AG Eric Holder Outlines DOJ 's Planned Priorities
Attorney General Eric Holder addressed Justice Department employees yesterday on planned priorities. The full text is here.
Going forward, the department's priorities will be: terrorism, violent crime (which includes enforcement against so-called drug organizations) and financial fraud. He emphasized the increased use of "intelligence", particularly in sharing information between federal, state and local agencies. My translation: We can expect more surveillance. And more of the current trend of labeling garden-variety drug conspiracies as major "drug trafficking organizations" with links to some gang or cartel.
On terrorism: [More...]
We will aggressively pursue emerging threats around the world and at home, and enhance our ability to gather and analyze actionable intelligence. We will engage in outreach efforts to all communities in order to prevent terrorism before it occurs. We will be vigilant – not only against international terrorist organizations, but also against domestic extremist groups, militias, and other home-grown threats. And let me be very clear about this: we will continue to rely on our most powerful and most proven tool in bringing terrorists to justice – our federal court system.
On drugs and intelligence:
Through intelligence-driven, threat-based prosecutions – we will focus on dismantling criminal organizations and putting them out of business for good.
Holder also stressed the importance of prevention programs and re-entry assistance to offenders to reduce recidivism.
Today, 1 in every 100 American adults is incarcerated – and two-thirds of those who transition out of our jails and prisons eventually are rearrested. This is not acceptable. Helping our young people avoid lives of violence and crime – and providing support to those who’ve served their time and are struggling to rejoin and contribute to their communities – is not just a proven public safety approach. It is an economic imperative. And it is our moral obligation.
The President’s budget provides $187 million in prisoner reentry and jail diversion programs, including $100 million for the Second Chance Act programs. The President's budget proposes that drug and mental health courts programs be combined into a $57 million drug, mental health, and problem solving courts initiative.
When the House and Senate passed the Continuing Resolution for Obama's 2011 budget, all these programs got significant cuts:
Council of State Government Justice Center priority programs—the Second Chance Act program, the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA) program, and the Justice Reinvestment program—fall under state and local law enforcement assistance programs, which were cut by $434 million from the FY10 levels.
$148 million was cut from programs designed to help juveniles avoid the criminal justice system.
President Obama's 2012 proposed budget is overly heavy on law enforcement and too light on prevention. The words by Holder are nice, but as the Justice Policy Project points out, they are not borne out by the numbers.
There are currently more than 2.4 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails, the highest per capita rate in the world.19 Attempting to improve public safety through increased law enforcement and correctional spending is a failed approach. If the Administration and Congress want to spend scarce federal dollars to improve public safety, they should invest in programs and policies that have been shown to have positive and long-lasting effects on individuals and communities. These programs include:While Holder is a vast improvement over Alberto Gonzales and John Ashcroft, we still have such a long way to go towards becoming smart about crime. Instead of increased funding for the Bureau of Prisons so it can build a new federal prison in Alabama, why not increase prisoner good time and reduce the Bureau's operational costs? Why not eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders? Wiretapping and other forms of electronic surveillance, which cost huge sums of money, used to be used sparingly. Now they are used routinely, a trend that needs to be reversed.
- community-based substance abuse and mental health treatment;
- evidence-based prevention programs for youth;
- employment, job skills, and education resources for underserved communities; and
- diversion programs that keep people from entering the corrections system.
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