The Impact of Criminal Justice Funding-National Criminal Justice Association

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/05/impact-criminal-justice-funding-national-criminal-justice-association/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Lenard Sipes. Today’s show is the impact of criminal justice funding, produced by the National Criminal Justice Association. We’re going to be addressing the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. The National Criminal Justice Association represents the states and territories as the statewide criminal justice planning agencies. Today we’re looking at the tremendous impact of federal funding as to innovative programs across the country. We have three guests spread throughout the country at our microphones via Skype. We have Carlton Moore; he is the Director of the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. We have Jeanne Smith; she is the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice the Colorado Department of Public Safety. And we have David Steingraber; he is the Senior Policy Advisor for the National Criminal Justice Association and former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. All three, to Carlton and to Jeanne and to David, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Carlton Moore:  Thank you.

Jeanne Smith:  Happy to be here.

Len Sipes:  All right.

David Steingraber:  Yeah. Thanks, Len.

Len Sipes:  Look, this is an extraordinarily important program. We have funding, and I know there’s all sorts of different aspects to this funding, and when we say federal funding. But today we’re addressing specifically the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. This is absolutely vital to the proper functioning of criminal justice agencies throughout the country, specifically at the state and local level. And so the National Criminal Justice Association is the association that’s been fighting for these funds for decades. And the National Criminal Justice Association finds out what works, what’s innovative, what’s new, what can reduce recidivism, what can protect police officers, what can lower crime, and feeds that information to the rest of the country. David, do you want to start with it?

David Steingraber:  Sure. Lenard, as you correctly noted, there are a number of other federal justice assistance funding programs, they tend to come and go over the years, but the Byrne JAG Justice Assistance Grant Program has endured perhaps the longest and it offers the most flexibility and versatility to the states. It’s currently authorized by Congress at over one billion dollars, but the actual funding appropriations have been closer to 500 million over the years, and in recent years it’s dropped due to primarily the deficit reduction efforts on the part of Congress to something just under 400 million. But that may not, in the grand scheme of things, reflect a large portion of the funds spent across the country on the justice system. As a matter of fact, calculations would probably run somewhere around 1% to 2% of all the money spent in the justice system. But it’s that marginal money that really can make a difference in terms of allowing states to address emerging problems and to particularly deploy more effective and innovative strategies to improve the justice system.

Len Sipes:  Project HOPE in Hawaii comes to mind. This is a program that really provides drug treatment and accountability, strict accountability to people caught up on probation, the riskier probation population who was in need of substance abuse treatment. But they’ve been able to do something tremendous, they reduce recidivism tremendously, they reduce technical violations tremendously. They have a wonderful impact in terms of people successfully completing probation, not going back into the prison system. And states throughout the country are starting to pick up on this and to run with it. And they ran with it because they found out about it because of the National Criminal Justice Association and it was funded by the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. So that’s just one example of what’s happening throughout the United States in terms of innovative criminal justice programs. Jeanne, do you want to come in and talk about others? Jeanne Smith –

Jeanne Smith:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  Director of Criminal Justice Colorado Department of Public Safety.

Jeanne Smith:  Hawaii HOPE is an excellent example of a program that on its face you think this has to work, but going in and getting taxpayer money to fund it without being able to prove it works yet is the challenge. And that’s why JAG funding is so important, because it gives us an opportunity to experiment with something to be able to prove to the taxpayer entities for funding that it works. In Colorado, for instance, we wanted to change the way that probation officers and parole officers work with offenders, once again, trying to reduce recidivism. And we found that their interviewing techniques were critical to developing a rapport that would cause the offender to want to change their behavior. So we were able through JAG funding to start a center that really trained criminal justice professionals in how to work with offenders, which is not something you generally get in school. It has been proven successful to the point that the state has now come in and adopted it and it is funded through the state general fund, but it never would’ve happened if we couldn’t start the implementation as an experiment with grant funding.

Len Sipes:  Carlton Moore, you’re the Director of the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. Tell me and tell the audience what happens at the state level that’s the process of bringing everybody together, the process of planning jointly, everybody at the table, everybody taking a look at as to what the research has to say and using federal funding to plan for innovative programs. Tell me about that process.

Carlton Moore:  Okay. First let me just say something. We have a fire alarm going off in our building right now. So I’m going to answer your question and then see if I actually need to respond to this fire alarm or not.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Carlton Moore:  But I just want to kind of build on what Jeanne said about the ability to use Byrne JAG funds to implement things that you don’t otherwise have budgeted in local government or in state government. So here in Ohio we have a number of large cities across our state who have gang issues, whether we have gang homicide issues or felonious assault issues or gangs are responsible for a wide array of criminal justice problems that exist across our state. And so what we were able to do, one of the things that we used Byrne JAG for was to take a strategy that had been tried and true in other parts of the country and implement that here in Ohio. In some places it’s been called ceasefire or pulling levers, it’s been known as The Boston Miracle. It was first implemented here in Ohio in Cincinnati. It was called the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence. It caused a substantial reduction in gang related homicides. All these years later we’re still looking at about a 41% reduction in overall gang related homicides in the city of Cincinnati. Not only did we take Byrne JAG to copy that intervention from another state and then to implement in a single city, we then took what we learned from that city and implemented it all across our state. So in places like Toledo, in Youngstown, in Canton, and Dayton, these cities have all seen tremendous reductions in gang related homicides, and that’s all a result of, one, the network that exists actually learned about this strategy at the NCJA forum in Baltimore, and our ability to make funding decisions with Byrne JAG because of the flexibility that it provides to us to be able to quickly put programs into practice all across the state.

Len Sipes:  So the bottom line in all of this, and this is something I want the audience to know, it’s not Washington DC that’s coming up with the true innovation and the true driving force within the criminal justice system, it’s what’s happening in Cincinnati, what’s happening in Baltimore, what’s happening Honolulu, what’s happening in the different states, and to have the money to try different things, to try new ways of doing things, to be creative, and that innovation is going to come from the county level, that innovation is going to come from the city level, and that innovation is going to come from the state level. But that innovation is only possible if the money is there to try new things, correct?

Jeanne Smith:  That’s right, Len. And you touched on another point that I think is very important. That it’s not the federal government coming in and telling you how to do something. It’s giving locals and states the ability to develop their plans around what the needs are, what the challenges are in each region. Carlton just mentioned a number of cities in Ohio that were able to benefit from a particular program. There may be some cities in Colorado that could benefit from the same thing. But there are others, particularly our rural versus our more urban areas that have completely different challenges. And what they need is the flexibility to plan around their local resources and their local criminal challenges.

Len Sipes:  I noticed in the report that that’s exactly what was happening in one state in particular, assisting rural or local law enforcement agencies in less populated areas to deal with drug dealers coming out of urban areas where they’re catching some heat and going into these areas that are considered safer. Heroin comes to mind, meth comes to mind, the fact that this is happening throughout the country and this is they’re trying to figure innovative ways of taking those resources or these strategies that happen in larger urban areas and applying them to rural areas. I thought that that was pretty doggone interesting.

The report is called The Impact of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, How Byrne JAG Is Changing the Criminal Justice System, read the report from the National Criminal Justice Association. So what I’m also finding is that there’s a lot innovation, a lot of effort on two areas, number one, high crime areas, what can we do to focus police and other law enforcement resources, community resources, collaborative resources, and number two, this whole issue of offender reentry, to stop the flow of people going back into the prison systems and to see if we can safely maintain them in the community. There’s a lot of innovation around those. Project HOPE, again, in Hawaii certainly does come to mind. But there are dozens and dozens of others.

David Steingraber:  Well, Len, let me add, I think as both Jeanne and Carlton had implied, one of the great force multipliers is the fact that through the National Criminal Justice Association, information about successful programs can be made available to states who’re experiencing some of the same problems. And clearly I doubt there’s a state out there that isn’t experiencing the strain of correction budgets, their state corrections budgets and local corrections budgets. So, something like a justice reinvestment initiative that really focuses on reducing recidivism can deliver substantial benefits and I think everybody needs to learn about those success stories and be able to adopt that strategy and the programs that accomplish that.

Len Sipes:  But there is a state of the art, right? I mean the bottom line is that we at the state and local level, we are coming up with a collective sense as to what it is we should do, what is the state of the art, and we’re learning how to adapt and do better through application of state of the art related programs, through the application of research, through the application of best practices. But, again, the point is, if you don’t have the money, the budget problem within this country regarding criminal justice agencies has been tremendous. Somebody asked me a little while ago what was the most significant issue facing the criminal justice system over the course of the last ten years and I had a very quick response, budget. Law enforcement, community corrections, mainstream corrections, prosecutorial offices, juvenile justice agencies have all taken a huge hit. If it wasn’t for federal funding I don’t think we would have the innovation, because locals and county agencies and state agencies are strapped for funds. So these grant programs from the Department of Justice as coordinated through the National Criminal Justice Association they’re just not important, they’re essential.

Carlton Moore:  Yeah. I think you’re right about that. The budget problem that most states have gone through really to me it serves as a great opportunity for us, because the responsibilities that folks had prior to the budget problems have not been reduced, those responsibilities are still there. And so what we need to figure out a way to do is to take the limited resources that we do have and figure out how to make smarter investments in criminal justice. And that’s one role that the SAA can play, not only as kind of the clearing house of innovation, but at the same time, the convener of solving problems and making sure that you’re bringing all the right people to the table.

I want to give you just one little example of something that we’re doing in Ohio. Earlier you talked about smaller and rural communities and some of the difficulties that they have. The reality is that in large communities, while they do at times need a push and they certainly need support. If they’re aware of evidence-based practices or if they need analytical support, very often that is available to them if they choose to make that a budget priority. Where we see that difficulty is in smaller communities who don’t have that type of budget flexibility. So what we created in Ohio, it’s called the Ohio Consortium of Crime Science, it’s a partnership between my office and colleges and universities across the state who have expertise in implementation of evidence-based and promising practices.

And basically what we have done with this program is if you are, if, Len, if you’re the chief in a small community and you’re having a specific crime problem and you want to know if there’s something out there that can address your problem you can submit that request to my office, we have a team of experts who will review that, we’ll identify the best practice to solve the particular problem that you’re dealing with, then we will take it a step further, because we have concerns about implementation. We will hire someone to come to your community and help you implement the solution, because the one thing that we want to make sure of is this. If people have the will to implement evidence-based practices, we want to make sure that knowledge and resources are not the reasons that they don’t get an opportunity to do that.

Len Sipes:  We’re more than halfway through the program. Let me reintroduce our guests. Jeanne Smith; she is the Director Division of Criminal Justice, Colorado Department of Public Safety. We have Carlton Moore, Director Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. And you’ve done a great job, Carlton, through that smoke alarm. And we have David Steingraber; he is a Senior Policy Advisor National Criminal Justice Association and former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. The program today, ladies and gentlemen, is funding, the impact of criminal justice funding on the states, on the counties, it’s produced by the National Criminal Justice Association. But we all agree, ladies and gentlemen, that the point in all of this is that there is a state of the art.

After decades and decades of research we are coalescing around a variety of things that we believe do work, have the best chance of working. So it’s a matter of making sure that everybody at the state level, the county level, the local level, larger agencies, rural agencies, are aware of what the research has to say and the best way of implementing that and, again, that is happening because of the grant system, the federal grant system, specifically today, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. The fact that that exists allows the states to help local agencies and allows local agencies to develop innovative programs, and that’s all based upon an acknowledged state of the art, and that’s all based upon pulling in partnerships, collaborations, everybody coming together, everybody looking at the table, having that argument, having that discussion, and coming to agreements, right?

Jeanne Smith:  Absolutely.

David Steingraber:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  You know? And where do we go to from there? I mean when I started in the criminal justice system as a Maryland state trooper 40 years ago, we had no clue as to what was happening in Ohio, we had no clue as to what was happening in Colorado. And so we have now this general consensus in law enforcement, in corrections, in juvenile justice. Within the court systems here seems to be an emerging bubble of knowledge that all of us can pretty much agree on.

Carlton Moore:  [OVERLAY] –

Jeanne Smith:  I think that’s –

Carlton Moore:  I’m sorry. Go ahead, Jeanne.

Jeanne Smith:  I think that’s really true to the extent that there are certain practices that have been shown to be very effective; others along the way have been discarded because they’ve been shown to be ineffective. One of the benefits for Byrne JAG funding is that it can be used for assessment and evaluation. You talked earlier about the budget limitations and how that has really caused a new look at the justice system and how we’re spending our funding, but it is also constrained funding things beyond direct services, because when you only have one dollar you’ve got to make sure that dollar is going to get a direct benefit.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Jeanne Smith:  So you discard things like assessment planning and evaluating, because those don’t have the immediate payback that you see for a direct service. So with the JAG funding we’re able to go in and assist with dollars that will assess a program and evaluate whether or not it’s working, and then through the auspices of NCJA and others, share that information, not just on the successes, but on the failures, so we don’t keep repeating the same mistakes.

Len Sipes:  And that’s so important, because that’s what we’ve done throughout the criminal justice system, is we’ve been on our own. And now through federal funding and now through the National Criminal Justice Association we know what’s going on in probation or law enforcement or juvenile justice. So if there’s, if Juneau, Alaska needs to come to grips with a law enforcement issue, they could turn to the National Criminal Justice Association, they can turn to the other statewide criminal justice planning agencies and find out what the best fit is for their particular situation. David?

David Steingraber:  Well, I, like you, have a long history in law enforcement. And I do have to say this, the situation we’re faced with today offers a great deal more in at least a potential ability to share information. I think that where there’s a willingness to kind of look at innovative ways I think the tools are there to do it. I think Carlton kind of summed it up. The budget constraints we’re dealing with right now are likely to become the new normal. And in that context we’ve got to kind of reinvent the way we approach things and that provides the motivation to look for innovative and evidence-based practices. And at least it is my hope and my belief that the National Criminal Justice Association, which is really a collective effort by all the state planning agencies, to kind of provide that resource, both in the way of direct technical assistance in areas like planning and evaluation, and then just sharing information about successful programs such as the document that you’ve referred to several times, is a good example of highlighting the programs that have worked across the country.

Len Sipes:  But there’s been an almost continuous 20 year reduction in crime. Now, for those of us who lived through the 60s and the 70s and the 80s, for those of us who were in the criminal justice system the entire time, it almost seemed at a point where it was hopeless, crime rates were going up year after year after year, and now for the last 20 we’ve had an almost continuous decrease. And I understand fully that in some cities throughout the country and in some urban areas throughout the country, people just have no recognition of any crime reductions at all. And I understand that crime is still a problem within the United States, but there’s been a huge reduction across the board, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics and according to the FBI, two national measures of crime in the United States, has been, again, both indices indicate an almost 20 year continuous reduction in crime. And I think that’s because we’ve gotten smarter, we’ve gotten better, we’ve done a better job of passing information on. And, again, that’s one of the reasons why I like the National Criminal Justice Association as much as I do. You’ve got to share the successes as to what’s happening. If you’ve got a great program, again, not to beat the horse to death, but Project HOPE in Hawaii that has huge reductions in recidivism, if you have a program like that you need to get the word out.

David Steingraber:  Well, and let me say that National Criminal Justice Association really delivers the message in both directions. We like to let those out in the field know what’s working. But Congress and the funders of this program also need to know what’s effective and the importance and significance of the Byrne JAG funding. And I think NCJA is the collective voice of not just the state planning agencies, but the broad criminal justice community as a whole is really important, because Congress needs to learn about what’s working.

Len Sipes:  But does everybody understand that? Carlton, go ahead.

David Steingraber:  Does everybody understand what [INDISCERNIBLE 00:24:08].

Len Sipes:  Carlton, go ahead, please.

Carlton Moore:  Oh, I was just going to talk on a little bit of a different topic, kind of piggybacking on what David was talking about. And that is, you know this movement towards looking at the research and the movement towards evidence-based practices, that movement in terms of the grant programs has also the effect of changing the field. So it’s kind of a cultural shift in terms of people saying, “Well, look, this is the direction that criminal justice is moving, and so I need to move in that direction, because that’s also the direction resources are moving.” And we want to be responsible to those who provide the funding, to Congress, to let them know that we’re making good investments out in the field and that we’re doing our best to reduce funding of programs that do not work and continue to fund programs that do work. And I just want to talk about just one program in Ohio called the Northern Ohio Violent Crime Consortium. And this is a collaboration of the eight largest cities in Northern Ohio. And when we started this program back in I think it was 2006 or 2007 that this started very few of the agencies had analytical support.

And now when we go to a meeting and start talking about implementation of some strategy, it’s not me, it’s the chiefs in the room, it’s the sheriffs in the room, it’s the people from the US Attorney’s Office. And the first thing that we’ll talk about is how to identify this as a problem, so where’s the evidence that there is a problem, what is the solution that we’re looking at, if we have a solution in mind, is it evidence-based, and we’re also looking at what – and we’re getting that information from the analysts; the analysts who in many of these organizations didn’t exist six or seven years ago, and now all of these organizations have made this change where the analysts play an important role in the organization. Not just people who’re off in a room together, but they play a role in terms of when the cops in the street are asking for analytical support and, “Where’s the proof and where do we need to go?”. So this has made an enormous change or impact in resource allocation as well, not just in funding, but where do people put their people in order to solve problems in their communities.

Len Sipes:  Well, that’s it, information sharing, getting the word out to everybody else throughout the country. We only have a couple minutes left. Any final conclusions from everybody as to what this means in terms of federal funding, what the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program means to everybody, what planning means to everybody, what everybody coming together and sitting at the table and forging an agreement and getting that information out to states and localities throughout the country, anybody have any final conclusions as to all that?

Jeanne Smith:  Len, just to get back to the point you were making about the crime rates in the 70s and 80s and how that drove public policy – generally, the policy it drove was incarceration, and that’s a very costly remedy. What we have done with a lot of the programs funded through Byrne JAG is to show that there are other alternatives at various points in the criminal justice system, from prevention all the way through to reducing recidivism after a prison sentence. What we’ve done is be able to show that there are alternatives, there’s a better way to do things. We don’t have to do it the same way we’ve done it for the last 20 to 30 years.

Len Sipes:  Well, we do want to improve the criminal justice system, we do want to lessen the burden on taxpayers and yet at the same time create a more effective criminal justice system, and I think that’s what we’re beginning to do. David?

David Steingraber:  Well, let’s remember the criminal justice system needs to be measured in qualitative terms as well as quantitative terms. I mean it’s a unique system in that we are really needing to function within a constitutional framework, guarantees the rights and due process for everybody. So I think there’s, I think we’re in an environment right now where it’s sort of the perfect storm where we can make all this happen. But I think we still have to, I think the reality is there still is some dogma out there in terms of what works and how to deal with crime, and I think we just have to keep hammering away at it. I hope Congress gets the message that the investment, however limited it is in Byrne JAG funding, is a great investment in helping the states address their criminal justice issues.

Len Sipes:  We only have like ten seconds. It’s essential. The funding level is essential, correct?

David Steingraber:  Absolutely.

Carlton Moore:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  All right, I want to thank everybody for being with us today. Ladies and gentlemen, our guests have been Jeanne Smith, a Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, Colorado Department of Public Safety; Carlton Moore, the Director of the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services; and David Steingraber, the Senior Policy Advisor National Criminal Justice Association and former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Office of Criminal Justice. I’d like to thank everybody. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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