Monday, September 15, 2008

Federal Domestic Spending Bill Cuts Crime Funding Program by 67 Percent

Federal Domestic Spending Bill Cuts Crime Funding Program by 67 Percent
State Representatives try to get the Adam Walsh Act, SORNA, sex offender registration notification act, signed into being in each state, citing the loss of Federal Grant monies if their state does not comply.

But as Paul Harvey would have said, they do NOT tell you the rest of the story.

What little funding any state might have received, has been drastically cut. Leaving states which implement the Adam Walsh Act to ask all the residents of the state to agree to pay MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO FUND THE legislation, and only get back a few thousand dollars. Chart and Graph Below.

An example of what a state would have spent and received Prior to the cuts:States stand to lose 10 percent of Byrne Grant money if they do NOT implement SORNA.

Louisiana's Cost of Implementing SORNA ……..$6,963,401
Louisiana Byrne Money 2006……………………………….$3,514,704
Louisiana 10 percent of Byrne money……………………..$351,470

On December 27 President Bush signed the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, a $555 billion domestic spending package that included short-term funding for US troops and an estimated $10 billion in pork-barrel projects. The raft of earmarks prompted Bush to say he was “disappointed” by Congress’s inability to “rein in government spending.”

But the bill did include major funding cuts, including, notably, a 67 percent reduction in appropriations (from $520 million to $170 million) for the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program. According to the Justice Department, the program “allows states and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime and to improve the criminal justice system.”

How will this cut affect states’ and municipalities’ ability to protect public safety? That’s a supremely wonky (and supremely politicized) question–but it’s a good one, I think.

Walter Phillips Jr., chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, offered a tentative answer today. Pennsylvania received $11.7 million in Byrne JAG funds in 2007; the two-thirds reduction for 2008 drops that number to $3.9 million. “Let there be no mistake,” Phillips warned, “this cut in federal funding will hamper justice improvements and innovations which ultimately help to protect our citizens.”

Wisconsin, too, has weighed in. The state’s Office of Justice Assistance (which is charged with disbursing federal justice and homeland security grant funds) says it uses Byrne JAG funds to “support the operations of multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, prosecutors, help crime victims and reduce racial disparities in Wisconsin’s justice system”; it is facing a $4.1 million cut, from $6.48 million to $2.37 million. David Steingraber, who directs Wisconsin’s Office of Justice Assistance and serves as president of the National Criminal Justice Association, said recently that “communities everywhere” will suffer from the cuts. “Congress has just made the job of every police officer in this country more difficult,” he adds.

I’ve got a related (admittedly wonky, politicized) question, one that will probably betray my ignorance on the subject. I ask it because I don’t know enough about how and under what conditions JAG funding is disbursed, and because I haven’t seen much commentary on this subject since the bill was signed into law. If these grants are primarily being applied to help police “toughen” up on crime and, say, bolster the victims’ rights lobby, then I’d conclude that cutting them by two-thirds might not be such a terrible idea. But if they’re expressly used to support the kind of reform efforts youth advocates and criminal defenders champion–and if increased funding could relieve, or work in tandem with, the nonprofit organizations that have stepped up in the absence of federal leadership–then I’d have a very different opinion on the matter.

So, how will this cut affect efforts at reform?

Cost of Implementing Adam Walsh Act
Fact Sheets Examine Impact of Sex Offender Registries

Impact of Sex Offender Registries

Author(s): Justice Policy InstituteTopic(s): Juvenile Justice, Public Safety

Author(s): Justice Policy InstituteTopic(s): Juvenile Justice, Public Safety

Author(s): Justice Policy InstituteTopic(s): Juvenile Justice, Public Safety

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