President Trump’s request that Congress slash the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program (Byrne JAG) could hinder state and local law enforcement, contends the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA), which represents states and localities. The President’s budget proposal for the year starting Oct. 1, which was sent to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, seeks $259.5 million for Byrne JAG, down from about $335 million currently.
NCJA calls the proposal “a substantial reduction for the … cornerstone crime-fighting grant program.” The group adds that the reductions, if approved by Congress, would harm state and local jurisdictions’ efforts “to prevent and deter a rise in violent crime, confront the opioid epidemic, and reduce recidivism.” Under previous reductions to the same grants, “many proven programs and … innovations to protect victims, hold offenders accountable, prevent crime, and reduce recidivism have had to be curbed or eliminated entirely.”
Nearly 60 national organizations signed a letter last month endorsing strong funding for Byrne JAG. In addition, a majority of U.S. senators and a large bipartisan also back the grants. NCJA said that many successful practices first tested by by federal grants now are in use nationwide, including drug courts, Hawaii’s HOPE program, prisoner reentry efforts and information sharing protocols. In the last seven years, funding for Byrne JAG has been reduced by one-third.
Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.