Civil Rights

WHEN AND WHERE TO FILE A COMPLAINT—LAW ENFORCEMENT

Federal criminal civil rights law prohibits law enforcement agents from conspiring to interfere with federally protected rights, depriving rights under color of law, or using or conspiring to use force, or threat of force, to interfere with the free exercise of your civil rights.

To report criminal activities that constitute violations of civil rights, contact:

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Criminal Section, PHB 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530 (202) 514-3204 Fax: (202) 514-8336 www.usdoj.gov

If you have a complaint of police brutality or the abuse of your rights by the police or other public officials, contact the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), listed in the front of your telephone directory under “police,” or write to the Department of Justice at the address above.

An individual who believes that a law enforcement agency receiving Department of Justice assistance, such as a police or sheriff’s department, jail, state police, or corrections system, is discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or age may file a complaint with:

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Coordination and Review Section 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530 (202) 307-2222 TTY: (202) 307-2678 Fax: (202) 307-0595 www.usdoj.gov/crt/cor/index.htm

or

U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Office for Civil Rights 810 Seventh Street, NW, Room 8124 Washington, DC 20531 (202) 307-0690 TTY: (202) 307-2027 Fax: (202) 616-9865 www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ocr

Complaints of discrimination on the basis of disability by law enforcement agencies may also be sent to: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530 (202) 307-2227 (800) 514-0301 TTY: (800) 514-0383 Fax: (202) 307-1198

Prisoners The constitutional rights of inmates are very limited. Prisoners’ rights that are protected are:

a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, which is usually construed to mean the infliction of unnecessary and unrestricted pain; and

a right to exercise religious beliefs. Prisoners must be allowed the opportunity to pray and to meet with other inmates to worship within a group. Even individuals in disciplinary detention are entitled to pray and read religious texts.

Also, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution requires that the conditions of women’s prisons be equal to the conditions under which male prisoners are held, and vice versa.

If you are confined to a Federal Bureau of Prisons institution and believe you have been discriminated against by the institution, you should file a formal written complaint at the institution within 20 calendar days of the incident. Extensions of time will be granted where there is a valid reason for the delay. You should follow the internal grievance procedure unless you think that your complaint is such that you might be adversely affected if the nature of the complaint became known within the institution, in which case you may file the complaint with the appropriate Regional Director of the Bureau of Prisons. Your complaint should include an explanation of why you have chosen to file with the Regional Director. If the complaint alleges that your health or welfare is immediately threatened, the warden must respond through the regional office within 48 hours of receiving the complaint.

If you are confined to a non-federal institution and want to file a complaint about conditions or practices of the institution, follow the internal grievance procedure of the institution. In some prison systems it is necessary to file an institutional grievance before filing suit in federal court.

Under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, the Attorney General is authorized to file suit on behalf of inmates at a given institution to redress systematic deprivations of inmates’ constitutional rights. To file a complaint with the Attorney General, write to:

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530 (202) 514-6255 (877) 218-5228 Fax: (202) 514-0212 www.usdoj.gov/crt/split/index.html

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), prisoners with disabilities, particularly prisoners with HIV, may have a right to participate in various services, programs, and activities. Complaints of discrimination under the ADA should be filed with the Department of Justice within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act.

CORRESPONDENCE


Please send your correspondence to the
Special Litigation Section or the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division for review and response.

WEBSITE

The Special Litigation Section protects the constitutional and federal statutory rights of persons confined in certain institutions owned or operated by, or on behalf of, state or local governments. More information can be found by clicking on the following link:

WEBSITE

MISCONDUCT INFORMATION

The Criminal Section handles complaints where the allegations involve deprivation of rights under color of law. More information can be found by accessing the following link: MISCONDUCT CONTACT

TELEPHONE CONTACT

If you would like to speak with someone in the Civil Rights Division regarding your complaint, you can contact the Special Litigation Section at 202-514-6255 or the Criminal Section at 202-514-3204.

Thank you for bringing your matter to our attention.