I’m always talking about how our unbalanced (in many ways) approach to criminal justice funding and priorities ends up robbing Peter to pay Paul and harming the public we say we’re protecting. Here’s an excellent example from Stateline.
Law enforcement officials across the country are lambasting the federal spending plan approved by President Bush on Dec. 26, warning that a 67-percent decrease in funding for targeted state and local criminal justice initiatives imperils public safety.
The $555 billion compromise appropriations bill for fiscal 2008, which Bush signed after a months-long standoff with Democratic congressional leaders over spending priorities, cuts to roughly $170 million — from $520 million last year — the money available to states and localities through the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.
The grant program, administered by the Department of Justice, helps pay for a host of law enforcement initiatives in states and cities, including drug task forces, anti-gang units and overtime for police officers.
The substantial drop in this year’s federal funding for the grants means “we’ll have to lick our wounds in each state and see how we can survive for a year,” said Jim Kane, executive director of the Delaware Criminal Justice Council, which distributes the federal funds to localities in that state. Kane, who is no relation to Michael Kane, said law enforcers will have to put “a finger in the dike” until funding increases.
“Let there be no room for doubt, communities everywhere will see the effects of this bill and its cuts to criminal justice funding. A cut to the JAG program is a cut to local law enforcement and victims of crime everywhere,” said David Steingraber, president of the National Criminal Justice Association, a network of state officials that is organizing efforts to restore funding next year. “Congress has just made the job of every police officer in this country more difficult.”