Issue: Justice Assistance Grant Program
The newly created JAG program replaced the Byrne Formula Grant and Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG) as the primary block grant funding stream for state and local criminal justice agencies, including the courts.
State and local court officials have been increasingly successful at accessing the Byrne Formula Grant and the LLEBG funds. At a minimum, state and local court officials want to reserve the proportion of funding they received under the old programs and, if possible expand their participation under the new program.
The 108th Congress used the appropriation process to fold the Byrne Formula Grant and LLEBG programs into a new grant program called the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program with fewer restrictions on funding targets. This dramatically changed how funds will flow to state and local agencies. The detailed program areas listed in the previous programs have been eliminated. Funding is now to be organized around six program areas: “(A) law enforcement programs; (B) prosecution and court programs; (C) prevention and education programs; (D) corrections and community corrections programs; (E) drug treatment programs; (F) planning, evaluation, and technology improvement programs.” The funds are distributed among the states on the basis of population and the Uniform Crime Reports; 60% of the funds are to be administered by the state; 40% is reserved to local “units of local government”.
President Bush’s FY2008 budget proposed the consolidation of the Byrne JAG program into a large block grant program also containing the Drug Courts, Byrne Discretionary and Mentally Ill Offender program. Both House and Senate Appropriations bills do not assume this consolidation. They fund these programs independently of each other as they have done before. Thus, it is safe to assume that the consolidation will not occur.
By unanimous consent, the Senate passed S 231, which extends the authorization of the JAG program at $1.1 billion for another six years. The prior JAG authorization bill set funding at $1.1 billion for FY 2006, but only “such sums as may be required” for FY 2007 through FY 2009. The bill sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), extends the $1.1 billion authorized level through the life of the program in a statement of support intended to impact this year’s funding process. On 7/14/08, the House approved S 231. The President signed the bill on 7/30/08 making it PL 110-294.
The JAG program received a huge funding cut in the omnibus appropriations bill (PL 110-161) for FY08. It received $170 million (vs. $520 million in FY07). NCSC Government Relations staff are participating in coalition with other state/local organizations to try to restore this funding to the FY07 level. The effort to restore funds for Byrne failed in that the supplemental Iraq War spending bill contained no funds for Byrne. Early versions of this bill did have funds for Byrne, but they were dropped in conference negotiations. The program is currently operating under the continuing resolution, which expires on 3/6/09. The House version of the Obama economic stimulus plan contains $3 billion for Byrne JAG.