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Brennan Center Weighs in on Fiscal Cliff Talks

Brennan Center Weighs in on Fiscal Cliff Talks

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As federal agencies prepare for automatic budget cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (“BCA”), the Brennan Center's Inimai Chettiar and Nicole Austin-Hillery write to urge the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approach budgeting for criminal justice programs by prioritizing evidence-based programs that protect public safety and use federal resources wisely.
As federal agencies prepare for automatic budget cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (“BCA”), the Brennan Center's Inimai Chettiar and Nicole Austin-Hillery write to urge the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approach budgeting for criminal justice programs by prioritizing evidence-based programs that protect public safety and use federal resources wisely.

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Published by: The Brennan Center for Justice on Dec 21, 2012
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12/21/2012

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1December 19, 2012Via U.S. Mail and Electronic MailJeffrey Zients, Acting DirectorDana J. Hyde, Associate DirectorOffice of Management and Budget725 17th Street, NWWashington, DC 20503Dear Director Zients and Associate Director Hyde:As federal agencies prepare for automatic budget cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (“BCA”), we write to urge the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Office of Management and Budget to approach budgeting for criminal justice programs by prioritizingevidence-based programs that protect public safety and use federal resources wisely. Werecognize the difficulty involved in deciding how to implement these sequester cuts. We write topropose a basic framework to determine how those cuts would be distributed within the agency.The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan publicpolicy and law institute that focuses on improving the systems of democracy and justice.
1
 One of our primary goals is to ensure that criminal justice policymaking is rational, efficient, fair, andachieves legitimate public safety goals.Rather than implementing sequester cuts in an across-the-board fashion or focusing on costsavings alone, we urge DOJ to take a rational, data-based, and economically rigorous approach.DOJ should reduce funding for programs that do not effectively achieve legitimate public safetygoals and preserve funding for programs that do. In this way, DOJ can methodically ensure thatprograms that work continue to improve the country.
 
 2DOJ faces impending funding cuts to many of its discretionary budget items. For example, DOJfaces a total $1.042 billion in cuts to programs like the State and Local Law EnforcementAssistance Fund; Juvenile Justice Programs; Community Oriented Police Services; salaries andexpenses for United States Attorneys; salaries and expenses for the Drug EnforcementAdministration; salaries and expenses for the federal prison system; and the Office of JusticePrograms research, evaluation, and statistics budget.
2
 Some of these programs achieve legitimatecriminal justice goals and some do not.We provide several non-exhaustive examples of how to implement this framework:
 
DOJ should preserve successful state performance incentive funding programs. Forexample, DOJ provides funds for the Adult Redeploy Illinois program through theEdward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program and the American Recoveryand Reinvestment Act of 2009.
3
In FY 2011 and 2012, Adult Redeploy received 100% of its funding from federal sources, a total of $4 million. Adult Redeploy incentivizes localprobation officers to reduce the number of probationers returned to prison by allocating aportion of the savings generated by reduced incarceration rates to these probationoffices.
4
In its first three years, the Illinois’ Juvenile Redeploy Program reduced thenumber youths sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice by 51%, saving the state nearly$19 million.
5
 Federal funding for this program is scheduled to end soon however. Sucheffective programs should not be cut. All DOJ grants to states should fund programs withAdult Redeploy’s attributes: namely, they are worth their return on investment from acost, public safety, and fairness perspective. In this vein, DOJ should adopt a policymandating that all state and local grant funding decisions are tied to the capability of aproposed project to meet legitimate public safety goals.
 
The Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) has the discretion to grant early release to prisoners whohave committed nonviolent offenses and successfully completed Residential Drug AbuseTreatment Programs (“RDAP”).
6
Investing in RDAP leads to the safe release of moreprisoners, resulting in a net savings to BOP and DOJ while improving public safety.Providing treatment to prisoners increases their ability to reintegrate, increasingproductivity in the economy and decreasing the likelihood of future crime. For example,according to a BOP study, male participants are 16% less likely to recidivate and 15%less likely to relapse for up to three years after release than male prisoners who do notparticipate in RDAP.
7
 Programs like RDAP should not be cut.
 
The BOP has the power to reduce prison terms for elderly and sick prisoners, butexercises this authority infrequently.
8
Elderly prisoners generally do not pose publicsafety threats, but still require significant resources to incarcerate.
9
Releasing theseprisoners will allow funds to be put to a more productive use within BOP.
 
 3
 
When determining how to implement salary cuts, DOJ should use these principles tomake those cuts. Specifically, it should determine whether staff work within programsand execute responsibilities that effectively further public safety goals. DOJ shouldreallocate, shift, or cut staff to achieve the best allocation so that staff are prioritized towork on effective programs.Although this letter is prompted by the BCA’s sequestration provisions, we recognize thepossibility that Congress will intervene before or after sequestration takes effect. Regardless of whether sequestration takes effect, however, DOJ has limited resources and has an ongoingmandate to use its resources productively to achieve its mission. We encourage DOJ to take thisevidence-based approach during all budgeting cycles and for all future cuts. By doing so, DOJcan use its limited resources wisely to help create a rational, efficient, and fair criminal justicesystem that achieves legitimate public safety goals.We welcome the opportunity to meet with your office in person to discuss these issues further,especially as we are pursuing rigorous research to improve criminal justice funding structures.Respectfully submitted,Nicole Austin-HilleryDirector and Counsel, Washington D.C. Officenicole.austin-hillery@nyu.eduInimai M. ChettiarDirector, Justice Programinimai.chettiar@nyu.edu
Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
cc: David Haun, Deputy Associate Director, Office of Management and BudgetHon. Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General, U.S. Department of JusticeLeon Lofthus,
 
Assistant Attorney General for Administration, U.S. Department of JusticeMichael H. Allen, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Policy Management andPlanning, U.S. Department of Justice
1
 
This letter does not represent the opinions of NYU School of Law.
 
2
OMB Report Pursuant to the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 (P.L. 112–155), at 120–26 (2012),
availableat 
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/legislative_reports/stareport.pdf.
 

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