Changes in Byrne Grant Program Create New Openings for Defenders and Courts

The 2012 solicitation time for Byrne Grants is over (link here.)

But I think it is important to highlight some very significant changes, which, given the inertia built into government systems, are likely to stay in place, and to provide opportunities in the 2013 cycle and beyond.  Because of the importance of the issue, I am quoting from the solidification, but please keep your eye on the ball — this is about making sure that all stakeholders, including courts and defenders, finally get their place at the planning table, and thus their fair opportunity at grants.  In many jurisdictions it has been a sore point that such participation has not been as complete as it might be.

As described in the 2012 Solicitation:

The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program (42 U.S.C. 3751(a)) is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions. The JAG Program provides states and units of local governments with critical funding necessary to support a range of program areas including law enforcement, prosecution and court programs, prevention and education programs, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, crime victim and witness initiatives, and planning, evaluation, and technology improvement programs.

Byrne Grants are allocated to the states by formula, and the state or equivalent, is the applicant (allocation list here.)

States are required to have a strategic planning process, and, this will become more and more important over time:

As an overall framework for success, we encourage both state and local comprehensive justice planning, bringing all of the system stakeholders together—including law enforcement, courts, prosecutors, defenders, corrections officials, and other stakeholders (including victims and victim advocates—to create a comprehensive and strategic justice plan to ensure coordination and a more effective justice system. (bold added).

Courts and defenders should be particularly alert to the newly comprehensive list of such stakeholders.

Indeed, the strategic plan must now be part of the grant application.  From the description of the requirements for the narrative in the application:

Describes the state’s strategic planning process that guides its priorities and funding strategy. This should include a description of how local communities are engaged in the planning process and the data and analysis utilized to support the plan; it should identify the stakeholders currently participating in the strategic planning process, the gaps in the state’s needed resources for criminal justice purposes, and how JAG funds will be coordinated with state and related justice funds.

Attach a current version of your state’s strategic plan with this application. The Department is in the process of assessing the extent to which states are engaged in strategic planning in making allocation decisions about JAG funds, and the extent to which the recommendation that these efforts include all criminal justice stakeholders, including indigent defense, are being followed to ensure fairness in the criminal justice system. If such a strategic plan or planning process does not now exist, the narrative should describe the state’s plan and timeline for developing such a process.

There are also strong transparency requirements for the process:

In each state and territory, the Governor or other Chief Executive Officer designates an agency (the State Administering Agency, or SAA) to apply for and administer these funds.

.  .  .

No fewer than 30 days prior to application submission, an SAA must make its grant application available for review to the governing body of the state, or to an organization designated by that governing body.  .   .   .   At the time of application submission, an SAA must provide an assurance that the application, or a summary of the application, was made public and an opportunity to comment was provided to citizens and neighborhood or community organizations to the extent the applicable law or established procedure makes such an opportunity available.

The current structure provides for broad participation by a wide range of stakeholders.  However, unless those stakeholders take affirmative steps to play these roles in the decision-making process, they are unlikely to achieve the results they hope for and which could play a major role in fulfilling their mission.

Moreover, those particularly worried about the costs of compliance with newly-understood LEP requirements should find the following helpful.

JAG funds may also be used to address key statutory requirements that may not be otherwise funded, including requirements from the state and federal level, such as addressing limited English proficiency requirements and other similar mandates.

Finally, indigent defense leaders should make full use of this very specific language in the priorities section:

Another key priority area is ensuring that justice is truly done in the criminal justice system is support for indigent defense. BJA continues to encourage states and SAAs to use JAG funds to support the vital needs of the indigent defense community. Attorney General Holder has consistently stressed that the crisis in indigent defense reform is a serious concern which must be addressed if true justice is to be achieved in our nation. In 2002, the American Bar Association (ABA) published Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System which represent fundamental building blocks for implementing quality legal representation for indigent defendants. (See ABA Ten Principles).

Note that the text even links to the ABA Principles.

So, strategic planning is required, and must be reported in the state grant application, transparency is required, defenders and courts are listed as stakeholders, and indigent defense is listed as a priority.

Moreover, the overall language with respect to the inclusion of strategic planning in the required narrative makes explicit DOJ’s  systematic review of the sufficiency of the comprehensiveness of that planning, and the range of participation achieved.  This only strengthens the argument for stakeholders to make affirmative efforts to be included, even if all it did in the short term was to build the case for the need for more participation.

Its now really up to you, folks, to take advantage of this language to offer and offer and obtain participation in the process.  As we all know, participation is what drives results.


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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2 Responses to Changes in Byrne Grant Program Create New Openings for Defenders and Courts

  1. Pingback: Webinar on Fedeal Funding Resources for Public Defenders | Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog

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