Court battles apparently are holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in Justice Department payments. “This is going on in every state in the country. The reddest of red states, you know, Mississippi, Alabama, they’re having the same problem,” says Connecticut criminal justice chief Mike Lawlor.
States rely on federal anticrime grants for a variety of expenses, including training, equipment, and police personnel. So far there have been no payments under the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG), which usually are disbursed by the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, reports NPR. Mike Lawlor, undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning in Connecticut, says the delay is unusual and unexplained. Last year Connecticut received about $2.6 million in JAG grants. “Every single state gets one of these grants and this year not a single state has gotten it and we have repeatedly asked the Department of Justice what’s going on,” Lawlor said. “They consistently can’t or won’t answer the question … We assume it’s because they have concerns about sanctuary cities around the country.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said the Justice Department would withhold federal crime-fighting dollars from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions in an effort to crack down on illegal immigration. That has been challenged in the courts. A federal judge in Chicago granted a preliminary injunction that stopped the DOJ from withholding funds to sanctuary cities. States have not even been notified of the grant award, which usually happens around April or May, said Lawlor, who added, “This is going on in every state in the country. The reddest of red states, you know, Mississippi, Alabama, they’re having the same problem.” New Haven, Ct., Police Chief Anthony Campbell said that by withholding funds the Department of Justice is trying to pressure local police departments into doing the work of another federal agency. Campbell said funding from grants like Byrne JAG has enabled New Haven to reduce its crime rate, in part, through community policing.