The Justice Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group seeking less reliance on incarceration, is criticizing the federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program that provides money to states according to a formula. The institute argues that too much of the money goes to law enforcement and that it should be awarded on a competitive basis to “programs that have been shown to improve public safety.” The institute contends that as crime rates have fallen, the size of law enforcement should shrink just as the number of school teachers is cut if enrollment drops.
The institute cited a report from the congressional Government Accountability Office last month that said some Justice Department performance measures on anticrime programs “do not consistently exhibit key attributes of successful performance measurement systems, such as clarity, reliability, linkage, objectivity, and measurable targets.” The institute contends that to the extent that programs are measured by arrest totals, the federal funding may encourage arrests that send more low-level drug offenders to prison. The National Criminal Justice Association, which represents states and localities on criminal justice issues, reports that less than one half of the Byrne JAG Recovery Act funding is going for law enforcement. That aid does not pay principally for officers’ salaries but rather goes to drug task forces from several agencies that do long-term
investigations of major traffickers. The group says that only 14 percent of the Byrne JAG money under the federal recovery act went to such task forces.