Congress Makes Further Cuts to Juvenile Justice Funding

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Note: This story was updated on Nov. 18

House and Senate appropriations leaders finalized a “minibus” spending package that further reduces the relevance of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and possibly jeopardizes the office’s connection with state governments.

The bill - which funds the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development – trims the allocation from an already-reduced $275 million in fiscal 2011 to $262.5 million for fiscal 2012. Only $90 million of the appropriation is directed at programs related to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

The minibus package also contains another continuing resolution allowing the government to operate through December 16.

The structure of the juvenile justice funding comes from the Senate Appropriations Committee’s bill, which drastically reduced funding but kept some for each program of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

Under the agreement reached by appropriations confereees, the funding levels for OJJDP’s biggest programs, which include state formula grants, mentoring and missing and exploited children, more closely mirror what was proposed by the House appropriators.

These are the funding levels, by fiscal year, for the office's major programs:

Title II Formula Grants to States

2012: $40 million

2011: $62 million

2010: $75 million

Title V Grants (Delinquency Prevention)

2012: $20 million

2011: $54 million

2010: $65 million

Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG)

2012: $30 million

2011: $45.65 million

2010: $55 million

Mentoring

2012: $78 million

2011: $83 million

2010: $100 million

Missing and Exploited Children

2012: $65 million

2011: $58.1 million

2010: $70 million

Victims of Child Abuse

2012: $18 million

2011: $18.68 million

2010: $22.5 million

Community-Based Violence Prevention

2012: $8 million

2011: $8.3 million

2010: $10 million

Prospects on what will happen with the formula funds are complicated. The funds are allocated to the states in exchange for their compliance with four core standards of juvenile justice operations: not detaining or incarcerating status offenders; keeping all juveniles out of adult jails, and separating them by sight and sound from adult detainees in the rare exceptions when jail is allowable; and addressing disproportionate minority contact in the system.

Title II funds are dispersed based on the under-18 population in each state, but nearly half the states receive the “minimum allocation” of $600,000. OJJDP can lower that minimum if the total amount for Title II drops below $75 million.

Last fiscal year, the department chose to keep the $600,000 allocation, and make the states with larger youth populations absorb 36 percent cuts.

If the department maintains the minimum allocation again in 2012, the more populous states would receive an even larger cut and some states have said they might consider opting out of participation in the JJDPA.

On the other hand, if they lower the minimum allocation, some juvenile justice advocates believe some of the smaller states will almost certainly opt out.

The entire Title V appropriation in the bill is consumed by tribal youth programs, Enforcement of Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL), and gang prevention, which means that no money will go to state advisory groups (SAG) to use for delinquency prevention projects.  

President Barack Obama initially proposed a massive overhaul of juvenile justice spending for 2012, which would have combined the 2010 totals for formula grants and JABG, reduced it by $10 million, and created a $120 million Juvenile Justice System Incentive Grants program.

After the plan drew sharp criticism from some juvenile justice advocates and state juvenile justice leaders, the administration backed off the plan and pushed for $80 million in formula grants and $30 million for JABG, along with a new $10 million incentive grant competition.

Appropriators also provided $10 million for Attorney General Eric Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative, which seeks to assist children who have witnessed or experienced violence. Among the other Justice appropriations that could end up going toward serving juvenile offenders:

-$63 million for the Second Chance Act, which assists adult and juvenile offenders reentering the community after incarceration, and had been zeroed out completely from the Senate’s appropriations bill.

-$20 million for sex offender management assistance under the Adam Walsh Act

-$15 million for “competitive grants to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system, to prevent or combat juvenile delinquency, and to assist victims of crime.”

The Department of Agriculture appropriations in the minibus agrement include $18.2 billion for Child Nutrition, more than a billion over the appropriation for 2010, and $6.6 billion for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a $700 million decrease from the 2010 figure.

One of the most important aspects of the minibus bill is the continuing resolution it contains; it would keep the entire government open until Dec.16. Right now, the two chambers are far apart on funding for the AmeriCorps program ($347 million in the Senate versus zero in the House), youth job training under the Workforce Investment Act ($825 million versus $413 million), and Head Start ($7.9 billion versus $8.1 billion). 

Appropriators responsible for funding child welfare, education and health services must continue their negotiations in the shadow of the super committee, which is supposed to complete a package of spending cuts that trims $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years.

The super committee has until Nov. 23 to present a package to Congress. If Congress does not approve the package by Christmas Eve, sizable cuts in domestic and defense spending in fiscal 2013 will be triggered.

Click here to view documents related to the minibus agreement.