U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today announced their participation in a bipartisan coalition of 42 senators supporting continued investment in a crucial tool for law enforcement in the fight against crime. Led by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Chuck E. Grassley (R-IA), the coalition penned a letter Friday to Senate Appropriators opposing any additional cuts to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program, which helps states and communities across the country reduce crime, prevent juvenile delinquency and reduce recidivism.
"As you well know, Byrne JAG is a cornerstone crime-fighting program that supports the federal government's crucial role in spurring innovation across the criminal justice system, as well as testing and replicating evidence-based practices nationwide," wrote the Senators in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. "Given the significant financial constraints the federal government has faced in recent years, funding for Byrne JAG has been reduced by nearly one-third over the past two fiscal years. Therefore, we ask that the Byrne JAG program be protected against further cuts in the Fiscal Year 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill."
Byrne JAG funds have been used to keep vital law enforcement programs alive that go after criminal gangs and facilitate drug treatment during a time when budgets for law enforcement officials and prosecutors across the nation have been cut. These funds can be used for state and local initiatives, technical assistance, training, personnel, equipment, supplies, contractual support and criminal justice information systems. Investments in the program have been reduced by over one-third the past two fiscal years.
Even with lower funding levels, the program has played a major role in reducing crime. Nationally, from October 2008 through September 2011, recipients of Byrne JAG grants:
* Disrupted over 5,000 drug trafficking organizations
* Arrested 7,739 gang members on felony chargesAnd from July 2010 to July 2011 seized 2.3 million pounds of drugs
The Byrne JAG program is a partnership among federal, state and local governments that tailors federal law enforcement grants to the needs of different communities. It supports a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime and improve the criminal justice system that include: law enforcement programs; prosecution and court programs; prevention and education programs; corrections and community corrections programs; drug treatment programs; and planning, evaluation and technology improvement programs.
The procedure for allocating Byrne JAG grants is based on a formula of population and violent crime statistics, in combination with a minimum allocation to ensure that each state and territory receives an appropriate share of funding. Sixty percent of Byrne JAG funds are allocated to states which then provide it to innovative programs in local communities. The remaining 40 percent is provided directly to communities via a state-wide competitive grant process.