Budget Wrongly Invests in Policing and Prisons Not Prevention and Communities
Justice advocates disturbed by proposed $28 billion for expensive, ineffective and unfair policies
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) released a factsheet today criticizing choices made in the Obama Administration’s proposed Fiscal Year 2012 Department of Justice budget. The figure set at $28.2 billion increases funding for COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services), proposes an 11 percent increase from FY2010 in spending on the federal prison system and slashes funding for juvenile justice programming dedicated to providing opportunities for positive life outcomes for youth involved in the justice system.
“Crime is down and resources are scarce. If anything, now is the time to stop putting millions of our taxpayer dollars into more policing and more prisons,” said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of JPI. “We have been throwing over a billion dollars in stimulus funding and federal budget expenditures into a system that has been failing us for decades. This year provided an opportunity to redirect funds toward smarter investments in proven programs, but instead this budget reflects a choice to repeat the failed policies of past administrations.”
Research included in the factsheet also shows that the present funding structure is set up to build on America’s historically high 2.4 million person prison population, passing incarcerations costs to cash-strapped states like California, Texas and New York which are focused on reducing the use of prisons and jails in favor of cost-effective, community-based services and diversion programs.
The budget mentions the need to reduce incarceration rates across the country, but an additional $116 million from FY2010’s budget for buildings and facilities indicates an effort to build more beds and to incarcerate more people. “A true vision of successful public safety strategies needs to start with ensuring front-end services and supports, not a commitment to locking more people away and dismantling families and communities,” added Velázquez. “We should spend our money on treatment programs, on job creation and on teachers, not prison beds and police helicopters.”
Some of the key findings from the factsheet include:
- Byrne Justice Assistance Grants: JPI found that while the $500+ million proposed for this program can be used for prevention and education, in reality most money goes to law enforcement. Research has shown that increased law enforcement results in the least-effective solution—higher imprisonment rates—while this money could be more effectively spent on community drug treatment.
- Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Funding: The Administration is requesting $600 million in hiring and retention grants for police. Such increased policing is likely to have a concentrated impact on communities of color, which are already disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. Further, re-invigorating this program is likely to further increase the prison population, without a significant drop in crime. JPI suggests this money would be better spent on creating jobs, housing, and treatment programs for increased public safety.
- Juvenile Justice Programs: Funding for essential juvenile justice programs has been on a steady decline for years, and the Administration is proposing to take away another $50 million this year. Nearly 100,000 youth are currently locked up in juvenile detention and correctional facilities across the country. Reducing the amount of money spent on prevention may result in an increase in this number, a reduction in public safety, and negative life outcomes for youth, who could be better served through positive opportunities for growth. Taking away funding for states to come into compliance with the core protections of the JJDPA can also result in more youth being held in juvenile facilities and poorer conditions while they are incarcerated and when they get out.
- Drug Courts: The president’s FY2012 budget combines previous funds that were separately allocated to drug courts and other specialty courts like mental health courts, with a lump sum of $57 million for these programs. While JPI is pleased to see the federal government’s interest in pursuing treatment as an option for people with substance abuse problems as an alternative to incarceration, drug courts, and the criminal justice system generally, can not and should not be used as a substitute for community-based treatment services through the public health system, where it is most effective and appropriate.
- Increased Funding for Prisons: Increased funding for prison beds will likely lead to higher prison populations and expenses without significantly improving public safety. Most states are reducing prison populations due to the current economic crisis and are seeking more effective solutions.
“This budget reflects a disappointing continuation of policies rejected by researchers and advocates and will serve to widen the net of justice involvement, doing little to improve public safety,” concluded Velázquez. “While States are seeking innovative ways to cut costs, reduce prison populations and improve the safety and health of communities, the Federal Government is showing a disappointing lack in leadership in the areas of prevention, treatment and diversion. We hope that future efforts will invest in real progress and reform to make America a safer, stronger nation.”
To read JPI’s fact sheet on the Obama Administration’s FY2012 Budget, Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results, CLICK HERE. For additional information, please contact Jason Fenster at (202) 558-7974 x306 or [email protected] or Zerline Hughes at (202) 558-7974 x 312 or [email protected]
The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) is a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to reducing society’s use of incarceration and promoting just and effective social policies. For more on JPI’s research, please visit our website at www.justicepolicy.org.