President Needs to Get Off the Cop Beat
Administration is not in touch with justice issues; 2013 budget calls for $27.1 billion for more cops
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite the fact that prison populations have fallen for the first time in 40 years, President Obama’s FY2013 budget released this week devotes more than $27 billion to prison and policing. The budget, which devotes nearly $7 billion to reactivate or open new prisons and over $4 billion on policing, supports the continued incarceration of people at the federal level and spending on policing. In their new fact sheet, “Behind the Times” the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) argues that President Obama’s FY2013 budget mistakenly focuses on prison and policing when the prison populations have fallen or the first time in 40 years. Such spending priorities are counter to current justice reform trends and undermine efforts to reduce the burden of incarceration and improve public safety in a lasting and meaningful way.
“Spending more money on policing and prisons undermines the good work many states have done to reduce our reliance on incarceration and to improve public safety with more effective and affordable practices,” said Tracy Velázquez, JPI Executive Director. “For the past two years in a row, federal prison populations have risen while those in the states fell. This administration is out of touch on justice issues. In lieu of spending scarce federal dollars on more law enforcement when crime is down to the lowest levels in years, Congress and the administration need to invest in programs and policies that have long-lasting, positive opportunities.”
The juvenile justice funding request in the FY 2013 budget is decreased from last year’s budget by about $15 million. In addition, for the proposed $4 billion in stimulus COPS (Community Oriented Policing) funding, preference would be given to agencies that use the new money to hire post-September 11 veterans for law enforcement positions. JPI argues that while it is important that veterans have access to opportunities for employment, the government would do better by veterans by providing employment support across a range of occupations, particularly those that do not potentially require them to relive past trauma related to combat.
“We are great advocates of veterans and their integration back into the community, but we are also well-versed in the fact that their experiences can cause or contribute to conditions such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder),” said Velázquez. “Maybe our veterans want to be teachers or computer programmers, and not members of law enforcement. This plan, in effect, takes control away from veterans for their future.”
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, violent crime in the U.S. has dropped for four years in a row. Declines in both property and violent crime in 2010 were seen in all regions of the country. When promoting this piece of the jobs bill last fall, Vice President Biden insinuated that without more police people would be at greater risk for murder and rape – even though rates for these offenses went down 4.2 and 5 percent respectively. The national drops in crime occurred while state prison populations were also falling, and while the country is experiencing its first-ever national decrease in law enforcement positions.
The Justice Policy Institute, based in Washington, DC, is working to reduce the use of incarceration and the justice system and promoting policies that improve the well-being of all people and communities. For more information, please visit www.justicepolicy.org.