Congress Cuts Aid to Crime Victim Programs

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Photo of crime scene mural by Tom Hilton via Flickr

Federal spending for crime-victim aid programs is being cut to about $2.1 billion annually for the current fiscal year, down from $2.7 billion last year.

The change is the most notable among anticrime programs in the Justice Department spending plan, which provides for small increases or level appropriations for most items.

Federal money for crime victims comes not from tax dollars but from fines and penalties in federal criminal cases, which have been declining.

Insiders say the spending cutback is due mostly to concern in Congress that the overall crime-victim fund should not be unduly depleted.

The National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators (NAVAA), which monitors crime-victim spending closely, says the funding cut will have “varying effects” in different states. (VOCA stands for the Victims of Crime Act, which created the crime-victim fund.)

A significant increase in spending for crime victims over the last several years has provided money to more than 2,500 new organizations, serving 2.5 million more victims this year than were helped in 2015, NAVAA says.

Because Congress decides each year how much money to spend on victims, the organization says it would “like to see more consistency and predictability in funding levels so states can better predict and allocate services consistently to meed the needs of victims.”

The group expressed concern that Congress decided to take $435 million from victims programs for aid under the Violence Against Women Act, which technically is  not authorized in the federal law on crime victims.

Among other anticrime appropriations in the massive federal spending bill, according to the National Criminal Justice Association:

–Aid to states under the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program is at $349 million, up from $330 million last year.

–The Second Chance Act, aiding prisoner reentry projects, gets $62 million, up from $60 million.

–COPS hiring for local police departments was appropriated $156 million, up from $153 million last year.

–STOP School Violence Act got $125 million, up from $100 million.

–State juvenile-justice programs under Title II of the federal law will get $63 million, an increase from $60 million.

–The Comprehensive Opioid Assistance Program (COAP) gets $180 million, up from $157 million.

–Drug courts will receive $80 million, up from $77 million. Mental health courts and veterans treatment courts also get small increases.

–Reducing the backlog in DNA testing was appropriated $132 million, a rise from $130 million. Aid to reduce the sexual-assault-kit-analysis backlog gets the same $48 million as last year.

–“Justice reinvestment” programs get $28 million, up $27 million.

–The Justice Department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods program, which at one point was zeroed out by House appropriators, ended up with $20 million, the same as last year.

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