House Panel Favors Most Federal Anticrime Projects

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Federal spending on Department of Justice anticrime programs is holding its own in the appropriations process this year, despite some concern among criminal justice watchers that it would drop after Republicans took control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee approved its bill to fund the Justice Department in the year beginning October 1. For the most part, key crime items ended up with about the same level of funding as in the last year of the Obama administration.

The House bill would increase the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, which provides many of the funds for state and local anticrime projects, to $443.6 million, up from $334.6 million in the current year.

The bill would eliminate the hiring grants under the Community Oriented Policing program (COPS), which is getting $195 million this year. However, House Republicans have long criticized local police hiring under COPS, which began in the big 1994 federal crime law when Bill Clinton was president.

In recent years, the House often has voted to reduce the COPS program only to see the Senate insist on continuing its funding. That same scenario could occur this year.

The House bill could dramatically increase federal aid to programs that help crime victims to $4.632 billion, more than double the current $2.237 billion figure. Still, that money may not survive the negotiating process with the Senate or may be used for other purposes.

The new measure would continue the trend of reducing federal aid for projects to reduce juvenile crime.

Among other major items in the House bill:

  • The FBI would get $8.8 billion, $92 million above President Trump’s budget request. Increases would focus on fighting terrorism, cybercrime and human trafficking.
  • The federal prison system would get a little over $7 billion. The appropriations committee said it is concerned about crowding in federal prisons, and it endorsed the Trump administration’s plan to continue using private prisons after the Obama administration said it would stop private-facility contracts.
  • Spending on for the DOJ Office on Violence Against Women programs would increase to $527 million from $482 million this year.
  • Prisoner reentry projects under the Second Chance Act would get $68 million, the same as this year.
  • Drug courts would get $43 million, the same as this year.
  • The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which pursues sentencing reform in states, would get $25 million, the same as this year.

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