The Byrne JAG Grant Program
The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) Program (42 U.S.C. § 3751(a)) is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions. Administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Byrne JAG Program supports the federal government’s crucial role in spurring innovation, as well as testing and replicating evidence-based practices nationwide.
Byrne JAG funds may be used for state and local initiatives, technical assistance, strategic planning, research and evaluation (including forensics), data collection, training, personnel, equipment, forensic laboratories, supplies, contractual support, and criminal justice information systems that will improve or enhance the following program areas:
- Law enforcement programs;
- Prosecution and court programs, including indigent defense;
- Prevention and education programs;
- Corrections, community corrections and reentry programs;
- Drug treatment and enforcement programs;
- Planning, evaluation, and technology improvement programs
- Crime victim and witness programs (other than compensation)
- Mental health programs and services (added FY 17)
Because Byrne JAG is flexible, states and local communities are able to use the funding to address needs and fill gaps across the entire criminal justice system. This is a hallmark of the Byrne JAG program and one that is vitally important. See reports on the impact of Byrne JAG on the criminal justice system.
Byrne JAG has its roots in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 passed by Congress to offer assistance to state and local governments in strengthening and improving the operation of law enforcement functions in the states. From there grew the original Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program (Byrne Formula). The original Byrne program encouraged states and units of local government to prepare comprehensive strategic plans based upon the evaluation of state and local problems of law enforcement and to conduct research and development on improving law enforcement and developing new and innovative ways to prevent and reduce crime.
In 2002, Congress funded (though never authorized) a separate Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG) program to provide grants directly to local law enforcement agencies. In 2005, Congress fused the two programs, creating the current Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, what we know now as Byrne JAG.
Award Calculation and Grants Administration
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) calculates, for each state and territory, a minimum base allocation which, based on the congressionally mandated JAG formula, can be enhanced by (1) the state’s share of the national population and (2) the state’s share of the country’s Part 1 violent crime statistics. (View annual BJA Byrne JAG funding reports). Once the state funding is calculated, 60 percent of the allocation is awarded to the state and 40 percent to eligible units of local government. (See flow chart).
In each state and territory, the Governor or other Chief Executive Officer designates an agency (the State Administering Agency) to apply for and administer these funds. The SAAs develop statewide strategic plans to prioritize needs and guide their funding decisions. Many SAAs are governed by a commission or board of directors appointed by the governor or described in state statute. The strategic planning process differs by state but involves outreach by the SAA to all segments of the criminal justice system and their stakeholder community to seek input on policy priorities and feedback on imbalances in the criminal justice system.
Byrne JAG Funding Over the Years
Under current law, Congress is authorized to spend up to $1.095 billion per year for the Byrne JAG grant program. In practice, however, annual funding has not reached that level in over a decade. In FY02 and FY03, Byrne and LLEBG funding (see Byrne JAG History above) together totaled $900 million. In FY05, the first year of the combined Byrne JAG program, funding dropped to $536 million (after subtracting unrelated carve-outs). In FY06, funding dipped further to $322 million and then rose again to $520 million in FY07. In FY08, although both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees had recommended significantly increased funding in their committee-passed bills, funding in the final conference report was cut by two-thirds to $170 million.
In the aftermath of the cut in FY08, it became clear that Members of Congress and the wider stakeholder were not aware of the breadth or importance of Byrne JAG’s impact on state and local criminal justice systems. NCJA helped build a large coalition of stakeholder organizations that worked for two years to educate Members of Congress and the stakeholder community about Byrne JAG’s role in testing and replicating evidence-based and evidence-generating programs.
Congress restored funding in the regular FY09 appropriations bill to $512 million and provided one-time funding of $2 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (known as ARRA or the Recovery Act or the stimulus bill). Funding remained at $511 million in FY10 but then dropped again in FY11 and FY12 as Congress sought to reduce the federal deficit through cuts in non-defense discretionary spending. Byrne JAG was funded at $424 million in FY11 and $352 million in FY12.
In FY13, the justice assistance grant programs and all other projects and programs funded by the defense and non-defense discretionary portions of the budget were subject to automatic across the board cuts, called sequestration, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The final FY13 appropriations bill increased funding for the Byrne JAG formula program by 5 percent, from $352 million to $371 million, which was then reduced by the sequester to $352 million. Therefore, final FY13 funding for Byrne JAG was funded at the FY12 level.
Read more about sequestration.
Funding dropped again in FY14 to $344 million and in FY15 to $333 million. In FY16, funding was bumped up to $347 million.
Byrne JAG and related funding history can be found in NCJA’s Justice Assistance Tables, located in the Members Only Section.
Tracking Funding for State and Local Grant Programs
Funding data is available to members via our Justice Assistance Table, which tracks funding for the state and local justice assistance, homeland security, and substance abuse treatment grant programs. The table is updated throughout the annual federal funding cycle, beginning with the release of the President’s budget request in late January or early February, action by the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees and full committees, floor debate and conference committee. These charts are available in the Members Only section; you must log in to the NCJA website to access these files.
Also see the NCJP Center for Justice Planning website for one-pagers on state formula spending for the Byrne JAG program.
The Impact of Byrne JAG on the Criminal Justice System
Cornerstone for Justice
In May 2011, NCJA published Cornerstone for Justice: Byrne JAG and its Impact on the Criminal Justice System. This report explores innovations across the criminal justice system through the lens of the Byrne JAG program. It discusses current trends in law enforcement, courts, information technology, community corrections and reentry policy, substance abuse prevention and treatment, victims support, and juvenile delinquency prevention, while highlighting program data and examples of innovation from states across the country.
Promoting System Change
Using Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) funds, State Administering Agencies in nearly every state have made remarkable strides in broadening stakeholder involvement, developing statewide strategic plans, and funding evidence-based and data-generating projects, all for the purpose of improving the justice system and reducing crime. The 2013 NCJA report, The Impact of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program: How Byrne JAG is Changing the Criminal Justice System, highlights the work done in the states to affect real and lasting change in their criminal justice systems.
Byrne JAG Success Stories
The Bureau of Justice Assistance's JAG Showcase was designed to identify and highlight JAG projects that have demonstrated success or shown promise in reducing crime and positively impacting communities. The BJA has now expanded the concept of the JAG Showcase to other BJA grant programs and created a new BJA Success Story web page. This new web page will be a valuable resource for states, localities, territories, tribes, and criminal justice professionals who seek to identify and learn about JAG and other successful BJA-funded projects linked to innovation, crime reduction, evidence-based practices, etc.
To submit a JAG Success Story, visit the BJA website. Submissions must be reviewed and approved by BJA prior to publication.
Coalition of Support
Throughout the history of the Byrne JAG program, a large and broad coalition representing all segments of the criminal justice system has consistently supported robust and stead funding. An archive of letters of support, as well as House and Senate Dear Colleague letters, can be found on the Letters to Congress page.