OJJDP’s 2008 Grants: First Impressions

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention released lists of all its grants for Fiscal 2008, a combination of formula funds to state agencies and discretionary pots for demonstration grants and mentoring.

Although it is not really news, FY 2008 marked a return to the norm for the agency: Vast sums of its discretionary money was spoken for by Congress before it arrived, which everyone has known since appropriations were finalized in the spring.

But since this is the official distribution information for OJJDP’s next spending year, here’s some first impressions after combing through them:

1. Earmarks aren’t taking up all of OJJDP’s non-formula money anymore, but it’s still a huge chunk. JJ Today counts $84 million in straight-up, Congressionally Directed OJJDP earmarks. We were told by an earmark vet that the agency moved jurisdiction of some other grants to different Office of Justice Program agencies because they didn’t fit into OJJDP’s budget jurisdiction.  It appears that favor was returned, too, because there are about $8.4 million earmarks from the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Byrne Discretionary Grants listed in OJJDP’s grant-making.

That’s just over one-third of the $267 million that the agency announced on Friday. And it doesn’t count quasi-earmarks like the ones received by National Center for Missing & Exploited Children ($25 million), Court Appointed Special Advocates ($12.5), Big Brothers Big Sisters of America ($8.6 million), and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America ($40 million).

Speaking of which…

2. Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) saw a serious dent into its longtime carve-out at OJJDP, which in its 2006 prime hit $85 million. Last year, Atlanta HQ had to split $60 million with Maryland consulting group FirstPic, which specializes in opening and develop clubs for Native American youth.

This year: no FirstPic, but the set-aside for BGCA is only $40 million. That’s probably tough to swallow for the organization. But if you’re taking in any amount that ends with that many zeroes during this economic downturn, when you’ve been consistently cut out of the budget by the president … let’s just say we doubt BGCA is ungrateful for what it got.

“While the amount will allow for no growth in [the] number of Clubs or kids, it is a fair number given the limited overall amount of funds OJJDP was appropriated,” says Kevin McCartney, BGCA senior vice president for government relations. “All youth-serving agencies need to work together to increase the overall amount of funds OJJDP is appropriated so that the disadvantaged children of America can be adequately served.”

3. Another big loser at first glance: the State of Alaska, which could always count on Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to slap on his Incredible Hulk tie and snag them some pork. Youth Today‘s database of earmarks (far from scientific…you try finding all this stuff!) shows the following for previous years: six earmarks for $4.1 million in 2002, seven for $8.2 in 2003, nine for $5.7 million in 2004, seven for $6 million in 2005 and eight for $4.8 million in 2006.

Five years, 37 earmarks,  $28.8 million. Then, there were no DOJ earmarks in 2007, the same year that the FBI began investigating Stevens for alleged improper ties to VECO Corp., a construction and oil company.

This year? One earmark, to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, for $1.1 million.

4. Mississippi is still getting about half as much ($360,000) as any other state in Title II Formula grants. We covered this already, but one of the poorest states is passing up federal money because it isn’t compliant with three of the four core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Nice goin’, fellas…it isn’t like you have serious, ongoing problems with juvenile justice to work on or anything. Meanwhile, the totals going to each state through Title II continues to decline.  

5. Random thoughts on some particular grants and earmarks:

*Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis., has to be the least visible, big-money player in all of youth-related (it works on nationwide trainings related to child abuse, child fatality investigations and sexual exploitation, according to its website). Almost $50 million in Office of Justice Programs grants between 2000 and 2006, according to Fedspending.org; another $5 million or so on these lists.

*National Council of Juvenile Court Judges got $3.8 million between grants and earmarks. Clearly, it still has the agency’s confidence after a tough year in the media. KidsPeace, too: more than  $1 million following a year of bad press.

*Inner Harbour Ltd. ($491,892, and an earmark pending for that much in 2009), a Georgia-based residential treatment facility, uses its earmark to conduct what is called neurofeedback therapy…which is either a breakthrough technique in treating rage, anger and mental health disorders, or a step away from the stuff Scientologists buy. Depends who you ask. JJ Today doesn’t mind a quirky venture into unchartered JJ science at low cost, like this one in Texas. But $1 million? That couldn’t be better used on a proven strategy for working with juveniles and their families? We wonder whether this would ever pass muster in a competitive grant process (even OJJDP’s).

*Welcome to the gravy train, Search Institute President and Youth Today columnist Peter Benson. Search Institute lands a $149,000 earmark, its first.

*Kick Drugs Out of America Foundation ($89,435) is such a hilarious name it almost sounds made up. Even better: its founder and major benefactor is the Chuck Norris.

*Definitely interested in what the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Dayton does with the pittance it gets for mentoring programs ($65,433). The next smallest grant for mentoring was $232,067, and most were near or above the $1 million mark. We’ll ask them sometime soon.

6. Not enough money is going to organizations working with youths that are actually locked up by, or in contact with, the juvenile justice system.


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