Friday, October 20, 2006

Perry announces criminal justice grants

Despite the preponderance of politicized programs in the mix, I actually liked some of the choices Texas Governor Rick Perry's Criminal Justice Division made for grant funding this cycle. (See Perry's press release.) In particular, the biggest single chunk of the $14.4 million in grants announced yesterday will pay for:
$2 million to Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas, Inc., to support the Amachi mentoring program that matches children of incarcerated parents with caring volunteers through a partnership with faith-based and community organizations throughout Texas.
Regular readers know I'm a big fan of such programs - I think anything we can do to improve the lives of children with incarcerated parents will benefit public safety. Funding that program statewide would probably do more in the long-term to reduce crime than a lot of the nickel-and-dime grants littering the rest of the Governor's list. Why should we only fund programs for children of incarcerated parents in North Texas, and not everywhere else?

Of course, announcing 122 local grants a couple of weeks before an election is par for the course - the geographic spread of the grants and the frequent focus on sex offenders belie a political agenda behind the funding. But that's certainly not unique to Perry - it's just part of the electoral benefits of incumbency. These grants don't necessarily represent the choices I'd make in Perry's shoes, but neither do I find the list, on the whole, particularly troubling. My biggest beef: Quite a few pay for police officer training and extra staffing, especially for sex offender monitoring - stuff local governments really should be financing with taxes, not with grants.

If I had my druthers, Texas would concentrate its criminal justice grant money on just a few targeted programs, not ten dozen - we'd finance preventive efforts that make an impact on crime instead of viewing grants as just an opportunity to replace local funds with pork barrel spending. For example, a grant to Southwest Key in Travis County will provide juvenile justice supervison services that are needed everywhere in the state:
$94,189 to Southwest Key Program, Inc., to provide an accountability program for Travis County juvenile offenders designed to prevent delinquency through consistent school and home visits, attendance and curfew checks, educational support and frequent contact with an assigned caseworker.
Reducing juvenile recidivism is key to long-term crime reduction. Why should only Travis County benefit from such a program? I can't think of a county in the state that doesn't need the same services. We'd be better off, I think, if Texas would identify a handful of successful approaches like at Southwest Key and pay to implement them statewide.

Here are the other large statewide grants on the Governor's list:
  • $1.9 million to the Office of the Attorney General to support a special investigation unit dedicated to providing support to local law enforcement agencies across the state with investigations of cyber crimes, child pornography, organized crime, fugitives, criminal consumer fraud, identity theft, public corruption and other criminal activities.
  • $1.36 million to support a special prison prosecution unit dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of felony offenses committed by prisoners and employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
  • $508,000 to Texas CASA, Inc., to provide technical assistance, monitoring, quality assurance, research, public awareness presentations, volunteer recruitment, diversity strategies and capacity-building services to local Court Appointed Special Advocates programs, which assists abused and neglected children in the Texas child welfare system.
  • $490,305 to MADD Texas State, Inc., to provide six regional prevention specialists responsible for developing, coordinating, and implementing various programs designed to educate youth and adults on the dangers of underage drinking.
Via CrimProf Blog


Anonymous said...

We send all our money to Washington, and then have to beg for it back.
All these bullshit, new age grant scams are no different than those bullshit old style scam drug task force grants that he cut out.
Here's a hip, cool, stylish new idea:
we keep most of our tax money in Texas, and use it to fund the basic government functions that are supposed to be performed by our local government.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Oooooooh ... stylin' idea! ;)