June 14, 2018

Van Hollen Secures Funding For Important Criminal Justice Programs in Senate Funding Bills

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced a number of critical Maryland priorities that were included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill.
“This appropriations bill makes critical investments in keeping our country safe, combating the opioid epidemic, and improving community policing. I’m also pleased that it includes my effort to support cities like Baltimore, which are under a Consent Decree with the Department of Justice and are actively working to strengthen their police department while protecting the civil and constitutional rights of city residents. I’ll keep fighting to ensure every community in our state has what it needs to stay safe and thrive,” said Senator Van Hollen.
The bill provides important support for combating the opioid epidemic and improving community policing, including:
·         Language supporting the Department of Justices’ Consent Decrees, such as the current consent decree with Baltimore, and recognizing the positive impact the completion of these decrees has on our communities.
·         $482.5 million to help state and local partners combat heroin, synthetic drugs, and the illegal distribution and use of opioids.
·         $445 million for the Byrne-JAG program, which is the leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions – a $29.5 million increase from Fiscal Year 2018. The Maryland Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention administers these funds for programs that improve Maryland’s sentencing and corrections policies and wide-ranging programs that reduce recidivism, support re-entry services, increase the number of drug treatment beds, initiatives that provide or enhance services for victims of crime, including human trafficking, and programs that address the heroin and opioid crisis in Maryland.
·         Language requesting a study from the Department of Justice on the number of human trafficking victims who are convicted of crimes related to their trafficking, the types of crimes, and an analysis on how the federal government can supplement state vacatur programs, like those in Maryland. This also includes language expressing concern about a rise in prosecutions of trafficking victims, both at the federal and state levels, for crimes directly related to their trafficking. Criminal convictions often disqualify victims from numerous federal programs and impede their recovery. This study will help determine how we can best provide recovery and justice services to human trafficking victims.
·         $235 million for Community Oriented Policing Services hiring, which will provide grants to hire and train additional police officers in strategies based in collaboration and respect between police and the communities they serve. This funding is an increase of over $10 million from Fiscal Year 2018.
·         $497.5 million– the highest funding level ever – for grants provided by the Office on Violence Against Women. 
·         $182 million to support multi-disciplinary community response teams tasked with developing and implementing comprehensive reform regarding sexual assault, including reducing the backlog of rape kits at law enforcement agencies.
·         $123 million for Department of Justice programs that work to strengthen police-community relations, including $22.5 million for law enforcement to purchase body cameras, $28 million for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, and $20 million for the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program.
·         $5 million for the DOJ Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) – double the amount funded in Fiscal Year 2018. LEAD is a pre-booking diversion program that allows law enforcement officers to redirect low-level drug offenders to community-based services instead of charging them with a drug offense and putting them in jail. Cities like Baltimore, Maryland are committed to working together with all stakeholders to address the opioid epidemic.
·         $410 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which was eliminated in the President’s budget. LSCs provide high-quality legal assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to afford adequate legal counsel. These funds will better serve the almost 800,000 Marylanders who are eligible to receive help from LSC’s 14 offices statewide.
·         Language supporting the deployment of gunfire detection technology, which is currently being deployed and tested in Baltimore City. Additionally, this legislation encourages the Department of Justice to work with state and local partners to collect and analyze data from such systems.

·         Language encouraging the Department of Justice to support the use of grant funds like Byrne-JAG for the purchase of fentanyl detection equipment and training as well as naloxone distribution for law enforcement safety.