Criminal-justice organizations are joining a drive by other advocates of federal non-defense domestic spending to stave off a “sequestration” process they say could be “devastating to the nation.” The coalition says that under a budget-cutting plan that could take effect next year, federal spending on anticrime programs and a wide range of other categories including education, health, housing, and environmental protection would fact automatic budget cuts of up to 43 percent over nine years. That is on top of reductions of up to 50 percent in the last two years in some programs.
The groups are writing to Congress urging a “balanced approach to deficit reduction” rather than one that exempts defense spending and entitlements from budget-cutting and subjects virtually every other federal activity to big reductions. The Justice Department, where most anticrime funding is housed, is particularly vulnerable because the large corps of lawyers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons are unlikely to be trimmed by Congress, which leaves state and local grant programs and research one of the only remaining areas. A survey is planned this week of criminal justice practitioners nationwide to assess for Congress which activities might be hurt most by cuts. The letter-writing and survey were discussed by criminal-justice group leaders at a meeting yesterday in Washington.