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Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Bill Includes $580 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program and $400 million for SCAAP

- Bill includes funding for anti-drug and anti-gang task forces; reimburses states for incarcerating criminal aliens -

Washington, DC – The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved the Fiscal Year 2009 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, which includes two key federal funding priorities of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). They include: 

  • $580 million for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. The grants are administered by the U.S. Justice Department, with 60 percent of the funds going to state agencies and 40 percent set aside for distribution to local governments.
  • $400 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). The program provides federal payments to state and local governments which have incurred costs for incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens. Of that amount, $45 million would be carved out for border prosecutor programs.

Byrne/JAG Program: $580 million

The bill approved by the Appropriations Committee includes $30 million more than the House bill for the Byrne/JAG program and $410 million more than the $170 million approved for FY 2008.

The Senate last month approved an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 supplemental appropriations bill to add $490 million for the Byrne Justice Assistant Grant program. That bill is still being considered in Congress.

If this funding is not restored, important anti-drug and anti-gang task forces across the United States will be in jeopardy. California would see its funding this year slashed to $11 million, down from $33 million last year.

“This program is critical to public safety in California. It funds a broad range of law-enforcement programs – from drug and gang task forces to programs that assist victims of crime, including children,” Senator Feinstein said. “With violent crime on the rise, now’s not the time to force our nation’s law enforcement officers to do more with less. We need to do all we can to keep our communities safe and that means ensuring that law-enforcement in America receives the funding that it needs.”

The Byrne Grant program provides one of the only sources of federal funds for sheriffs and police chiefs in many smaller and rural towns and counties. In California last year, Byrne Grants funded drug and gang task forces that:

 

  • Arrested 14,860 offenders, 8,900 of whom had drug and violent crime convictions; 
  • Seized 2,130 weapons and $18 million currency; and 
  • Rescued 1,482 children from the scenes of narcotics crimes, including meth labs.  

Byrne Grants also helped fund California’s Marijuana Suppression Program, which last year arrested 533 offenders – 353 of whom were convicted of marijuana-related charges – and seized nearly 400 weapons and more than $4.5 million in currency and assets.

State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP): $400 million

The State Criminal Alien Assistance Act (SCAAP) was passed by Congress in 1994 to help reimburse states and localities for the costs of arresting, incarcerating and transporting criminal aliens.

California has been especially hard hit by these costs. In FY 2007, the California Department of Corrections spent more than $912.5 million to house more than 20,000 criminal aliens in jails and prisons. The Justice Department reimbursed only $109.5 million. California taxpayers paid the remaining $803 million.

SCAAP has consistently been underfunded by President Bush, who has sought to zero out the program’s funding in his budget proposal for the past six years. Congress has been able to partially fund the program. The FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, signed by President Bush on December 26, 2007, included $410 million for SCAAP funding – an $11 million increase over FY 2007.

Of the $400 million in the FY 2009 Senate bill, $45 million is carved out to reimburse state and local governments for prosecuting or detaining defendants in federally-initiated and referred criminal cases, including $25 million specifically for southwest border states.

“Immigration is a federal responsibility, yet states are often forced to pay the high price for incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens. California has been particularly impacted,” Senator Feinstein said. “The federal government needs to step up to the plate and reimburse states and localities for these costs.” 

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