President’s Stimulus Package-What It Means to the Criminal Justice System-NCJA

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Len Sipes: From our studio in Downtown Washington, DC this is DC Public Safety. I am your host, Len Sipes. A lot of reporters have been calling lately about the stimulus package and what it means to the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system will be receiving approximately $4 billion dollars to the system to improve the system, to improve law enforcement, to improve the entire criminal justice system, to improve the research package. So what I thought I’d do today is to bring on some people who really deal with the criminal justice system authorities, one from the National Criminal Justice Association and we have Cabell Cropper, the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association. We also have back at our microphones, we have Pat Dishman, the Director of the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs. And we also have Kristen Mahoney, the Executive Director for the Maryland’s Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. To come to grips with the $4 billion dollar, approximately $4 billion dollars that we’re getting, the criminal justice system is getting, and what does it mean in terms of crime control? What does it mean in terms of improved public safety? So Executive Director Cropper, I can not pronounce your first name correctly. I’m just going to go ahead and use that. What does it mean? Sum up the whole thing for us, Cabell.

Cabell Cropper: Well, I think the funding that is coming through the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the criminal justice system is intended to support the overall purpose of that bill. And that’s to retain jobs or expand jobs that will allow all components of the criminal justice system to retain programs that could have been lost because of the lack of funding at the state and local level as well as create and expand already existing programs. And that’s really what Kristen and Pat are here to talk about.

Len Sipes: Because they control that money at the state level, and an awful lot of that money is coming to the state level in terms of the discretionary spending, correct?

Cabell Cropper: Right. A large portion, not all of the $4 billion goes to the states, but a large portion of it does.

Len Sipes: Cabell, can you summarize what we’re getting? We’re getting money to hire new police officers. We’re getting money to improve the criminal justice system at the state level. We are getting money for research. Now, again, ladies and gentlemen, it goes way beyond our discussion today. I urge everybody who is interested because there’s a nice list on the website of the National Criminal Justice Association at and I will be repeating that throughout the program, because there’s money going for victims’ issues, there is money going for women victimization, victimization issues. There is money there for tribal issues. But we’re going to be talking broadly about all the money that’s coming down the pike today, correct?

Cabell Cropper: Correct. I think the two major programs within the $4 billion dollars are the cops hiring program which is being funded at $1 billion dollars. And the burn JAG program administrator at the state level that’s being funded at the $2 billion portion which is administered by the Criminal State Justice Agencies and a portion of it goes directly to localities. Kristen heads up offices that administer the portion that goes to state agencies to work within the criminal justice system within their states.

Len Sipes: Now, any one of you can come in and basically answer this question, so we’ve had a deficit in terms of spending out of Washington that’s going to the criminal justice agencies at the state level, correct? There’s been a problem. It’s been reduced and reduced dramatically in the last couple of years, correct?

Cabell Cropper: Yes, it was the burn JAG program was set by 67 percent in fiscal year 2008. So the state agencies are really struggling to maintain the programs that they already had underway as well as to implement new programs.

Len Sipes: Okay. And the heart and soul, what I have found in the 40 years that I have been in the criminal justice system, is that money drives everything. Now, feel free to disagree with me, anyone of you, Pat or Kristen, money drives the criminal justice system. It’s not so much, I mean we all went to school, we all studied sociology, or law or criminology and we’re all taught and we all read the research and we all have a pretty good understanding as to what works, what doesn’t work. But if you don’t have the money it doesn’t matter what works. And I get newspaper clippings every day, here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and what I hear is this steady, steady drumbeat of states laying off people, closing prisons, eliminating parole and probation agents, the states are in a dire fiscal situation all throughout this country. So it seems to me two things; A) money drives everything, regardless as to what works, and B) the states are already suffering tremendously.

Kristen Mahoney: Go ahead, Pat.

Pat Dishman: Well, you’re exactly right, Len. You know, we have been struggling at the national level with the BURN program as Cabell talked about and literally that has been going on for seven or eight years, up and down that funding. So it’s very hard to maintain programs or start new programs if you’re in a retrenchment mode or you don’t exactly know where you’re going to be. In the last year, year and a half, the deficits facing the states have really become a problem. And much of that is driven, of course, by the economy and states are different in the way they raise revenue, but I know in our state, Tennessee, because we rely on sales tax revenue for much of the revenue we used to fund our programs and services, because of the sharp decline there, we are looking at a horrible deficit situation.

Len Sipes: And Maryland’s basically the same, Kristen.

Kristen Mahoney: Yeah. For Maryland, I mean BURN and JAG, BURN JAG is driven innovation and collaboration and in places like Baltimore City where that’s a big old city that has a police department annual technology budget of only $80,000 dollars. You know, they rely on this type of discretionary funding to help them keep up with technology. You know, over the last eight years technology has moved forward, CSI, you know, expected and gotten juries to expect better and better technology, but the discretionary fund for local law enforcement has just not kept up.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s funny that you mentioned that because I can’t stand to watch those shows because the reality and what people see on TV are so far apart. It’s silly.

Kristen Mahoney: Right. I mean, generally the locals are good at hiring and retaining but during a depression or a recession like right now, we’re not even so good at hiring and retaining public safety folks. And you can forget overtime. You know, the officers, we’re not having additional presence on the street and we’re actually not filling the vacancies that we have. So all of this kind of comes together for us at the best possible time.

Len Sipes: So, again, to summarize, we have money and I think it’s Cabell, what? Two billion dollars going to the cops program which is to hire new police officers?

Cabell Cropper: One billion to the cops program.

Len Sipes: One billion.

Cabell Cropper: And $2 billion to the BURN JAG.

Len Sipes: Two billion. Okay. And , that’s basically going to put literally thousands upon thousands of police officers on the streets in the various cities throughout the country. From what I understand in the past, under the old cops program, there was a match, a 25 percent match. In this case there is no match, correct?

Cabell Cropper: Correct.

Len Sipes: Okay. So that is a huge plus. What we’re talking about are literally tens of thousands of police officers going into the cities throughout the country, going into the Metropolitan area, I should say throughout the country. So I think people are going to appreciate that. The other $2 billion dollars, we say the BURN program, in essence that’s money that’s going to go to the states. The states will, in essence, decide what their priorities are. And if those priorities are prosecutorial, if those priorities are corrections, if they’re parole and probation, the states are probably in the best position to decide for themselves what it is that they want to do. And the third would be basically research but the research money is coming out, when I say research, help me and feel free to disagree with me, anybody, that the bulk of the innovation that comes from the criminal justice system comes from the state level in terms of localities trying new and unique and innovative things with partial funding
or full funding from the Federal government. Am I right or wrong?

Pat Dishman: Well, I certainly think that’s a piece of it. And also to echo what you are talking about as far as these different pots of money, the states are really in a position to look at everything whether that’s coming directly from the Federal government through the COPS program or the BURN funds that will come through the states and then be past down to state agencies and locals. One of the things that I think will be the most difficult for us is to balance all of this in. We want to make sure that we don’t, we spread the money out as far as it would go because in this tight budget situation that we’ve been in for the last year and a half, every part of this system is hurting.

Len Sipes: And people need to understand that. I’m not quite sure that everybody fully understands the fact that the criminal justice system in this country is hurting. And hurting badly from not just a couple of years. I mean, people see this as a recession within the last year and a half. Most of the states that I’ve encountered through newspapers reports, through either state line or other sources, this has been going on not just for one or two years in terms of this recessionary period, but four or five or six years and longer that states have been struggling to meet their own budgets. So when that happens that means the criminal justice system does not expand, it actually shrinks. And that means innovation doesn’t take place, correct?

Kristen Mahoney: Right. The BURN JAG money and the Federal support can test specific drug, gun task forces. And those task forces, when those officers come to those task forces, they generally can’t bring their equipment from home. That equipment, you know, needs to stay with their home police department and they’ve got it, something’s got to motivate that collaboration and the location and the equipment that’s needed to go out and serve, you know, 10,000 violent offender warrants. For example, you know, that just doesn’t happen by people coming together and saying we ought to do it. I mean, there’s got to be, there is some real equipment needed.

Pat Dishman: Exactly. And I think back about the program that we did on drug courts, Len. That’s a very good example. We used the BURN JAG money and also some other drug court money that was made available by the Department of Justice, to pile that type of improvement inside Tennessee as we did in lots of states. And it was so successful here that it convinced our legislature to appropriate $3.5 million recurring dollars for drug courts across the state. And we now have 45. So in my mind that worked exactly the way that the BURN JAG can when you’re trying to look at new innovative programs and see whether or not you want to expand them.

Len Sipes: Well, that’s my point in all of this is that I think the bottom line for anybody looking into the stimulus package and anybody looking into the approximately $4 billion dollars that the states are going to get through the federal government is that it is an opportunity to once again develop drug courts. And there’s a uniform research that says that drug courts all over the country are reducing crime. They’re reducing recidivism, they’re making our society safer. So either through innovative police strategies, innovative court strategies, either parole and probation joining with law enforcement or reentry programs to be sure that there is sufficient resources to provide for reentry programs and we can tell through a variety of research that those lower recidivism approximately 20 percent. Now 20 percent doesn’t sound huge, but that, in terms of the fiscal realities for a state, can forestall the building of a prison or two. And more, that means more money going into the elderly, more money going into education and more money going into colleges. If you’re going to look at it from a fiscal reality point of view that this money is the seed money that creates all of that. And I think that that, and feel free to agree or disagree, I think that’s the heart and soul. That this money, the $4 billion stimulus dollars, allows these states to once again become innovators in terms of what’s good for that particular state.

Pat Dishman: I think you’re exactly right and I would another piece to that. Our governor’s office is very interested in looking at all the different pots of stimulus money and the different areas that are going to be covered. For example; education. And how collaborations can happen between those pots. There’s a lot of money there for improvements in education. And, you know, we do innovative things with education. Kris and I think of our school resource officer program. I think everybody is convinced that that’s sound and solid and where we can have it, it helps.

Len Sipes: Right. And you can’t , go ahead, please.

Kristen Mahoney: Another great program that we’ve been able to deal with the BURN JAG money is to fund crime analysts, to assign them to police departments because that’s not something that you learn in the police academy. And rather than take a police officer the street and stick him in front of a computer to map crimes, you know, there are GIS mapping majors coming out of major universities that are in positions to assist law enforcement agencies. And this funding can get us started with a lot of those programs with agencies that want to go in that direction.

Len Sipes: We’re half way through our program and we’re doing this through the osmosis of the National Criminal Justice Association, our fifth program in a series. You can find a full list of all of the stimulus money, the $4 billion dollars broken down piece by piece at, the website of the National Criminal Justice System. The National Criminal Justice Association. Now, Cabell Cropper, the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association is here with us today. Kristen Mahoney, the Executive Director of the Maryland’s Governor’s office of Crime Control and Prevention and Pat Dishman, the Director of the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs. Cabell, I’m going to ask this question to you, because it’s a bit dicey and a bit political, there are people out there who would simply say it’s not the role of the federal government to fund local criminal justice agencies that the overwhelming majority of what we call the criminal justice system in this country is a state function, is a local function. And they’re saying to themselves; A) why is the Federal government giving, you know, supplementing what is in essence a local and state function? Why is my tax paid dollar going to say Baltimore to do crime analysis or to provide a crime analyst or provide innovative policing. And B) what does all this have to do with the stimulus package?

Cabell Cropper: Well, I think that the way that we would answer that is what we’ve said for years about the BURN JAG program, what both Kristen and Pat have said is that it supports innovation. It allows the states to experiment with programs to see what works and then to continue them. The BURN JAG program is structured so that the funding is available for three years for a particular program and by the third year either the federal funding is no longer available for the state, it either picks it up or makes a decision not to because it hasn’t shown its effectiveness. So I think the role of the federal government, in terms of state and local criminal justice, is that of providing you might call a venture capital to try new things, to try new solutions, see what works, to do the research, to provide training. In addition a lot of states are facing criminal justice issues that cross jurisdictions. And so that also invokes the federal role. So I think that, yes, generally crime is, as the saying goes, all crime is local. That there is a definite constructive role for the Federal government and Federal assistance with state and local criminal justice.

Len Sipes: Okay. And ,

Kristen Mahoney: To a degree. I couldn’t agree more with that, Len. There’s no point in all of the states reinventing the wheel. If something works someplace then we certainly need to use what’s already been found out about that and not have to sit down and put time and effort into finding out ourselves.

Cabell Cropper: A prime example of this, Len, is that the drug courts. Drug courts were funded by BURN JAG back in Miami years ago. And proved to be very effective. And now they’re a national, it’s a national program supported by federal assistance, but states and localities have invested a lot of money in the drug court programs and are now branching out into other problem solving type courts. So I think that’s a really good example about federal assistance, a lot of local jurisdiction will experiment with something that became a national model.

Kristen Mahoney: I think one of the emerging trends in policing right now is this concept of intelligence based policing and probably the people that own the most intelligence or data that local law enforcement need to do their job are the states. So, for example, in Maryland, you know, we have the mug shots of everyone that’s gone through prison. We know who are gang members in prisons. We know whose on parole or probation, whether they’re in compliance. We know whether they have children that are in the juvenile justice system. And all of this stuff is data that is not generally accessible at the lower level and using BURN JAG money we’re able to create ways to knock down silos in information and make sure that we get that information to the local level so that they can start targeting offenders who are causing problems in neighborhoods.

Len Sipes: And Cabell, I’m sorry, Cabell, the concept of this being part of the stimulus package. Somebody would come along and say, and I’ve heard this, somebody would come along and say, well, all this is wonderful, you know, I have no disagreement with it. Why is it a part of the stimulus package? We’re trying to revive the economy, not improve criminal justice agencies.

Cabell Cropper: But the response to that is these programs are people based. And so if we can expand or create new programs or retain programs for retaining people on the payroll.

Len Sipes: So what we’re saying is that the quality of the criminal justice system has a direct relationship to the economy?

Cabell Cropper: Correct. Because the criminal justice system is very people dependent.

Len Sipes: Right. And say for cities, it seems very clear to me that as a citizen of the Baltimore Metropolitan area and as a person who grew up and was born and raised in Baltimore City, Kristen, that the health of Baltimore City, the economic vitality of Baltimore City is tied into citizen perceptions as to how safe the city is and tied into investor’s perceptions as to how the safe the city is. To me that’s a pretty straight forward analysis, correct?

Kristen Mahoney: Correct. And when Governor O’Malley was mayor of the city that was how he ran the city and as the Governor of the State of Maryland, he has us committing as many resources as possible to grow the health and safety of the City of Baltimore.

Pat Dishman: Exactly. It’s actually infrastructure capacity building. And when you talk about, you know, whether that is in the form of bridges or roads, Cabell, I agree with you completely, the criminal justice system is very personnel driven and personnel based.

Kristen Mahoney: Yeah. The police have to be able to be responsive to emerging trends, and sometimes those trends happen in hour ten or eleven of their shift. And cities have to be able to keep them on the scene at a homicide or on a scene during an event to protect us. And when we’re in the middle of a depression or a recession, those overtime funds at the local level are not there. So, you know, that’s going to impact, you know, they’re going to have to pay the overtime somehow, so where are they going to take that from within the city budget if we can allocate some of these JAG BURN funds to directed overtime violent initiatives, the violent prevention initiatives, then we’re going to help offset some of the costs within the local government and we’re not going to have to worry about closing recreation centers and offsetting other important city services.

Len Sipes: The bottom line I think, but I’m preaching the choir here, I’m not quite sure that I’m going to appease the critics, is that unless you have say cities, unless you have sufficient money to pay overtime, unless you have sufficient numbers of police officers, unless you have money to try new things to deal with new sets of circumstances, this system is not going to be able to say to anybody in any particular area come invest with us. Come invest your money here. We’re looking forward to the jobs. We’re looking forward to everything that you can bring to our community or to a company that is in a particular city. Look, please expand. I would imagine once again that that person is going to say to himself or herself, you know, this city is just too out of control. I don’t want to do this, I’m going to go to Georgia, I’m going to go to the suburbs, I’m going to go overseas because I just don’t believe that my employees like working here because their afraid to do that, to deal with that. You need sufficient person power. You need sufficient police officers. You need the intelligence. You need the drug courts. You need the parole and probation police cooperative endeavors. You need the reentry programs which cuts recidivism considerably. I’m preaching to the choir here, correct?

Pat Dishman: Well, I think Len, also and Cabell, you can speak to this more than I, there is an accountability piece to this for critics who are looking at, you know, is this a good investment for us and for our tax dollars? And I think we’ve obviously learned some lessons as a system over the last, the country has over the last six months, and we feel and know that the Department of Justice will be making it very clear to us what types of outcome measurement they want and what types of accountability they want for this money that’s going to be passed down in the stimulus bill.

Len Sipes: Cabell, has there been talk about accountability in terms of the follow up to that. Is there urban talk about accountability to make sure the people understand that their tax paid dollars are being spent wisely?

Cabell Cropper: Very definitely. There’s provisions in the bill as Pat said that offsets management and budget that’s established to metrics to measure what’s happening with this money and how it’s contributing to the economic recovery of the country. Now the government’s also setting up a website, that will show how the money is being spent and what the results of that funding is.

Kristen Mahoney: And beyond that I think this morning we heard from a number of states where governors in our state, Maryland Governor O’Malley has established the office of recovery stat where we are managing the entire stimulus recovery package, you know, to make sure that we are being held accountable and the funds that are coming to Maryland. We’re getting as much funding as we can to support the state. And the funds that we’re getting re going to justifiable uses that are going to support the initiative of the President.

Pat Dishman: Kristen, that’s great. And, you know, Len, we’ve talked about this before. We don’t ever, as public servants, do a good enough job to let the public know the good things. They only hear about the bad things. And this is going to help, quite frankly, I think this is a really good part of saying what this money is going to be able to do and how it’s going to be able to help the country.

Len Sipes: Well, I think that’s part of this whole series with the National Criminal Justice Association, they are doing their best to basically say this to the public, that there are successful programs. We have measures in place to check out their success. And there are programs that have been extraordinarily successful. We did a program with NCJA a couple of weeks ago dealing with a community in Brooklyn where the courts actually took the lead on the program and they went from one of the highest crime precincts in New York City to one of the lowest crime precincts. That, to me, is a statement that we can make to the citizens of this country, in essence saying that, you know, give us the funding. Let us try different things, let us take a look at what works throughout the country. And we can do, we can provide a certain level of safety. Now, that, on my part, sounds like boosterism. I guess it’s a bit disingenuous because I am part of the criminal justice system, but I personally believe that there
are innovative programs out there that need to be brought in to Baltimore, need to be brought into Portland, need to be brought into Detroit. And this is the money that possibly can do that.

Kristen Mahoney: Yeah. And beyond that, like I’ve mentioned before, Baltimore is poor and there are other poor cities out there. And, you know, the cost of a police radio, $5,000 dollars. The most important piece of equipment a police officer uses every day. And as cities and counties work together to create interoperable systems and build these enormous $700 megahertz systems where everybody could talk to each other seamlessly, those old 450 megahertz radios and 800 megahertz radios don’t’ work anymore. So you’ve got this little baby town that suddenly has found itself, that it’s got to buy 15 new radios. How do you come up with that kind of money? Right? This is a basic reality of running a police department, $5,000 dollars a radio.

Len Sipes: I couldn’t agree with you more. And it’s, again, it’s like reentry programs. They cost money. If you’re going to treat a person, if you’re going to take a person from, whose coming out of the prison system, he or she has a mental health problem. And God forbid a mental health diagnosis for the 16 percent of offenders throughout the country who were coming back, you know, that needs to be treated or the odds are that that person is going to go out and harm another person or will certainly create a problem for citizens and for the criminal justice system. We know through research that you could dramatically reduce recidivism if that individual is treated, but that costs money.

Pat Dishman: Exactly.

Kristen Mahoney: And people, you know, and we’ve got this great technology that can help us figure out stolen cars through license plate recognition. But, you know, do you think that, you know, not to pick on Akron or Toledo or Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, I mean, do you think any of these places have the funds in their budget to do license plate recognition? But their cars, people are getting their cars stolen there. And we have the technology that exists to help find those cars and pay the overtime to use the technology.

Len Sipes: Right. And just think about that for a second. We have, as you just mentioned, it’s a wonderful example, the technology to just set up in any particular section of the city, to run the license plates through a computer and pull the people over with stolen cars. And we can recover a gazillion stolen cars in a very short amount of time. That’s a big bang for technology, but the question is can the individual jurisdictions and individual states afford it? And everything that I’ve been reading over the past, over the course of the past five years, is not acquiring that technology, but it’s simply holding on to what you have.

Pat Dishman: Right. Installing it and maintaining it. So any kind of technology purchase is going to have an economic impact in a locality because somebody’s got to get up on a light post and hang that camera. And somebody’s going to have to maintain it. And those are generally not police officers. It goes back to your point, Len, of what it looks on CSI, it’s not what it’s really like.

Len Sipes: Oh, I can’t stand CSI. I can’t stand those shows.

Pat Dishman: They’re fake.

Len Sipes: I know and it drives me absolutely crazy because people say, is real life anything at all like that? And my response is, my heavens no. Not even close. No, we have wonderful technology in terms of criminalities. Again, the question becomes how many people do you have, how well are they trained, how well can you maintain that crime lab? Do you have 24 hours coverage? Do you have the vans? Do you have – you know, it goes on and on and on. These sort of things cause money, enormous sums of money as somebody just said. And without the money you can’t do it. It’s just as simple as that. So if anybody wants to get a full blow by blow description of the entire, approximately $4 billion dollar stimulus package again, our friends at the National Criminal Justice Association, has the complete list and Cabell Cropper, the Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice system has been by our microphones today. Back at our microphones. And it’s really a pleasure to have her back,

Pat Dishman, the Director of the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs. And Kristen Mahoney, the Executive Director of the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention who helps keep me safe as a citizen of Baltimore County. I thank you all. Any final words that we need to say to finally summarize this whole concept besides sending people to the website at the National Criminal Justice Association?

Cabell Cropper: That’s what were there for, to provide whatever information we can direct people to where the resources are.

Len Sipes: And you guys, quite frankly, have been the leader at the national level in terms of being sure that there is money for the state and local criminal justice systems, Cabell. And so you all can feel very good about quite a victory in terms of convincing the new administration and the members of Congress who support this. So congratulations to you guys.

Cabell Cropper: Well, thank you. I’ll take some of the credit but not all of it. Members like Kristen and Pat are really the ones that get the job done with their delegations here in Washington.

Len Sipes: And they’re the ones ,

Pat Dishman: And that’s an issue there, Cabell. (Laughs).

Kristen Mahoney: Yeah.

Len Sipes: And they’re the ones who also at the same time lobby their own members of the Senate and the House in terms of what it is they could do if they had money. So we’re appreciative to all the directors of the criminal justice programs, office of crime controls throughout the entire country. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Feel free to give suggestions and input as you’re doing on a constant basis. We respond to all of your suggestions, to all of your input in terms of how to make the program better. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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