White House Might Alter Juvenile Justice Spending Plan for 2012

Print More

The White House may consider modifying its controversial proposal to overhaul federal juvenile justice funding, a national advocate whose organization opposes the plan said today.

The plan, in President Barack Obama’s 2012 budget, would take formula funds tied to state adherence to federal JJDPA standards, combine them with state block grant money, and put the total amount into a $120 million pot that states could compete for and use to conduct reforms of or improvements to their juvenile justice systems.

Since the 1970s, states have received formula funds for complying with the four core protections given to juveniles in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Under the Obama plan, states would have to comply with the act just to be eligible to compete for the incentive grants.

“We’re hoping for a clarification that what they really meant was that [formula funds] would still be given out, and there would be a smaller incentive pot,” said Liz Ryan, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ), who said she has met with White House officials on the subject.

Obama’s budget clearly specifies zero dollars for both formula funds and juvenile accountability block grants. Ryan said she and other advocates believe the administration is open to modifying the proposal after hearing criticism from her organization and others.

Ryan said she has learned from discussions with the White House that officials directed agencies to develop incentive programs in other areas of domestic spending that are akin to Race to the Top, the $5 billion competition for education reform that was first included in the Recovery act. 

But the Department of Education “allocates approximately 1 percent of the federal education funding” to Race to the Top, while the juvenile justice proposal would make states compete for nearly all of the juvenile justice funds, CFYJ said in its statement on the plan.

“It appears the proposal was not fully vetted within Justice or by authorizers” Ryan said. In particular, she said, “there was uninformed thinking” at the Office of Management and Budget that compliance with JJDPA standards wasn’t an ongoing issue since the act was passed 37 years ago.