Weekly Notes: Juvenile Justice Appropriations set up potential battle of youth advocates; North Carolina partners invest in juvenile drug treatment; and more

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***As reported yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill for the Department of Justice, which includes $251 million for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. It’s about $50 million more than the House Appropriations Committee recommended;  $27 million less than last year’s budget for the agency; and about $172 million less than 2010.

It is unlikely that both the House and Senate will pass their respective Commerce/Justice/Science spending bills, conference them and send a CJS bill to President Obama for his signature. It’s more likely that the bills end up as part of an omnibus spending bill.

Along the way, there probably will be a succession of continuing resolutions that leads to the brink of a shutdown, with senators and representatives warring over how to keep spending within the parameters of the debt ceiling deal. The deal allows for just over $1 trillion in 2012 discretionary spending.

“We all know that is what we’re headed for,” said Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), speaking at the appropriations markup yesterday, of the likelihood of a continuing resolution..

Still, the spending priorities expressed by the House and Senate Appropriations committees could trigger a battle between juvenile justice advocates and proponents for mentoring programs and services for missing and exploited children.

With the exception of $40 million for state formula grants, the House Appropriations Committee completely eliminated OJJDP money that actually is spent on activities related to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. It funds two areas that have nothing to do with the act: mentoring, at $83 million, and missing/exploited children at $70 million.

The Senate Appropriations bill funds all of the actual juvenile justice funding streams that the House cut out, though at very low levels. It also includes $55 million for mentoring grants, and gives missing/exploited children programs  $60 million.

There was a late push by state-level organizations and advocates to pepper Senate appropriators with letters urging minimum amounts for the JJDPA programs: $80 million for state formula grants, $65 million for Title V-Delinquency Prevention, and $55 million for Juvenile Accountability Block Grants.

Two stark realities now face advocates who want to increase those juvenile justice lines:

-Once the Senate and House sign off on these bills, there is no adding money this year. The appropriations committees worked within the tight constraints of the debt ceiling deal, so later efforts to exceed the amounts in these bills will almost certainly be futile. 

There is only taking from one thing to fund another.

-Mentoring and missing kids are the only OJJDP streams that are in line to get significant money in both appropriations.  If there is “taking” to be done, it must be from one or both of those budget lines.

Mentoring money at OJJDP, once a $10 million pot aimed at preventing delinquency, has soared in the past five years, reaching $100 million in 2010. Missing kids money formerly went mostly to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Now that budget line also includes money for Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces, manned by local law enforcement.

During that same period, funding for OJJDP mainstays such as state formula grants and Juvenile Accountability Block Grants has declined. If there have been efforts to steer mentoring money back into the JJDPA programs, it has been back-channel. It will be interesting to see if peace remains between JJDPA enthusiasts and proponents of both.

Siphoning funds away from either revenue stream will not be easy; they are both protected by well-connected lobbyists. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has built a strong constituency over the past several decades. The huge increase in mentoring money was not a coincidence: Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America pushed for it (and won a lot of it) as their earmarks were eliminated.  

In the first two quarters of  fiscal 2011, BGCA spent $140,000 on the lobbying efforts of Kevin McCartney, its senior vice president of government relations. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America beat that, with a total of $209,000 in lobbying expenditures so far in 2011, through its own in-house lobbyists (Susie Gorden and Kelly Gilbert) and Gordon MacDougall of Beacon Consulting Group.

***One stated reason in the Senate Appropriations Committee report for cuts to certain Justice Department budget lines is that the federal prison population “has grown explosively over the last 20 years.” The population was 25,000 in 1980, had reached about 188,000 in 2005, and as of last week was 218,000. The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended a $300 million increase to last year’s $6.6 billion appropriation for the Bureau of Prisons.

*** Day 967 of the Obama administration and still no nominee to serve as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Laurie Robinson, who heads the Office of Justice Programs for Obama, told JJ Today in July that the administration had zero interest in doing away with OJJDP as part of any effort to consolidate the programs within OJP.

But a mention in the Senate Appropriations Committee report – written by Democrats – suggests that the senators might have some changes in mind.

In a section entitled “Workload Analysis,” directed at OJP, the Office on Violence Against Women [OVW] and Community Oriented Policing Services [COPS], the committee report states:

“OVW, OJP and COPS are each directed to conduct a workload analysis to ensure that their respective staffing levels and mix of personnel accurately reflect workload and need.”

Each agency must submit a report to the appropriations committee within six months of the provision being enacted as part of the overall law. The report states that the committee will provide the Government Accountability Office with the reports and direct it to evaluate “each office’s staffing model and [make] recommendations…on how each office’s staffing model could be further improved.

*** Just so this column doesn’t contain only bad news/federal news, we offer:

North Carolina’s juvenile justice agency has partnered with several foundations in the state to expand its Reclaiming Futures (RF) program, a coordinated effort to help system-involved youth avoid further delinquency by addressing their diagnosed drug or alcohol problem. Right now, the initiative is in six North Carolina communities; an influx of $1.28 million from the new partnership will establish a state training and technical assistance office and increase the number of RF sites to 10.

Under the arrangement, the North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention will oversee the statewide RF office but will not finance any of the expansion.  The North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission put up about $200,000, the Duke Endowment chipped in $380,000 and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust contributed the remaining $710,000.

The expansion is clearly needed in the same. Facility closures have forced NCJJDP’s bed total to 75 below its projected need for the coming year, so decreasing recidivism of  youths whose delinquency emanated from drug or alcohol use could be crucial.