Thursday, December 02, 2004

Drug task forces' Byrne grants cut

The ins and outs of federal grant funding rules seem like a boring topic, but given this blog's interest in Tulia-style drug task forces, it's worth paying attention.

In all the national flap over the intelligence budget, I'd not seen it reported until yesterday that the final budget cuts to the federal Byrne grant program -- which funds regional drug task forces like the ones in Tulia, Hearne, Palestine, and Seguin -- were also included in the omnibus federal budget passed November 20.

The Bowling Green Daily News summarized the outcome thusly:

"There will be a $400 million cut in funds for the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant Program, Local Law Enforcement Block Grant and Community-Oriented Policing Grant during fiscal year 2005, as voted on Nov. 20 by the U.S. legislature in the omnibus appropriations bill. That’s 24.4 percent less than last year.

"The Byrne Grant and LLEBG will be combined into one program – the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. While separated, the two received a total of $884 million in funding. The newly combined JAG will receive only $634 million, and the COPS grant has been reduced from $756 million to $606 million."

In Texas, more than 90 percent of Byrne grant funding goes to finance regional narcotics task forces, so if the overall available pot of money declines by 24%, some task force funding by definition must be cut. Several have gone under in the past year. Ideally, though, local government will see the writing on the wall and start to request Byrne money for more productive programs.

The new federal budget incorporated new rules about what Byrne grants may be spent on -- Congress reduced the number of categories and broadened them considerably, adopting the rules proposed by Chairman Sensenbrenner in H.R. 3036. Those new categories are:

        (A) Law enforcement programs.
        (B) Prosecution and court programs.
        (C) Prevention and education programs.
        (D) Corrections and community corrections programs.
        (E) Drug treatment programs.
        (F) Planning, evaluation, and technology improvement programs.

Those categories are unbelievably broad, leaving states tremendous leeway how to spend the money. Most if not all the categories previously allowable can still be financed under these new rules. They'll be spending less on them, though.

The reduction in funding and the recent task force dissolutions provide Governor Perry's Criminal Justice Division an opportunity to redirect Byrne grant funding if they wanted, to more effective programs that work. It doesn't make a lot of sense to stick with the same failed strategies.

1 comment:

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You wrote: "Obviously if the Drug Task Forces are disbanned or even reduced due to the lack of funding, that the existing epidemic will escalate."

I've reviewed the task force reporting, and they all say drug activity increased every year since they were created. I've never seen one say they've caused a decline. Haven't y'all been "sending a message"? The flaw in your reasoning is that, based on your strategy, no one is "taken out of the chain." They just come back to town a year or two later with a felon label, unable to get work or a place to live, and they're still drug addicted. You've solved nothing. It's time for a smarter approach.