The Senate may decide today whether it wants to spend about $4 billion in the pending economic stimulus bill on state justice systems, police, and prevention programs. The House already has approved the spending. It enjoys wide Democratic support, but Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), top Republican on the subcommittee that handles Justice Department spending, opposes the proposal on the ground that Congress should address the needs of state and local law enforcement in the regular budget process, his spokesman tells USA Today.
Much of the money would preserve jobs and create new ones, says Dave Steingraber, president of the National Criminal Justice Association and executive director of Wisconsin’s Office of Justice Assistance. “The justice system is very people-intensive,” he says. “Whenever you push funding into the justice system, you’re talking about jobs and hiring.” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chairs the justice appropriations subcommittee, says state budget cuts have left law enforcement agencies “stretched and strained, trying to do more with less.