RELEASE: A New Report From CAP Reimagines Federal Grants for Criminal Justice Reform, Public Safety, and Violence Reduction

Washington, D.C. — As the movements to end mass incarceration and police violence gain momentum, the U.S. government must modernize its approach to funding criminal justice reform and public safety, a new issue brief published today by the Center for American Progress concludes. Over the past 25 years, the country’s understanding of criminal justice and public safety policies has evolved significantly, while the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) grantmaking structure has remained largely unchanged.

By overhauling the DOJ’s grantmaking structure, the federal government can accelerate long overdue reforms to criminal justice and public safety systems across the country. Lawmakers must reconstruct the very purpose of DOJ grants to ensure that federal dollars are used to support evidence-based strategies for ending mass incarceration, strengthening police accountability, and building capacity for community-based solutions to crime, violence, and other safety concerns.

With these goals in mind, the brief proposes a new framework toward modernizing the DOJ’s federal grants approach, as follows:

  • Create new formula grants. Congress should consolidate existing grants and add new funding to create large formula grants that accelerate change instead of pursuing piecemeal strategies that support narrow programmatic goals.
  • Define specific purpose areas. Each formula grant should have a set of purpose areas that are specific, defined, and contribute to the goals of ending mass incarceration, promoting comprehensive public health and safety, and ensuring accountability in policing.
  • Strengthen grant requirements. Each formula grant should specify prerequisites that the applicant must meet before receiving the funds, as well as outline ongoing requirements after funding has been awarded.
  • Improve transparency and grant administration. The administration of the formula grants—at both the federal and state levels—must be improved to foster transparency around what activities are supported by federal dollars.

“The current moment calls for a complete overhaul of DOJ’s grants, with the goal of ending mass incarceration and police violence in this country. With a $5 billion grantmaking budget, the DOJ has a major opportunity to incentivize criminal justice and public safety reforms nationwide,” said Betsy Pearl, associate director for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress and co-author of this column. “The federal government needs to modernize its grantmaking strategy to catalyze a much-needed transformation of our country’s public safety and criminal justice systems.”

Related sources:

How To Reinvest in Communities When Reducing the Scope of Policing” by Ed Chung and Betsy Pearl
The Right Way to ‘Send in the Feds’” by Ed Chung, Chelsea Parsons, and Danyelle Solomon

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Claudia Montecinos at .