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GOP Has Advanced Few Big Federal Anticrime Budget Cuts So Far


Congressional Republicans have threatened major budget cuts now that the GOP has taken over the House, but most anticrime programs have survived major reductions in the appropriations process so far.

Both Senate and House committees last week advanced their initial budgets for the Justice Department for the year beginning Oct. 1. Barring changes later on the floor of either house, the final result is likely to be a compromise between sums approved by committees in each house..

Both houses' measures keep level major anticrime aid to states and localities. This includes the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program, the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) program and the Violence Against Women STOP (VAWA) grants.

The House committee would cut state Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act grants by 25%.

Both houses set a cap on Crime Victims Fund spending at $1.2 billion, the same as President Biden's budget request. Appropriators in both chambers and parties would like to set the cap higher but are aware that the current balance in the Fund cannot support an increase until receipts further replenish the Fund.

Congress would appropriate little or nothing to supplement funds for community violence intervention programs in the enacted Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

Neither house would fund new anticrime programs sought by President Biden including mandatory spending for a new $14.7 billion Accelerating Justice System Reform initiative.

For programs to aid crime victims, $1.1 billion would be available next year, compared with $1.8 billion in the current year and $1.9 billion in FY22.

Both the House and Senate bills fully fund the Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training bill that was enacted late last year.

House Democrats objected that their chamber's bill underfunds key programs and priorities. Democrats are expected to offer amendments when the bill is considered by the full appropriations committee.

The Justice Department spending bill is one of the more controversial among appropriations bills because of partisan disagreements over funding for the FBI, immigration and various crime and policing issues.

One key DOJ agency that could suffer budget reductions is the National Institute of Justice, which funds research on anticrime projects.

The NIJ budget always has been modest by Washington, D.C., standards, getting only $35 million this year. The Biden administration asked Congress for a big increase, to $63 million. The Senate Justice Department funding committee would provide only a small increase, to $36 million, while the House panel would reduce the agency to $25 million.

One big criminal justice program not part of DOJ is the agency that hires federal public defenders, which faces a possible loss of nearly 500 positions, 12% of the workforce.

A House appropriations subcommittee has proposed a reduction in funding for the agency of $42 million, while the Senate panel would cut $71 million, prompting public defender leaders to declare the situation a crisis.

The federal public defender in Kansas said on Twitter, "We represent over 90% of people charged in federal court. All are poor; most are marginalized people of color who have already been subjected to discriminatory and disparate treatment at every juncture of the system. They will bear the brunt of these budget cuts."


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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