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Depriving Civil Rights

Depriving Civil Rights - Depriving Civil Rights An...

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Criminal Justice Review Volume 34 Number 2 June 2009 196-209 © 2009 Georgia State University Research FoundatioD, Inc. Depriving Civil Rights 10.117107341832220 http://cjcrsa-ýepub.corn hosted at An Exploration of 18 U.S.C. 242 Criminal http://01itine.sagepub.com Prosecutions 2001-2006 Brian R. Johnson Phillip B. Bridgmon University of North Alabama, Florence To date, very little empirical work has been conducted that examines the Department of Justice's (DOJ) prosecutions of criminal civil rights violations under federal criminal code 18 U.S.C. 242. The purpose of the research is to begin a formal examination of the DOJ prosecu- tions of justice system officials by examining the types of cases that are selected for prosecu- tion, in which area of the justice system do they occur, and their relationship to the overall number of complaints. Using a unique dataset, all prosecutions under 18 U.S.C. 242 from 2001-2006 were examined. Findings reveal that most complaints are levied against local police and correctional officers, prosecutions are not evenly distributed across federal circuits, and acquittal rates are extremely low. Additional noteworthy findings include significant vari- ations in offense type among justice professions, whereby police officers typically are charged with robbery/theft while correctional officers are prosecuted for excessive force. Keywords: civil rights; 18 U.S.C. 242; police misconduct; organization deviance; federal prosecution E ach year, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) receives thousands of complaints regarding the deprivation of citizen's civil rights by criminal justice officials. The DOJ's handling of criminal deprivation of civil rights cases, however, has been a source of speculation among journalists, government watchdogs, interest groups, and scholars alike. Their speculation is that the DOJ has failed to rigorously pursue these types of cases. Recently, Congress has also become concerned regarding the variation in the number of cases prosecuted from year to year (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse [TRAC], 2008). With the prosecution of criminal deprivation of civil rights cases on a 20-year decline, observers are left to wonder if the abuse of suspects is a problem their government takes seriously. To be fair, without knowing how the DOJ determines the priority of cases, it is difficult to conclude that the DOJ is ignoring instances of suspect civil rights violations. This research seeks to begin filling this void by examining the types of cases that are pros- ecuted involving violations of a citizen's rights. It will provide insight into the types of crimes committed against citizens and suspects, providing a typology that can be used in policy development and implementation. Criminal actions by police and correctional officers have always been a concern for criminal justice organizations and administrators. Such actions are usually categorized under the rubric of occupational deviance, which are actions that violate the standards of 196
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Johnson, Bridgmon / Depriving Civil Rights 197 expected ethical conduct that are
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