Human and Civil Rights

Fighting for Civil Rights in Arizona

Jack Chin, UA professor of criminal law, Samuel Newsome, President of the S. Az Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and State Rep. Ted Downing at the House hearing on Ted’s legislation to restore the voting and civil rights of formally convicted people.

While a member of the Arizona House Judiciary committee, Ted struggled with most of today’s contemporary social justice issues, including unauthorized migration, the rights of victims of domestic violence and scores of other human and civil rights issues.

Together with Rep. Bill Konopnicki (R), Andy Biggs (R) and Ben Miranda (D),  he attempted to slow down Arizona’s high rate of incarceration by forming a sentencing reform group, which generated considerable push back, including from then Governor Janet Napolitano – who eventually changed her position on the building of a mega-prison for women.

Ted’s bills to restore the civil rights of formerly convicted felons, working in cooperation with the ACLU, American Friends Services, University of Arizona Law Professors Jack Chin and Andrew Silverman pioneered the Arizona battle that continues today. With Samuel Newsome, Ted founded Project Restoration in Tucson in 2003. Ted was elected to the Arizona American Civil Liberties Union Board of Directors in 2008-9. Ted also served on the Tucson Civil Rights Coalition throughout the 90s, which succeeded in gaining consent decrees on civil rights conflicts in his local school system.

Broke Anthropologists 40 Year Taboo Against Talking About Human Rights

In the early 80s, human rights was not part of anthropological discourse. To the contrary, the American Anthropological Association had opposed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ted, along with Gilbert Kushner, broke the barrier. Working with Cultural Survival, they organized the first anthropological symposium to deal with this issue since the late 40’s. Their work was published as a book, Human Rights and Anthropology (2nd printing). Since then, human rights has become a mainstream topic in anthropology. Downing’s earlier critics now publish on human rights.

Filed the First Human Rights Charges Against the World Bank Group

In 1996, while working with the gathering tribe of Pehuenche (Southern Chile), Ted and Carmen faced an ethical dilemma of either joining in or denouncing serious human rights violations. Ted filed the first of three human rights violation charges against the International Finance Corporation (IFC_, the private sector arm of the World Bank, ultimately leading to the American Anthropological Association supporting his claims ( see Johnston and Turner 1998. Following hearings in Washington, the AAA ruled in favor of the Pehuenche Indians (Chile) and Ted’s human rights complaint. Barbara Rose Johnson and Carmen-Garcia have  described this saga. Bank insiders feel Ted’s persistence caused a significant restructuring and strengthening of the IFC’s socio-environment efforts. Review his extensive work on the Projects tab.