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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.