Justice Dept. budget focuses on criminal justice, prison reform

Attorney General Eric Holder. (Kris Connor/Getty Images). Attorney General Eric Holder. (Kris Connor/Getty Images).

The Justice Department’s proposed $27.4 billion budget reflects Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s priority of criminal justice and prison reform.

Holder’s budget — $122 million above the 2014 enacted level — includes $173 million in targeted investments for criminal justice reform efforts.

The DOJ budget requests funding for Holder’s “smart on crime” initiative to reduce the number of low-level drug offenders in prison and reduce recidivism rates by expanding drug treatment programs.

It requests $15 million for U.S. attorneys, including prevention and reentry work and promoting alternatives to incarceration such as the establishment of drug courts and veteran courts.

Another $15 million would go towards expanding the federal residential drug abuse program, and $14 million would assist inmates with reentering society and reducing the population of individuals who return to prison after being released. An additional $14 million would expand the residential substance abuse treatment program at the state and local levels.

The DOJ budget also requests $115 million for the Second Chance Act grant program to reduce recidivism and help ex-offenders return to productive lives.

“Each dollar spent on prevention and reentry has the potential to save several dollars in incarceration costs,” Holder said in a statement.

“These wise investments can help make our criminal justice system more effective and efficient.”

In addition to criminal justice reform, the DOJ budget requests $273 million for civil rights challenges, which is an $8 million increase from the 2014 budget.

An additional $15 million is requested for a $4 billion national security budget.

Funding of $182 million would go to federal, state and local law enforcement to combat gun violence, support additional background checks and improve tracing and ballistics analysis.

Of that, $55 million is allotted for grants to improve the submission of state criminal and mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Cybersecurity is also a top DOJ priority, and $722 million would go toward cybersecurity, reflecting an additional request of $8 million over last year’s funding.

 

Sari Horwitz covers the Justice Department and criminal justice issues nationwide for The Washington Post, where she has been a reporter for 30 years.

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