Faulty planning of criminal justice programs in the District may be a liability to the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration in that agency's struggle to demonstrate its worth, an LEAA official told city representatives last week.
"We are being asked what we're doing with our money," said LEAA deputy regional director Christopher Martin in reference to a Justice Department review of whether LEAA should survive.
"You are not documenting what you have been doing in Washington," LEAA funds, Martin said. He said the Justice Department's emphasis on accountability has "particular relevance" in the District. Martin made his remarks to a meeting of the D.C. Criminal Justice Coordinating Board.
The eight-year-old agency has come under heavy criticism for the way it has spent nearly $6 billion since it was created by the Nixon administration as part of its "war on crime." Attorney General Griffin B. Bell has appointed a panel to determine the future of LEAA.
Last April, LEAA denied the city all but a fraction of the District's 1977 spending proposal. LEAA said that the plan did not adequately show how the requested $1.5 million would significantly reduce crime and enhance the delivery of justice in the city.
That rejection was the "first in the history" of LEAA, Martin told the 31-member board which administers criminal justice planning in the District.
"We simply don't want to occur in the future what has occurred in the past," said Martin, who come to Washington from the regional office in Philadelphia.
In informal remarks that had the tone of an admonitory lecture, Martin urged the board to devote more attention to planning programs and less to the spending of LEAA money.
The board, hastily reorganized by D.C. Corporation Counsel John R. Risher after LEAA had denied this year's funds, met to decide how to spend a $300,000 discretionary grant allotted the District after LEAA denied the regular grant.
Board member Edgar Cahn, Dean of the Antioch School of Law and head of a committee to select programs for funding the discretionary grant, termed the process "a hot potato."
The board ultimately voted approval of the committee's recommendations to fund 10 of the 17 projects that had applied for the expected $1.5 million.
The committee said in its report that it had attempted to choose projects that directly served clients or provided a service not provided by other criminal justice projects and without which there would be a crisis in the system. No juvenile justice projects were included because the portion of the D.C. request granted by LEAA was a $200,000 award for juvenile justice programs.
Cahn said the committee was seeking "not how to divvy up $300,000 but what were the merits of each group."
J. Patrick Hickey, director of the D. C. Public Defender Service, challenged Cahn's assertion that the attempt was not just to divide the available money.
Hickey questioned the committee's recommendation that 10 projects be funded at a cost of only $261,000 although LEAA had allowed for up to $300,000.
Hickey charged that a proposal to recruit law students as investigators for court-appointed private attorneys was "single out to show LEAA that we are not just dividing up dollars." A motion by Hickey to have that project reinstated on the committee's list was defeated.
The committee's recommendations as approved by the board included:
$10,000 to fund for six months a burglary prevention project, using citizen education and volunteer block captains, to be run by a citizen-police group in Northeast.
$18,000 for six months funding of the Office of Volunteer Services, which recruits and trains department of corrections volunteers to work with inmates.
$60,000 to fund for 10 months the Bureau of Rehabilitation, a third-party custody agency which supervises persons awaiting trial and sentencing to see that the conditions of their release are met.
$10,000 for six months funding of the Capitol East Community Crime Council, a Southeast crime prevention project in the Lincoln-Bryan Park area.
$7,000 to operate the Superior Couret Child Care Center until next October, when it will be included in the court's 1978 budget. The center cares for xgildren of defendants, witnesses and jurors during court dessions.
$14,500 for Stepping Stones, a program for alcoholics designed to serve men in jail or awaiting release. The award for 10 months, covers residential treatment for 24 persons, outpatient services to another 24, and counseling to D.C. Jail inmates.
$21,000 for nine months operation of the Visitors Services Center, which handles legal, family and other problems of Lorton inmates.
$52,500 for the child abuse project of the D.C. Corporation Counsel's Office, to respond to legal, medical and social elements of the problem. This is a six month grant.
$30,000 for 10 months to the Public Defender Service for legal assistance to the criminally insane at St. Elizabeths Hospital, John Howard Pavillion.
$38,000 for six months operation of the Superior Court Outreach Program, an experiment in helping drug addicts, alcoholics and their families, in completing probation and avoiding rearrest. A study will be made of the impact of such aid on reducing crime.
Cahn said the commitee asked managers of each program to "tell us the bare minimum that they needed to survive on.
After approval of the committee's recommendation, Cahn suggested and the board agreed to request an addiktional $39,000 from LEAA for the purpose of evaluating District programs funded by the agency, or for juvenile justice projects.
Risher noted that "some of the more harshly critical language" in the LEAA rejection report had to do with the city's lack of evaluation rfforts.
Martin also criticized the District for having "little maeningful reporting on the effectiveness of its LEAA funded programs. "You should spend the bulk of your time on policy matters, goals and priorities . . . and get away from parochial concerns," Martin urged.