The Justice Department has decided to seek a $135 million budget rescission that would immediately wipe out federally funded juvenile justice programs and law enforcement grants to state and local governments, according to internal government documents.
In what is likely to be one of a flood of cutbacks prompted by the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget-balancing law, senior Justice Department officials have decided to eliminate their two major grant programs rather than make reductions elsewhere in the department.
As with other rescissions to be unveiled with President Reagan's budget next week, Congress may refuse to go along. Rescissions of fiscal 1986 funds cannot take effect unless Congress approves them within 45 days. The grant programs have been popular on Capitol Hill.
Shelters for runaways, drug-abuse centers, delinquency prevention efforts and research are among programs that would lose federal funding if the $70 million Office of Juvenile Justice Programs is eliminated. The administration has tried without success to abolish the office in the past.
The $60 million Bureau of Justice Assistance, which includes many of the training and research programs of the old Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, is also highly valued by state and local officials and private researchers.
Both divisions are supervised by Assistant Attorney General Lois Haight Herrington.
Spending for both has been frozen for nearly two months, sparking loud protests. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of a juvenile justice subcommittee, told Attorney General Edwin Meese III in a letter that the freeze is "a slap in the face to Congress," which outlawed executive impoundments of funds in 1974 after budget battles with President Richard M. Nixon.
The Office of Management and Budget, in an internal document, said the juvenile justice program "has already accomplished its major program objectives," such as "separation of adult from juvenile offenders." It said the justice assistance grants "fund projects that are beneficial only to particular states or local communities, and should, therefore, be funded by those communities."
Senior Justice Department officials regard the programs as a marginal but often controversial.
For example, liberals have widely criticized a $734,000 grant for a researcher's study of Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler magazines and whether they play a role in juvenile delinquency. Conservative activists denounced a grant for a group that provides help to shelters for battered women.
But groups ranging from the National PTA to to the American Probation and Parole Association have written to Congress in support of the juvenile justice program.
Specter has said he plans to push a resolution soon to disapprove the rescission so the spending freeze, which has left many grant recipients in limbo, can be lifted.
Virginia was to receive $926,000, Maryland $704,000 and the District of Columbia $225,000 this year under the program.