A coalition of 15 criminal justice, health and civil liberties organizations is urging that the pending economic stimulus bill “support a comprehensive and targeted approach to improving public safety instead of focusing funds on state and local law enforcement.” Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill are seeking about $4 billion for various criminal justice programs. The coalition is led by the Justice Policy Institute, the American Psychological Association and the American Civil Liberties Union. It wants to spend more on education, job training, and treatment, and less on jails, prisons, and law enforcement. The group criticized the Byrne JAG program, which provides aid to state and local anticrime programs, contending that it “has suffered from scandals associated with overzealous anti-drug task forces, and a lack of accountability that has led critics to call the program “a big pile of pork.”
Like their counterparts in the House, Senate Democrats would provide $1 billion for police hiring in their version of the economic stimulus bill, which is being marked up today by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill would provide $1.5 billion for the Byrne JAG program, $300 million for the Violence Against Women Act, ad $440 million for crime victim assistance (other than direct compensation) and youth mentoring.