2012 New Year Resolutions for Government Officials

1) Stop racial profiling and restore public trust in law enforcement

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office – under Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s command – has used the excuse of immigration enforcement to systematically violate the civil rights of Latinos in Maricopa County, including U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants and has eroded trust in law enforcement. MCSO’s conduct is illegal and un-American, and the Sheriff and his command staff have created an agency culture that encourages and permits racial bias to take root and spread. Undisputed evidence demonstrates that Sheriff Arpaio’s ‘immigration’ sweeps are done without evidence of criminal activity, are motivated by racial bias, and result in racially discriminatory treatment. The ACLU is committed to stop these constitutional violations through targeted litigation on behalf of all Latinos who’ve been vilified and victimized by Sheriff Arpaio for far too long.

Read about an important win in our class action lawsuit challenging racial profiling by MCSO.

2) Keep kids out of jail, and in school

There is a growing trend in Arizona of referring juveniles to the criminal justice system for minor offenses. In 2010, more than 41,000 of Arizona’s youth received a delinquency referral to the juvenile justice system. About half of these youth did not have prior contact with the justice system and two-thirds were referred for misdemeanors or status offenses (truancy, violating curfew). The ACLU believes that the best solution for many youth accused of minor offenses, such as shoplifting and truancy, is juvenile diversion, which helps juveniles avoid criminal records and stay in school. Research shows contact with the juvenile justice system increases high school drop-out rates significantly. That is why we are working with key players in the juvenile justice community to increase awareness about diversion and reduce the number of referrals for minor offenses.

Read the ACLU recommendations to increase diversion opportunities for minority youth and to ensure that diversion remains financially accessible for low-income families.

3) Stop sexual assault in detention facilities

Documents obtained by the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act show nearly 200 allegations of abuse of detainees in detention facilities across the nation since 2007 alone. This is likely just a tip of the iceberg as sexual abuse is generally underreported in the context of detention and among immigrant communities. Ten percent of the country's detained immigrants are held in five detention centers in Arizona. Three of them are run by the private Corrections Corporation of America and a fourth one is run by Pinal County.

Disappointingly, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has proposed a rule that explicitly excludes immigration detention facilities from coverage under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Congress enacted PREA to protect all persons in custody by setting standards for preventing, detecting and responding to sexual abuse. Without PREA’s protection, immigrants in detention remain vulnerable to abuse.

Read more about a lawsuit we recently filed to improve treatment for vulnerable immigrant detainees.

4) Stop the war on women

In 2011, we experienced record attacks on government attempts to interfere in women’s personal medical decisions. Thirteen states enacted laws that prohibit some or all insurance policies from covering abortion care. There also has been a dangerous trend nationwide to take resources away from organizations that provide critical health and services to women. In December, the ACLU of Arizona won a ruling by a federal court that blocks the implementation of a bill, HB-2384, that would withhold critical resources for women’s health by excluding a nonprofit organization that provides abortion referrals or counseling from receiving donations through the Working Poor Tax Credit Program. Our Constitution does not allow the state to prevent a woman in crisis from receiving open and honest information about abortion, just because politicians disagree with her choice.

Read a summary of the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging HB 2384.

5) Provide constitutionally adequate mental and medical health care for incarcerated individuals

Arizona’s prison suicide rate is more than double the national average. The denial of adequate mental and medical care to Arizona prisoners is chronic, systemic and clearly violates federal law. Through a series of face-to-face interviews with dozens of inmates and their family members, we are documenting these profoundly inadequate conditions, including serious deficiencies in diagnosis, staffing and medication delivery, in an effort to ensure required changes that will improve inmates’ health and mental health care.

Read the ACLU’s demand letter to the Arizona Department of Corrections summarizing the deplorable conditions in statewide prison facilities.

Stand with the ACLU of Arizona in 2012 as we work to hold elected officials accountable and defend and preserve individual rights and liberties.

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