Priorities for funding anticrime programs in the Obama administration include prisoner re-entry, “justice reinvestment,” sentencing reform, indigent defense, youth violence, drug treatment, prescription drug abuse, and tribal justice, says acting director Jim Burch of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Speaking in Washington, D.C., to leaders of anticrime organizations, Burch identified several additional subjects he described as emerging issues, including mental health problems of criminal suspects, methamphetamine, suspicious activities reporting, privacy, intelligence-driven policing, and fairness in courts.
Demand far exceeded supply for federal grants in the federal fiscal year that ended last month, Burch said. There were about 5,000 applications but only 373 were funded. That’s part of more than 11,000 active grants managed by only 40 staff members. The agency is working with the Government Accounting Office to check for waste and fraud. Burch discussed the “peer review” controversy that arose in the Bush administration when the director of the Justice Department’s juvenile crime agency funded some programs not recommended by peer reviewers. Burch contended that grarntmakers should be able to disregard some recommendations by reviewers who may not see the big picture. He cited a highly ranked proposal to help start a police force in a largely uninhabited Caribbean island–a plan Burch said “didn’t make sense.”