From the Expert:
Grant Program Funding Saves Criminal Justice Jobs
By Jennifer Horne Boyter, CSG Public Safety and Justice Policy Analyst
President Barack Obama visited Columbus, Ohio, March 6 for the graduation ceremony of 25 police recruits whose jobs were saved by the city’s share of the federal economic stimulus. The group had entered the police academy last summer, but learned three days before completing their training the city did not have the funds to hire them.
They weren’t alone. More than 27,000 positions in criminal justice nationwide were threatened due to lack of funding, police advocacy groups say.
But passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 changed all that. The stimulus package includes $4 billion for criminal justice programs. The single largest item in the package is $2 billion for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which provides formula-based funding to state and local governments to support a wide range of activities to prevent and control crime and to improve the criminal justice system.
Law enforcement executives across the country had warned that they would have been forced to cut back on operations and begin the painful process of laying off officers if federal aid wasn’t forthcoming. Advocacy groups claim the stimulus funding will create or save more than 27,000 criminal justice jobs, and help combat the increased crime that generally occurs during economic downturns.
Funding from the Byrne grant program is often used for multi-jurisdictional drug, gang and violent crime task forces, as well as information-sharing and technology, prosecution efforts, drug courts, juvenile delinquency programs and drug treatment programs.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said the JAG funding is “key to helping our states and local governments fight crime and keep our streets safe. The Department of Justice is moving ahead of schedule to allocate these resources so we can retain police officers, enhance law enforcement capabilities, and ensure that we have the tools and equipment necessary to build safer communities.”
According to the National Criminal Justice Association, 75 percent of the JAG funding will be used to create or sustain a wide variety of jobs across the entire criminal justice system. In a survey of state agencies conducted by the association, funding will support jobs as diverse as law enforcement officers and staff, victim service providers, probation officers, drug and alcohol counselors, research analysts, child abuse investigators, school resource officers, prison personnel, DNA lab specialists and computer crime analysts.
JAG program funds are allocated based on a formula to both states and territories and approximately 5,000 eligible local jurisdictions. The formula takes into account the jurisdiction’s population and rate of violent crime, with each state and territory receiving a base allocation. The money is divided with 60 percent awarded directly to a state and 40 percent set aside for specified units of local government. States are required to pass through a percentage of their awards to support local projects. This amount is calculated by the Bureau of Justice Statistics based on each state’s crime expenditures.
The formula calculates direct allocations for local governments within each state, based on their share of the total violent crime reported within the state. Local governments must have submitted to the FBI at least three years of Uniform Crime Report data during the most recent 10-year period to be eligible for the grants. Local governments that are entitled to at least $10,000 may apply directly to the Bureau of Justice Assistance for Local JAG grants.