Justice Department Announces Civil Investigation into Louisiana’s Prisoner Release Practices

The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a statewide civil investigation into Louisiana’s prisoner release practices.

The investigation will examine the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections’ policies and practices for ensuring the timely release of state prisoners in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections who are incarcerated in state and local correctional facilities, including practices related to prisoners who are eligible for immediate release.

The department has not reached any conclusions regarding the allegations in this matter. The investigation will be conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). Under CRIPA, the Department has the authority to investigate violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights that result from a “pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights.” The department has conducted CRIPA investigations of many correctional systems, and where violations have been found, the resulting settlement agreements have led to important reforms.

The Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section is conducting this investigation jointly with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Louisiana. Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the department via phone at 1-833-492-0097 or by email at community.louisianadoc@usdoj.gov.

Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.

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    U.S. research may be subject to undue foreign influence in cases where a researcher has a foreign conflict of interest (COI). Federal grant-making agencies can address this threat by implementing COI policies and requiring the disclosure of information that may indicate potential conflicts. GAO reviewed five agencies—which together accounted for almost 90 percent of all federal research and development expenditures at universities in fiscal year 2018—and found that three have agency-wide COI policies, while two do not (see figure). The three agencies with existing policies focus on financial interests but do not specifically address or define non-financial interests, such as multiple professional appointments. In the absence of agency-wide COI policies and definitions on non-financial interests, researchers may not fully understand what they need to report on their grant proposals, leaving agencies with incomplete information to assess the risk of foreign influence. GAO found that, regardless of whether an agency has a conflict of interest policy, all five agencies require researchers to disclose information—such as foreign support for their research—as part of the grant proposal that could be used to determine if certain conflicts exist. Elements of Conflict of Interest (COI) Policies at Agencies with the Most Federal Research Expenditures at Universities Based on a review of university documents, GAO found that all 11 of the universities in its sample have publicly available financial and non-financial COI policies for federally funded research. These policies often align with the financial COI policies or requirements of the grant-making agencies. All five agencies have mechanisms to monitor and enforce their policies and disclosure requirements when there is an alleged failure to disclose required information. All agencies rely on universities to monitor financial COI, and most agencies collect non-financial information such as foreign collaborations, that can help determine if conflicts exist. Agencies have also taken actions in cases where they identified researchers who failed to disclose financial or non-financial information. However, three agencies lack written procedures for handling allegations of failure to disclose required information. Written procedures for addressing alleged failure to disclose required information help agencies manage these allegations and consistently apply enforcement actions. In interviews, stakeholders identified opportunities to improve responses to foreign threats to research, such as harmonizing grant application requirements. Agencies have begun to address such issues. The federal government reportedly expended about $42 billion on science and engineering research at universities in fiscal year 2018. Safeguarding the U.S. research enterprise from threats of foreign influence is of critical importance. Recent reports by GAO and others have noted challenges faced by the research community to combat undue foreign influence, while maintaining an open research environment that fosters collaboration, transparency, and the free exchange of ideas. GAO was asked to review federal agency and university COI policies and disclosure requirements. In this report, GAO examines (1) COI policies and disclosure requirements at selected agencies and universities that address potential foreign threats, (2) mechanisms to monitor and enforce policies and requirements, and (3) the views of selected stakeholders on how to better address foreign threats to federally funded research. GAO reviewed laws, regulations, federal guidance, and agency and university COI policies and requirements. GAO also interviewed agency officials, university officials, and researchers. GAO is making nine recommendations to six agencies, including that grant-making agencies address non-financial conflicts of interest in their COI policies and develop written procedures for addressing cases of failure to disclose required information. Five agencies agreed with GAO's recommendations. The National Science Foundation neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendation, but identified actions it plans to take in response. For more information, contact Candice N. Wright at (202) 512-6888 or wrightc@gao.gov.
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  • Lexington Man Convicted of Multiple Counts of Sex and Drug Trafficking and Related Offenses, Including Witness Tampering
    In Crime News
    After a 7-day trial, a federal jury in Frankfurt, Kentucky, found Prince Bixler, 41, of Lexington, Kentucky, guilty of charges related to his extensive and violent sex and drug trafficking operation that sold crack cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines throughout the Lexington area and forced young, drug-addicted women to prostitute. 
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  • Justice Department Awards Nearly $101 Million to Combat Human Trafficking
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today announced it has awarded nearly $101 million, through the department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) in funding to combat human trafficking and provide vital services to trafficking victims throughout the United States.
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    In Travel
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    In Travel
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  • Prison Official Charged with Accepting Bribes and Smuggling Contraband into Correctional Institution
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of North Carolina returned an indictment on Oct. 14 charging a North Carolina Department of Public Safety official with a bribery and smuggling scheme that funneled drugs and other contraband into Caledonia Correctional Institution.
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  • Justice Department Alleges Conditions at Massachusetts Department of Corrections Violate the Constitution
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts today concluded an investigation into conditions at the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MDOC).
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    In Crime News
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