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Congress Should Get Moving on Criminal Justice Reform

By increasing funding for competitive, evidence-based programs, the Administration is communicating its desire to move away from blindly funding legacy programs without strong records of success, and towards modern programs that work at reducing crime and incarceration and improving public safety. A report published in November by the Brennan Center for Justice recommended that Congress fund incentives to accompany formula grant programs such as the JAG program to promote smart policies.

Funding these incentive based grants mark an important shift in how the Justice Department and Administration want to use federal dollars. Congress should use the power of the purse, to encourage jurisdictions to fund smart policies based on evidence instead of funding legacy programs that may have been funded for years with little or no sign of success.

The benefits of criminal justice funding reform should be clear to Republicans in Congress. Success-Oriented Funding principals improve use of taxpayer money, promote accountability, and reduce government waste. Common ground is hard to come by these days — this opportunity shouldn’t be wasted. Booming prison populations and costs, woefully inadequate public defense, and high rates of recidivism are problems that aren’t going away without immediate reform.

Lauren-Brooke Eisen is Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice and a former Assistant District Attorney in New York City.

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