President Obama budget narrative on criminal justice reform

Provided by Kara Gotsch
Director of Advocacy
Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition

See overall narrative published by the White House (c.j. starting on page 43): http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2016/assets/budget.pdf

ENSURING SAFETY, FAIRNESS, AND COMMUNITY TRUST IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

The President has said that if anyone in the American family feels they have been treated un- fairly it is a problem for all Americans. That is why the President is committed to ensuring the criminal justice system is safe, fair, and trustwor- thy for all Americans. In addition to supporting
the enhancement of community policing practices across the Nation, the Budget proposes to priori- tize DOJ’s resources on criminals who pose the most serious threats to American citizens’ safety, support Federal reentry programs that help re- duce recidivism, and combat violent extremism.

INVESTING IN AMERICA’S FUTURE

Implementing the Smart on Crime Approach. The Administration continues to ad- vance the DOJ’s Smart on Crime initiative, which was announced in 2013, and designed to promote fundamental criminal justice system reforms that will improve public safety, save money, and ensure the fair enforcement of Federal laws. The strategy leverages prevention and reentry pro- grams to reduce recidivism; focuses prosecutorial resources on the most important law enforcement priorities; ensures that punishments for low-level, non-violent offenders are consistent with the of- fense; and strengthens protections for vulnerable populations. The Budget supports this strategy by providing additional funding for a dedicated Prevention and Reentry Coordinator in each U.S. Attorney’s office, while also expanding pre-trial diversion programs, such as reentry and drug courts, that ensure better and more just outcomes for low-level offenders who deserve a pre-incar- ceration second chance. The Budget also includes funding for research to evaluate the efficacy of these programs using metrics that measure the effects of the Smart on Crime initiative.

Community Policing Initiative. The President’s new Community Policing Initiative aims to build and sustain trust between law en- forcement and the people they serve. The Budget provides$97milliontoexpandtrainingandover- sight for local law enforcement, increase the use of body-worn cameras, provide additional opportu- nities for police department reform, and facilitate community and law enforcement engagement in 10 pilot sites, with additional technical assistance and training for dozens of communities and police departments across the Nation.

Reentry Programs. Each year, more than 600,000 people are released from State and Federal prison, while another nine million cycle through local jails. Statistics indicate that more than two-thirds of State prisoners are re-arrested within three years of their release and half are re-incarcerated. High rates of recidivism mean more crime, more victims, and more pressure on an already overburdened criminal justice system. While we must remain vigilant when fighting crime and ensuring the safety of the Nation’s communities, there is a substantial and increasing body of evidence showing that reentry programs reduce recidivism by helping individu- als transition to their community after they are released. America’s Federal criminal justice ef- forts must also be smarter and more efficient by focusing on prevention and reentry, because whenever a recidivist crime is committed, com- munities are victimized and less safe; burdens on law enforcement are increased; and already- strained resources are further depleted.

The Administration is committed to a compre-hensive strategy to contain incarceration costs over the long term by facilitating inmates’ tran- sition into society in order to reduce recidivism rates, increase public safety, and strengthen communities. The Budget reflects these com- mitments and takes steps to address the cycle of incarceration by investing additional resources in theBureauofPrisons’(BOP)reentryprograms. These investments include $110 million to in- crease mental health staff, expand sex offender treatment programs, and provide cognitive be- havioral treatment and additional residential reentry center beds. The Budget also provides $5 million to support a new broader reentry pro- gram that reaches out to offenders’ children and families to strengthen familial bonds, which are critical for helping inmates transitioning back home, and $20 million to award innovative re- entry programs in BOP facilities. In addition, through State and local assistance programs, the Budget nearly doubles the investment in the Second Chance Act Grant program to reduce re- cidivism and help those exiting the justice system to rejoin their communities and lead productive lives.

The DOJ section of the budget appendix (starting on page 748) is here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2016/assets/jus.pdf.

The President is requesting $7.23 billion for federal prisons, an increase of $365 million over last year.