Act 4 Juvenile Justice Responds to Sen. Grassley's Proposed Amendment
RECOMMENDATIONS ON AMENDMENTS TO H.R. 2112
Submitted by the Act-4-JJ Campaign of the
National Coalition for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Regarding Amendment No. 860 to be offered by Senator Grassley or another Senator which would:
- require the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct an audit of a statistically significant sample of all DOJ grant recipients, including those administered by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP);
- penalize DOJ grantees for “unresolved audit findings;”
- establish 25% matching by grantees for all DOJ grant programs not otherwise exempted; and
- prohibit grantees from using DOJ grants funds to host conferences.
The Act-4-JJ Campaign opposes this amendment for the following reasons:
1. The amendment in effect establishes a rebuttable presumption that all DOJ grantees use federal funds in unlawful and/or wasteful ways.
The Act-4-JJ Campaign supports additional oversight of the grant-making procedures and other functioning of DOJ programs, with emphasis on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). In an attempt to address legitimate concerns raised by a few bad actors, however, this amendment in effect establishes a rebuttable presumption that all DOJ grantees – state and local governments, as well as non-governmental organization, nationwide – use federal funds in unlawful and/or wasteful ways. On the contrary, there is no evidence that the overwhelming majority of DOJ grantees fail to use and leverage federal funds as purposed: to improve criminal and juvenile justice systems and public safety.
Furthermore, requiring the DOJ Inspector General to conduct an audit of no less that 10% of DOJ grantees will create more problems than it solves, and potentially costs money that it purports to save. According to the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) at DOJ, in FY 2011 OJP made more than 3,500 awards, and maintains programmatic and fiscal responsibility for almost 14,000 active OJP grants. Thus, the number of audits required just of OJP grants would total upwards of 1,400 - on top of investigating cases where there is reason to believe fraud or waste is in fact occurring. The DOJ Inspector General’s office would have to expand considerably to meet this mandate.
2. The amendment’s definition of “unresolved audit findings” is problematic and the proposed penalty for a violation is extreme.
The definition of “unresolved audit findings” is problematic. As written, the definition does not require intent, i.e., the definition does not make a distinction between grantees that knowingly use grant funds in unauthorized or unallowable ways, and those who mistakenly do so. Neither does the definition distinguish between delays or fault on the part of the grantee, and delays or fault on the part of DOJ. If the purpose of the amendment is to improve accountability, creation of what amounts to a strict liability violation is both unhelpful and unnecessary.
In addition, the proposed penalty for this violation is extreme. By regulation and by existing statute, DOJ already has the ability to reduce or deny grant awards based on a grantees’ non-compliance. For example, under the JJDPA, OJJDP has and exercises the authority to reduce or deny grants awards under the Title II State Formula Grants Program when a state falls out of compliance with one or more of the Act’s core requirement. Upon notification, states have the opportunity to regain compliance and re-qualify for a full award in the next fiscal year. To claw back 100% of the award, as proposed by this amendment, and prohibit the grantee from receiving funds for two years will have a chilling effect on those grantees that use federal funds effectively, especially smaller organizations.
3. Imposing a 25% matching requirement on all DOJ programs will severely cripple the federal-state partnership on crime prevention and public safety, as it will limit the number of qualified and effective providers of needed services and supports.
If this amendment is adopted, many nimble and fiscally responsible small municipalities who provide effective services will no longer be eligible or able to sustain their work, especially given the current state of the economy and the hard fiscal choices state and local governments nationwide are already making. Moreover, the provision is unnecessary, because many DOJ programs already require a match. For example, Title II of the JJDPA requires a state-level match of monies expended for the required JJDPA state staff and places clear limits on the amount of money that can be retained at the state level. Title V of the JJDPA requires a 50% match by local jurisdictions and local community grantees.
4. Further shifting of costs to states and localities would have the likely result of pushing states to exit from participation in the JJDPA, legislation which provides critical protections for youth involved with the courts.
In particular, the match proposed by this amendment will devastate juvenile justice reform efforts. The divestment of federal support for the JJDPA and other key juvenile justice programs over the past decade has been dramatic. See attached Historical Federal Funding Chart. In the current legislation, the Senate is proposing to reduce key federal juvenile justice funding by more than 30% for FY 2012, on the heels of a 17% across the board reduction in FY 2011. States are already reeling from previous years’ cuts. Further shifting of costs to states and localities will have the likely result of pushing states to exit from participation in the JJDPA, thus placing youth involved with the courts at serious risk of mental and physical injury. Most states now receive a modest amount of $600,000 annually to implement all of the core purposes of the JJDPA; better than 90% are in compliance with the mandates of the JJDPA and all but one of the 56 U.S. jurisdictions is voluntarily participating. This is an outstanding response to federal mandates. It should not be hampered nor weakened by increasing the match requirements on grantees.
5. The amendment unnecessarily limits opportunities for grantees to provide and engage in training, technical assistance, and information-sharing around innovative and evidence-based practices.
Finally, we question the value of limiting grantees’ ability to use federal funds for conferences. Many if not most grants administered by OJJDP allow for, and even encourage, the provision of training, technical assistance, and information sharing around innovative and evidence-based practices. Conferences provide a venue for grantees to disseminate critical training, assistance, and information to a large audience at one time. Here again, this amendment presumes bad actions on the part of all grantees because of the questionable actions of a few. The Act-4-JJ Campaign supports efforts to ensure the effective expenditure of federal funds, but not in ways that create impediments for good governments and organizations that are doing good things to keep our communities safe.
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