Federal aid for criminal justice innovations and services, which the Obama adminstration would like to cut, is essential to improve the justice system and keep important services operating, state and local officials told congressional staff members yesterday. In separate briefing sessions for the Senate and House on Capitol Hill, delegates of the National Criminal Justice Association delivered messages of support for the federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program. Federal funds amount to only 3 percent of state and local criminal justice budgets, but “that small amount has a tremendous impact on changing culture,” said Jeanne Smith, executive director of the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.
Mike McCabe, undersheriff of Oakland County, Mi., said federal funding is “critical to the success of what we have done in Pontiac to turn things around. It helps on so many levels. It needs to be increased and it needs to be supported.” Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said a federally supported methamphetamine task force cleaned up 1,600 sites in his state and provided training for police officers. The task force will have to shut down this year if funding from Washington is not increased, he said. President Obama has proposed to spend about $319 million on the program for the year starting October 1, down from $344 million this year. Key Congressional committees have yet to consider the Justice Department spending plan.