, Museum Tours: Take an abbreviated tour of the renovated exhibits for a powerfully transformative experience in civil rights history.


National Civil Rights Museum



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