As state and local officials across the U.S. reel from a projected 67-percent decrease in federal funding for targeted state and local criminal justice initiatives, their representatives in Washington will ask Congress for relief in a supplemental appropriations bill this winter, Crime & Justice News has learned. The $555 billion compromise money bill for fiscal 2008, which President Bush signed last week after a months-long standoff with Democratic congressional leaders over spending priorities, cuts to roughly $170 million – from $520 million last year – funds money available to states and localities through the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.
The grants help pay for a variety of law enforcement initiatives in states and cities, including drug task forces, anti-gang units and overtime for police officers. Philadelphia, where the murder rate total has increased in recent years, uses the funds to pay for after-school programs for at-risk youth, drug treatment courts and technology to help fight crime, reports Stateline.org. Drug enforcement agents in Arizona, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Montana, and North Carolina have warned their agencies face cuts and possible closure. One state official suggested that advocates argue to Congress that the unexpected funding cuts, which were negotiated in private pre-holiday legislative conference committee sessions, were unfair because they were “grossly disproportionate” compared with other federal appropriation reductions.