Asking federal anticrime aid applicants a different set of questions might produce better incentives for state and local projects that help reduce mass incarceration in the United States, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law asserted in Washington, D.C., yesterday. The center brought its advocacy campaign, which was described last month in The Crime Report, to the capital in a panel discussion featuring justice reform advocates of various stripes. The center’s Inimai Chettiar contended that the Justice Department could change the way it distributes anticrime money to states and localities through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program to focus less on “arresting more people.”
Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, agreed that some federal standards focus more on “volume rather than results.” He urged the Justice Department to emulate criminal justice reforms in states, citing the example of Texas giving more aid to counties that reduced the number of parolees who returned to prison because of technical rules violations. Jim Bueermann of the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation noted that the Justice Department already is taking steps to favor anticrime programs that are “evidence-based.” Nkechi Taifa of the Open Society Foundation echoed the theme that federal funding should not encourage local police to arrest more low-level drug offenders. The Brennan Center urged the Justice Department to embrace “Success Oriented Funding” linked to precise goals.