Strengthening Civil Rights

President Obama is leading the fight to protect everyone - no matter who you are, where you're from, what you look like, or who you love.

The Justice System

Criminal and Juvenile Justice

The President is leading the fight to build a fairer and more equitable criminal justice system. On August 3, 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduces the disparity in the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine required to trigger certain penalties in the federal system, including imposition of mandatory minimum sentences.

The President continues to support funding for drug courts, which give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, if appropriate, in drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than prison terms in changing behavior.

In 2012, the White House convened an interagency working group focused on Children of Incarcerated Parents (COIP), to evaluate the federal programs and policies that impact the now more than 2.7 million children who have a parent in prison.  In June of 2013, the working group partnered with Sesame Street, to honor Champions of Change who are helping scores of children and their families by minimizing the potential negative impacts of having a parent who is incarcerated and announced a number of new Federal programs, including a web portal.

In June 2014, The White House released a fact sheet announcing a package of administrative actions and hosted a day-long event focused on expanding employment opportunities for individuals previously involved with the criminal justice system. The program, co-hosted with the Council of State Governments, included a roundtable moderated by Labor Secretary Tom Perez with business executives to discuss ways government can support private sector efforts to recruit and hire individuals with a criminal record.

Attorney General Eric Holder, along with other federal officials and best-selling author Piper Kerman (Orange is the New Black), honored sixteen Champions of Change doing extraordinary work to facilitate employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Part of addressing the criminal justice system means fostering strong, collaborative relationships between local police and the communities they protect. Trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is essential to the stability of our communities, the integrity of our criminal justice system, and the safe and effective delivery of policing services. In December 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing to identify best practices and make recommendations. In March 2015, the Task Force released their interim report. In March 2015, the White House also hosted a two-day long convening on the use of body-worn cameras in law-enforcement. The Administration supports the use of body-worn and vehicular cameras, but recognizes that there are issues with these types of cameras that we need to work together to solve.

Access to Justice

Combatting youth violence is a White House priority. In 2009, President Obama directed the Justice Department to launch the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, which brings together a network of communities and federal agencies to reduce youth violence and gang activity, share information, build local capacity and improve public safety. The Forum has expanded beyond its six original cities to a total of 15. 

In 2010, the Administration launched the Defending Childhood Initiative to leverage federal resources to prevent, address and reduce the harmful impact of childhood exposure to violence.

In 2011, the Administration established the Supportive School Discipline Initiative to address the school-to-prison pipeline. In April 2012, the White House Champions of Change Program honored twelve leaders working to prevent youth violence in their communities.

As a result, the Departments of Education and Justice released guidance to schools on how to implement non-discriminatory school discipline policies. In 2014, the Council of State Governments released a multi-stakeholder report, funded by the Departments of Justice and Education, providing further recommendations to dismantle the pipeline.

Human Trafficking

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To strengthen the U.S. Government’s existing zero-tolerance policy on human trafficking in government contracting, the President issued an Executive Order that outlines prohibitions on trafficking-related activities that will apply to all federal contractors and subcontractors, requires compliance measures for large overseas contracts and subcontracts, and provides federal agencies with additional tools to foster compliance.

In January 2014, the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking in Persons released the first-ever Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States. The plan outlines a five-year path for increased coordination, collaboration, and capacity across the federal government and in partnership with other governmental and nongovernmental entities at all levels. 

In July 2014, the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center completed the first-ever domestic human trafficking assessment to track trends within the United States to help law enforcement, policymakers and other federal stakeholders improve efforts to prevent and combat trafficking.

The President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has focused its efforts on galvanizing the faith-based community to combat human trafficking, raise awareness and provide services. The Advisory Council continues to implement the ten recommendations to the President to strengthen the partnerships.


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