Ideas in Indiana: Deborah Daniels Keynote Address

A Report from SIPR’s Executive Session of Criminal Justice Professionals | Indianapolis, IN March 28, 2005

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We’re not in the “Roaring ’90s” anymore. Consider, as an example of this, the agency that I just left, the Office of Justice Programs, which is responsible for the Office on Victims of Crime; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Office on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office on Violence Against Women; and the Office for Domestic Preparedness, before it was transferred to Homeland Security. In other words, it is a large umbrella. When I left the Department of Justice in 1993, that budget was between $800 million and $900 million. In a very short time, it rose to an all-time high, in 2002, of $4.2 billion. With a special supplemental appropriation, we approached $4.5 billion. So the budget mushroomed from under $1 billion to $4.5 billion in the space of nine years.

Now, it has necessarily had to drop since that time. Particularly since 9/11, there has been a need to pull back and restructure. We had to deal with the deficit, we had to deal with the fact that we don’t have the roaring economic engine that we had in the ’90s, and we had to find money for Homeland Security. So that $4.5 billion was down to about $2.5 billion in the 2005 fiscal year, and the President’s budget for 2006 called for about $1.5 billion. 

Now, less than $1 billion of this drop is really attributable to the fact that the Office on Violence Against Women and the Office for Domestic Preparedness are now looked at separately. The Office on Violence Against Women has a budget of about $385 million. The Office for Domestic Preparedness, when we had it, was only about $260 million, and then there was additional money added after 9/11. So those funds really don’t make up the difference. But some significant decrease in the Office of Justice programs funding is attributable to the aftermath of 9/11 and the need to find significant funding to support Homeland Security, and not just law enforcement, but fire and emergency management and health service and all the things that go into first response, not to mention terrorism prevention.

The Office for Domestic Preparedness went from a $260 million budget before 9/11 to $3.6 billion, because that’s the office that equips and trains first-responders and also provides money for terrorism prevention. At the same time, there have been cuts in other areas. For instance, the COPS (Community-Oriented Policing Services) budget has suffered. Remember the promise to put 100,000 officers on the street? Well, after 100,000 officers had been put on the street, the administration tried to end the COPS hiring grants, and that has reduced over time.

What happened with COPS hiring grants was exactly what people like me expected. Using federal money to fund personnel is really fraught with problems because once you put it out there, even if you say we’re going to ratchet it down every year and at the end of three years you’re on your own, that’s a hard thing for a local community to do. Once a local community has taken the money and hired the police, those services come to be expected. But the federal support is no longer there. During the lean times, it’s hard to maintain those new hires. Some of those officers are now being laid off. I’ll ask rhetorically, should the federal government be in the business of hiring local police any more than local teachers or local health-care workers? That’s a very difficult question and every time it comes up, it results in these sorts of difficulties and debates. But we’ve all become dependent on federal funding in a very short period of time.

What do we face in 2006 and beyond? Well, this year, for the first time, the President’s budget proposes to eliminate the block grants that have gone to state and local governments for law enforcement. I envision that it won’t be cut entirely, but that funding source has been dipping since it hit its high of about $1 billion in 2001. The funding has been dropping because there just isn’t enough money there to put $1 billion out every year for these block grants. So in 2005, the amount that the Congress appropriated was about $500 million—only half of what had been appropriated in 2001. Now the President’s budget proposes to eliminate these block grants. I would expect Congress to put some money into block grants there, but they are going to be forced to cut significantly. Even the Congress, which supports the block grants because these grants support their constituents, can’t find the money right now.

Whenever you look at these budgets, you have to try to figure out what’s really going on. There are proposals to do away with certain line it ems in the forensic category, but that’s only because we were trying to restructure it in order to do a better job, particularly with DNA analysis, because we see that as the wave of the future. My personal view is that DNA will certainly be to the 21st Century what fingerprinting was to the 20th, and we need to do everything we can to advance investment in that fund. The recent budgets submitted by the President have, in fact, significantly increased the amounts requested for DNA. 

What’s likely to happen in the FY2006 appropriation is that there will be some block-grant funding, but not more than $500 million for the whole country, possibly less. But about $100 million of the $500 million will be earmarked. In this fiscal year we had $80 million earmarked right out of the law-enforcement block grants to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Now, I love the Boys & Girls Clubs, and I think they do wonderful work, but that comes right out of law enforcement’s block grant. That becomes very difficult when law enforcement’s block-grant funding is reduced to no more than $400 million for the entire country. And I think you will see that even though the Congress wants to fund more things, they too see that there is a deficit that they need to deal with, and they are going to try to be more disciplined this year, which is going to demand a lot of hard choices.

Of course, there are other pressures on Congress. What about Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security? There are a lot of fiscal pressures resulting in continued shrinkage of the budget authority for the people that deal in appropriations for Commerce, Justice, and State. 

So there’s the bad news. Now the good news. What’s still viable? There will still be funding for Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which has been very important to this community, and this community has done a great job with it. PSN really helps with local violence reduction, and I think it’s essential. The Justice Department is going to work hard to make sure that PSN continues to be funded. 

DNA funding: A couple of years ago, the President came out with a five-year, $1 billion initiative, and each year there is over $200 million proposed in the budget to improve our ability as a nation to use DNA evidence, to solve crimes, to exonerate the innocent, and to protect potential victims. I predict that each year Congress will come out with about half of what the President has proposed, so probably there will be another $110 to $120 million in DNA research.

Re-entry: It is critical to seek to reintegrate returning offenders safely into the community. We and other agencies back in 2002 put $100 million into this effort, and every state got some funding to engage in re-entry. The President has pledged another $300 million over a period of a few years for this purpose. This is an important issue. There are over 600,000 returning offenders all across the country, every year. So you can’t just lock people up and throw away the key, because most of the offenders are going to come back. Sixty-seven percent of these, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, re-offend within three years of their release. These folks, I think, are the greatest challenge to communities. And frankly, to quote the President, if America is the land of second chances, then there are multiple reasons why we need to be working with this group of people. 

Many of the people who come out of prison are unemployable due to a myriad of problems: lack of significant education; drug abuse—we estimate that 70 percent of all inmates may have drug abuse problems; mental health problems—we estimate that 15 percent of all inmates have mental health problems, and my guess is that’s low; and no job or life-skills training.  

Once they get out, most of them are ineffectively supervised or supported. One in five of the people who leave prison is not supervised at all, and most of the rest of them, as those of you in the trenches know, are effectively unsupervised. Now, that’s a recipe for disaster. It’s critical to bring together the stakeholders who normally don’t work together: workforce training, drug and mental health treatment professionals, the courts, the faith-based community. So everybody has a part to play.  

I would like to point out what a great job Fort Wayne, Indiana, has done bringing these diverse stakeholders to the table and getting their commitments to work together on re-entry. Fort Wayne did this by virtue of a few key factors. One of them was very strong support from the mayor—Graham Richard, who is a sharp guy. He saw the need that had developed and participated actively in the solution. When you develop those relationships and you leverage what you have available in the community, you can make a difference.  

Another key area is juvenile-delinquency prevention. If re-entry represents the shorter term, and DNA represents the immediate, juvenile-delinquency prevention represents the long term. I think even the most skeptical law-enforcement officers now recognize the necessity of delinquency prevention. I would use as an example the Nurse-Family Partnership idea that was developed by Dr. David Olds. It involves people from nursing agencies that visit the home during the pregnancy of a young, unwed mother and work with her for a period until the child is two years old. It is amazing the difference that this makes in mothers and children alike. And they’ve now done a longitudinal study that exceeds 20 years. In the mothers, we saw significant reduced likelihood of drug abuse and child abuse, and of course, anybody who has dealt with child-abuse issues knows that there is, in fact, a cycle of violence, and there is a cycle of criminality associated with child abuse. In the children, there was a significantly reduced likelihood of drug use and other delinquent behavior in their teen years. And those who work with young people know that a delay of drug use or other delinquent activity well into a child’s teens bodes very well for his or her continued lawful conduct as an adult.  

Community strategic planning can aid in delinquency prevention. Littleton, Colorado, after the tragic school shootings at Columbine High School, is a perfect example of great community planning. They were besieged by hordes of people saying, “I have the thing that is going to solve your problems. Just sign here on the dotted line and pay me a lot of money and I’ll give you this program.” But Littleton resisted. Instead, Littleton brought together everybody from the Chamber of Commerce to the educators to the City Council to the nonprofit community to law enforcement. And they said, “Okay, look, let’s figure out the problem first.”   We always suggest that funding follows vision anyway. You must have a vision first, and they were very careful. They didn’t accept anything from outsiders until they had figured out their vision, and they have done a remarkable job identifying developmentally appropriate, proven programming for each age level so they can follow kids from grade school on up, protect them, and teach them how to live and work in the community as law-abiding adults. 

Indiana communities can use the structures they already have in place. Weed & Seed is a perfect structure for bringing people to the table. Central Indiana has already figured out how to do it. There is no need to reinvent a new group for every new challenge, and that’s a trap we often fall into. But we should be creative in identifying and pursuing ways to fund programs that support our goals as members of the criminal justice community. For example, law-enforcement funding is not needed for the Nurse-Family Partnership. Those young women are eligible for TANF funds, so TANF can fund some of that effort, even as it supports broader criminal justice/crime prevention goals. There are a number of ways to be creative, but if you don’t have everybody at the table, you’re not going to be as successful. After all, law enforcement knows about the law-enforcement funding, and the human-services experts know about HHS funding, and workforce-development people know about Labor and welfare-to-work funding.  

The point is this: together, we can identify more opportunities.  Insufficient coordination at the state and local level causes individual initiatives to seek earmarked funding independently, which really doesn’t get anyone very far.  

Moreover, it is critical to identify proven initiatives that work. But even then, after you have found an initiative that has worked somewhere else, you must measure its effectiveness as applied locally. This will be critical both to the effectiveness of any initiative and to the future funding of that initiative.  

I’ll mention a landmark experiment that we did right here in Indianapolis with Dr. David Ford at IUPUI back in the mid-1980s, when we tested the effects of alternative criminal-justice policies in preventing further abuse in misdemeanor domestic violence cases. At the time we had started what we called the no-drop policy: Do not let the victims drop charges, because we know the pressures on these victims, and if we stand up and make them go through this process, they’ll be better protected. Interestingly, contrary to conventional wisdom, the victims whose cases were filed under a victim-initiated warrant and who were given a choice whether to drop charges or continue the prosecution, were significantly more likely to be safe from continuing violence than those who had no such choice.  

There was a stunning difference in the level of re-victimization within the next six months after the case ended. Dr. Ford felt that was attributable to the affirmation that the victim felt from law enforcement giving her that option and the power it gave her in her relationship with the perpetrator. So who knew? We were just going on blindly with our no-drop policy, but until we measured its effectiveness, we didn’t know that was the wrong thing to do. And I’m sorry to say that there are still no-drop policies in effect around the country despite this fascinating finding. 

Measuring success not only makes a program more effective, but it’s also going to enhance funding opportunities. I will suggest that you think of foundations and other sources as potential funders for some of these initiatives—not just Washington. However, don’t expect largesse from these foundations and endowments based on hometown appeal or friendship. We have to be able to demonstrate, first, that there’s a need, and second, that we can produce results.  

In addition to these other approaches, we should make maximum possible use of DNA analysis in solving crimes. We shouldn’t have to wait until somebody has been in prison for 17 years to find out that he didn’t do it. We should be able to find out right at the outset. And we can prevent people from being victimized if we can identify and bring swift justice to perpetrators early. 

I would suggest that taking samples from those convicted of violent crimes is not enough; in my view, we need to take samples from, at a minimum, those convicted of all crimes. In the United Kingdom, they’re using DNA even to solve burglary cases, which would be a tremendous boon because, as law-enforcement officials know, burglars generally are not one-time offenders. If we can identify and incapacitate them, we can solve significant problems. 

With all of this said, I want to emphasize that the criminal-justice community should never just chase the money. Instead, think strategically about how to use available funding to address critical issues. There are lots of opportunities within the Department of Homeland Security, for instance, to obtain equipment that is what I call dual-use equipment—anything that you have a legitimate Homeland Security need for, but which can also be helpful in day-to-day law-enforcement activities. This is particularly critical with respect to information systems and communications inoperability. That funding is available for that purpose. 

These are times that call for creative thinking, a problem-solving approach. We need to collaborate, and we need to develop initiatives that are not reliant solely on federal dollars to survive. Each decade brings new challenges to law enforcement and communities, and this decade is particularly challenging. It will take our collective efforts and significantly improved collaboration to make us effective. I hope to contribute to these ongoing discussions about how we can continue to keep our communities safe.

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