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For immediate release Monday, March 3, 2008.
Contact Bob Brammer 515-281-6699

State AGs ask Congress to Restore Funding to Fight Crime

Federal funds are for local, “front-line” anti-crime and drug enforcement efforts.

Calling the funding essential to the operation of state crime and drug enforcement efforts, the 56 Attorneys General from all jurisdictions of the United States today issued a letter calling on Congressional leaders to restore funding to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.

The federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grants are currently the only source of funding available to local and state law enforcement for multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement, including methamphetamine initiatives, and “Byrne-JAG” is a critical source of funds for drug courts, law enforcement collaboration, gang prevention, and prisoner reentry programs.

In FY 2007, the Byrne-JAG program was funded at $520 million. For FY 2008, the Senate had originally funded the Byrne-JAG program at $660 million and the House at $600 million in their respective appropriations bills. However, in the omnibus FY 2008 appropriations bill signed into law in December 2007, the Byrne-JAG program funding was cut to $170 million for the coming year –– a 67 percent decrease from 2007 funding levels.

The attorneys General assert in their letter that the cuts would devastate state law enforcement efforts by shutting down multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task forces, requiring layoffs of police and prosecutors, and cutting funding to programs proven to assist drug-addicted citizens in becoming productive members of society.

“Byrne funds are critical in our fight against drugs and violent crimes,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. “If the severe cuts to Byrne funding are not restored, many of the multi-jurisdictional task forces will cease to exist, destroying years of cooperation and progress in crime and drug enforcement.”

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Anticipated impact in Iowa of cuts in federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grants funding.

If the cuts are not reversed, they likely would mean about a $2.7 million loss in federal funds used mainly for statewide drug law enforcement efforts by Iowa’s Drug Task Forces.

Federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funding is handled by the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), which is directed by Iowa statute to coordinate and monitor statewide drug enforcement efforts and substance-abuse prevention and treatment programs. Local Drug Task Forces under the ODCP framework have been instrumental in law enforcement efforts against drugs.

About $1 million of the cuts would affect local direct grants, and the other $2 million in cuts would affect state-coordinated grants via the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) to drug task forces, community drug and crime prevention initiatives, and offender treatment programs. The impact of cuts to Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funding administered by ODCP likely would be the elimination of grants for 15 drug control programs across the state and 39 personnel working in the programs.

Byrne-JAG-supported drug task forces currently serve about three-quarters of the Iowa, providing communities with front-line protection against methamphetamine and other drugs. The federal cuts would severely harm the level of effort and scope of service of Iowa drug task forces. In state FY 2007, Byrne-JAG-supported Iowa drug task forces seized illegal and diverted drugs valued at more than $31 million dollars and netted over 2,000 criminal convictions.