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Congressional Budget Resolution Cuts Some DOJ Programs

The April 2011 vote in Congress that passed a resolution for continued federal funding until the end of the current fiscal year on June 30 included 17 percent cuts for various Department of Justice (DOJ) programs, including the Second Chance Act.

The Second Chance Act, Mentally Ill Offender Treatment Program and Justice Reinvestment program were all reduced seventeen percent. Unaffected were the budgets for the Office of Violence Against Women, National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Regional Information Sharing Systems, Justice for All and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The DOJ’s total budget was funded at $27.4 billion – 8% less than requested for FY 2011. In the category of State and Local Law Enforcement Activities, $2.8 billion was provided, which will be used to provide grants to local and state law enforcement agencies and crime victims. The bill provides $1.12 billion for state and local law enforcement assistance, $276 million for juvenile justice programs, $496 million for COPS grants, $235 million for Justice Assistance programs, $419 million for domestic violence and sexual assault grants, and $187 million for grant management and administration.

The FBI received $7.8 billion for salaries and expenses while the Bureau of Prisons received $6.3 billion, slightly above its 2010 budget but $239 million less than the amount requested for FY 2011. The Office of the Federal Detention Trustee received $1.52 billion and the DOJ’s general legal activities received $865.1 million. The Justice Information-Sharing Technology program, National Drug Intelligence Center, Law Enforcement Wireless Communications and 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund Administration all received funding at amounts below what had been requested.

The DOJ’s FY 2011 budget includes the first noticeable and significant cuts to law enforcement on the federal level in the past decade, but retains the core functions of the DOJ at funding levels comparable to the agency’s 2010 budget. Grants to states and local governments received the brunt of the cuts, but prisoner re-entry and treatment programs also suffered.

It is hard to contemplate how halfway houses and other re-entry programs that are already bursting at the seams and under severe financial pressure will deal with the reduced funding at a time when more and more prisoners are seeking post-release services due to the continuing economic downturn and high unemployment rates. Unfortunately, in the budget-cutting atmosphere that now pervades Congress, it will be difficult for programs like the Second Chance Act to make their case for additional funding.

Nevertheless, federal legislation has been introduced, S.1231, for reauthorization of the Second Chance Act. The bill is supported by a number of organizations including the American Correctional Association, Association of State Correctional Administrators, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, National Criminal Justice Association, The Sentencing Project and Prison Fellowship. It remains pending in the Senate.


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