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How Does the Trump Budget Bode for Criminal Justice Grants?

President Trump’s new budget puts to rest fears of drastic cuts for White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and Justice Department grants. However it does raise other questions.

May 24, 2017

The Trump administration just released its “detailed” fiscal year 2018 Budget proposal. It put to rest fears of drastic budget cuts for White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) grants. However it does raise other questions laid out here:

  • White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) ($369 million): An expected dramatic paring back of the ONDCP and its grants has not materialized. The office would be cut by $16.6 million (-4 percent) in 2018. This cut is significantly different from the 95 percent reduction described in a leaked White House document from earlier this month. These reductions spare most grant funding—including the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program (-3 percent) and the Drug-Free Communities program (-5 percent). ONDCP’s 30-plus year history is full of excessive support for tactics grounded in the archaic “war on drugs,” with little impact on use or availability. HIDTA, which supports law enforcement drug task forces, also incentivizes arrests over more effective responses to drug use.
  • Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) ($260 million): One surprise is that the administration proposed a $75 million (-22 percent) cut to DOJ’s largest grant program, which gives money to law enforcement without many strings.  Largely unfocused, these grants allow states and communities to pursue their own priorities, and these grants historically have supported drug task forces. The program has also come under criticism for its lack of incentives to ensure funds are used well.
  • Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) ($70 million): The budget relaunches Project Safe Neighborhoods in a big way with a $64 million (+1077 percent) increase. PSN has evolved from Project Exile and other initiatives designed to increase federal prosecutions and sentence lengths for gun and gang crimes. PSN task forces will lead to more federal incarceration and longer sentences.
  • Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Grants ($218 million):  Earlier this year it was rumored the Trump Administration would cut these grants to police departments. Many law enforcement groups pushed back on this. Today’s budget increases funding for the coming year by $32 million (+17percent). These grants primarily support police hiring, but also pay for police training and aim to reduce police shootings.
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Grants ($480 million): Another rumored candidate for drastic reductions, Trump’s proposal yesterday cuts funding by $1.5 million (-0.3 percent). These grants provide assistance and services to victims of rape and sexual assault, as well as domestic abuse, in addition to funding prevention programs and justice system responses to these crimes.
  • State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) ($0): The Trump budget plans to eliminate $210 million in funding for SCAAP, which partially reimburses state and local prisons and jails for housing undocumented citizens who committed crimes. This reduction is surprising given the administration’s desire to enlist local law enforcement support to incarcerate undocumented immigrants.
  • Sanctuary Cities: Trump also uses his budget to sanction “sanctuary cities.” The proposal will bar DOJ or Department of Homeland Security grants to cities that limit communications between local law enforcement and DHS ,and fail to enforce immigration detainers, or DHS requests to maintain custody of undocumented people for at least 48 hours. The proposal also permits DOJ and DHS to condition grant funds on sharing nationality, citizenship, immigration status information, home address, work address, and contact information for all persons in custody. It is an effort to use federal funding to encourage local police to execute federal immigration priorities.

The views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily those of the Brennan Center for Justice.