Testimony – Justice Programs

Thank you Mr. Chairman for this opportunity to testify this afternoon. First, let me say that I will not take a position on behalf of the National Governors Association (NGA) on any reorganization plan that has been prepared for the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs (OJP). I plan to discuss how certain programs administered by OJP operate and have benefited states over the years. Furthermore, I want to focus on the need for states to coordinate all programs and funding from the federal government to local jurisdictions and programs. The Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG) program is an example of a program that by-passes states.

Over the years, there have been several programs develop to assist states in fighting crime. Among them are the Byrne Memorial Grant program, the Juvenile Justice Program, the Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-In-Sentencing Grants (VOI/TIS), the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), the Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grants (JAIBG) program, and the Office of Domestic Preparedness Program.

Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program

The most essential crime fighting program over the years has been the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant program, which is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) in OJP. This program began with the 1968 Crime Act as a justice assistance block grant, and evolved over the years, making grants to states for enforcing state and local laws to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system in attacking violent crime and serious offenders. Grants provide for additional personnel, equipment, training, technical assistance, and information systems for the apprehension, prosecution, adjudication, and detention and rehabilitating of persons who violate state law, and to assist the victims of such crimes. This program, now called the Byrne grants, has changed over the years with reauthorization and allowable uses of grant funds. In fact, many current programs now functioning as Institutes or Offices within OJP were developed and tested in states with Byrne funds. The experimentation and innovation by states produced many significant and lasting criminal justice initiatives. For example: before there was a federal juvenile justice and delinquency prevention grant program established in the Justice Department, justice assistance block grant funds to states were used to create the first community-based youth services bureaus for troubled youth and to establish juvenile officers in police agencies. Before federal drug treatment block grants were available from the Department of Health and Human Services, justice assistance block grant funds were used to develop and test drug testing protocols to screen arrestee and correctional populations and treatment programs for incarcerated drug-dependent offenders.

Other initiatives that used justice assistance funding given to states by the federal government were: intensive supervision probation and alternative to prisons, career criminal programs, and AIDS awareness training for law enforcement. Also, subsequent Byrne Memorial grants have supported the development of management information systems, crime statistics data collection, case tracking protocols, personnel development and training curricula, and community oriented policing. Since the September 11th attacks, Byrne funding has enabled states to provide assistance to first responders in equipment upgrades and technical assistance.

States have been able to experiment and promote these innovations because Byrne funds are very flexible in their allowable use and have been measured by the program outcomes and productivity. This is truly states serving as a laboratory in the criminal justice system. Programs that have been successful, such as community oriented policing, have been expanded on a national level by the federal government.

One of the best initiatives coming out of the justice assistance grant and subsequently Byrne grants program has been the advancement of planning within the criminal justice system. The first grants called for states to do system wide planning about criminal justice. For the first time in many states, prosecutors, police, judges and correctional officials were brought together to discuss ways of improving the criminal justice system. Governors appointed councils made up of individuals from these various state and local criminal justice agencies to focus on developing better crime fighting programs. Also, Governors established administrative staff to assist these councils in various ways of data gathering, technical assistance, and to promote their working together effectively as a system. These are the state agencies that distribute the Byrne grants funds in most states, which allows for innovative crime fighting program development.

Juvenile Justice Program

In 1974, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) with a grant program to promote the Act’s objectives. The original objectives were twofold: to bring about the removal of status offenders from secure correctional institutions, and to assure that adult and juvenile offenders were separately confined in correctional facilities. A third objective was added to prohibit the detention of juveniles in jails and lockups intended for adult offenders. Subsequently, a fourth objective was added that asked states to examine biases in correctional placement based on race and income. Continuous funding of the Juvenile Justice program under the JJDP Act has assisted states in meeting these objectives. Although the program is small in the federal scheme, continued funding demonstrates that federal commitment, along with leadership by states, have helped to meet the objectives of the Act. Currently, the JJDP Act programs are administered by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) within the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice.

Programs in the 1994 Crime Bill: VOI/TIS, JAIBG and SCAAP

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, known as the 1994 Crime Bill, provided assistance to states through several programs. One program was the Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-In-Sentencing (VOI/TIS) Incentive grants program, which provided funds to states for expanding prison bed space for violent offenders, and to make sure that all convicted felons served the maximum sentence imposed by the state law. This program was managed by the Corrections Program Office within the OJP. This program was not funded for fiscal year 2002, and the President budget does not request funding for fiscal year 2003. States used VOI/TIS funds to renovate and expand correctional facilitates. Many state are currently in need of funding in this area.

The 1994 Crime Bill created a new juvenile program aimed at the violent youthful offenders. The Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grants (JAIBG)program is administered by OJJDP in OJP and provides block grants to states for promoting greater accountability in the juvenile justice system. As a results, juvenile offenders face consequences for their behavior that causes injury to persons, and loss or damage to property. JAIBG funds may be used to develop programs such as graduated sanctions for dealing with the youthful offenders.

Another program that provides assistance to states is the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which was enacted by the 1994 Crime bill and is administer by the Bureau of Justice Assistance at OJP. SCAAP provides assistance to state and local governments for part of the costs of incarcerating certain criminal aliens who are being held as a result of state and/or local charges or convictions.

No funds are provided for the program in the fiscal year 2003 President Budget request. Funding for this program is sometimes mistaken to be a grant; however, the funds are a partial reimbursement for the incarceration of aliens, who are the responsibility of the federal government.

Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG)

The LLEBG program provides direct funding to approximately 3,500 local jurisdictions. These jurisdictions apply directly to BJA for funding to underwrite projects designed to reduce crime and improve public safety. Most states do not know which jurisdictions are funded. In some cases, they are notified after the funds are awarded. In some instances, states may have funded similar programs in the jurisdictions. The lack of notification and coordination lead to inequitable allocations. It is entirely inconsistent with all current efforts on homeland security. State governments are in the best position to determine overall needs and to formulate statewide crime control strategies that do not exclude one area in favor of another. Moreover, as we all know, crime simply does not respect borders between local jurisdictions.

In addition, states are responsible for financing and administering the corrections, courts, and in many jurisdictions, prosecution, defense, and probation functions of the criminal justice system. In sparsely populated jurisdictions, states also support and provide law enforcement services for rural communities. Most states provide policing for state highway systems and funds and manage laboratory, training, and other support services for local law enforcement agencies.

Already, the majority of states pass through to local governments in excess of two-thirds of their Byrne Memorial grant allocations in any given fiscal year. That is how community policing and other local law enforcement programs got started. Most states provide financial and other types of support for local criminal justice expenditures from other nonfederal sources. Many states contribute funds to help local governments meet federal matching requirements and continue successful program when federal support terminates. It was reported that several local jurisdictions did not apply for LLEBG funds because they did not have the matching funds. When states were informed (after the fact), many said that they would have helped the jurisdiction if they had known.

The urban centers are the principal beneficiaries of crime control program funds. However, time and money spent on fighting crime in the nation’s cities should not mean that rural areas are denied the crime-fighting resources that they increasingly require. Directing the LLEBG and other funds to local jurisdictions without informing and processing the grants through states may have the net effect of focusing the national crime agenda exclusively on urban areas while disrupting and undermining state and local cooperation in addressing crime problems overall. The federal government should reach out and encourage state and local governments to work together in developing solutions to their problems.

Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP)

Finally, the Office for State and Local Domestic Preparedness Support, which is in OJP, provides assistance to states to enhance their capability to prepare for and respond to incidents of domestic terrorism. This office provides grants (without a match) for equipment and technical assistance for state and local response agencies. States prepare a comprehensive plan involving local responders that must be approved by ODP for funding. The events of September 11, 2001 have enhanced the significance of this office.

Principles for Reorganization

Mr. Chairman, I must emphasize again that NGA does not have a position on any reorganization plan or the placement of any program in a federal agency or department. However, here are some suggestions about placement and program management principles to keep in mind while developing a reorganization structure.

1. Programs should have clear guidance for states about application, evaluation and accountability. Policy directives should be understood so that state officials can develop a close relationship with their federal partners in promoting the program’s objectives.

2. Rules and guidance relating to similar programs should be consistent.

3. The agency should be able to expedite the process of getting information concerning new grant programs and technical assistance and training resources out to the appropriate state agencies. It is important that states receive rules and guidance in a timely manner.

4. The agency should, where possible, promote the flexible use of funds understanding that states may not approach a particular problem in the same manner.

5. The agency should, where possible, facilitate cooperation between state and local jurisdictions. In providing technical assistance or funding of programs for local governments, federal agencies must always coordinate with the appropriate state agencies. There should not be any direct assistance to local governments or agencies without state coordination.

Mr. Chairman: Again thank you for this opportunity to testify. I will be happy to answer questions at the appropriate time.