BJA, OJJDP in forefront at OJP Hearing Tomorrow


The list of witnesses for Thursday's House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Office of Justice Programs is set, and it confirms what JJ Today heard earlier this month: Bureau of Justice Assistance's Edward Byrne Memorial Discretionary Grants Program will be a hot topic. But OJJDP will be, too, apparently, despite an earlier sense by judiciary staff that the House Committee on Government Oversight was all over that agency's mess.

The first witness will be Jeffrey Sedgwick, the director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics who was named acting assistant attorney general for OJP in January after Cybele Daley left. A second panel of witnesses consists of six witnesses, all of them leaders of nonprofit organizations or associations:

*Bill Piper, director of national affairs at D.C.-based Drug Policy Alliance Network;

*Ron Brooks, president of the National Narcotics Officers' Associations' Coalition (NNCOAC) in San Francisco;

*Mary Lou Leary, executive director of the D.C.-based National Center for Victims of Crime, who briefly ran OJP for President Bill Clinton;

*Shay Bilchik, director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI);

*Pete Marone, president of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science; and

*Charlie Sullivan, who runs Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants, which JJ Today had never heard of but definitely want to know more about; it has chapters in 35 states.

Bilchik will be there to discuss three things, he says: "the operation of OJJDP as it relates to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act...; the need for better engagement with the field that this office is supposed to serve; and transparency."

Piper testifying is a surprise, as Drug Policy Action Network is definitely supportive of some marijuana legalization. Given the focus of the organization, it's likely Piper will discuss Byrne Grants since they fund a lot of OJP's work on drugs.

Brooks' organization exists primarily to keep Byrne Grants as a part of the fray at BJA. The coalition came together when Byrne Grants were removed from President Bill Clinton's budget proposal in 1994.

A report from the Project on Government Oversight was circulated at the June OJJDP hearings, called "Getting Byrned by Justice: Favoritism in the Department of Justice Byrne Discretionary Grant Program." It says BJA Director Domingo Herraiz awarded his former employer in Ohio a Byrne discretionary grant with no peer review.

Another Ohio group - the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio - got a discretionary grant without peer review. The National Fraternal Order of Police is run by James Pasco, husband of former OJP boss Cybele Daley.

The guess here is that Sedgwick will answer a lot of questions about grants made before he was involved; Piper might question the extent to which OJP funds law enforcement pursuit of drug users at all; and Brooks will take the opposing view, arguing that the grant program itself should not be questioned because of alleged mismanagement. It's all relevant to the JJ field because Byrne is a pot of money that historically has been full of earmarks, many of them for youth-related projects.

More after the hearing tomorrow.