The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program is the primary source of federal funding to state and local jurisdictions for the justice system.
What Do the Grants Pay For?
Historically, these funds have often been used for anti-drug abuse enforcement programs, anti-gang programs, or regional task forces, with support going primarily to prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, or courts. The success of such grants has been measured in the past by factors such as the number of arrests, prosecutions, convictions, guns seized, or drugs seized.
Put JAG Funds to Work for Youth and Safer Communities
In recent years, JAG funds have been authorized for a broader range of programs, including public defense, which is now a key priority area. The federal Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) lists the following seven purpose areas as the types of criminal justice and public safety initiatives that the JAG program supports:
- Law enforcement programs.
- Prosecution and court programs, including indigent defense.
- Prevention and education programs.
- Corrections, community corrections and reentry programs.
- Drug treatment and enforcement programs.
- Planning, evaluation, and technology improvement programs.
- Crime victim and witness programs (other than compensation).
Now, local advocates can work to allocate a portion of local JAG funds toward prevention, intervention, community-based treatment, and indigent defense for youth. If that's not feasible, consider tracking how current grantees spend the monies: after all, in 2015, the Justice Department revised the accountability measures that grant recipients must use and placed more emphasis on reducing crime and incarceration, and increasing resources for indigent defense, instead of increased law enforcement and arrests. And that's good news.
Get our Toolkit
We've put together a toolkit explaining how the funds are distributed, for what purposes, and how you can get involved, with examples of creative ways other states have been redirecting the funds to support young people and safer communities.
>>Download the toolkit here (PDF).