Over the past week, a number of noteworthy federal funding awards have been announced. Several of them, including a grant to fund veterans courts, have been awarded to jurisdictions in California. We’ve compiled a short list of some of the noteworthy grants.
FUNDING VETERANS COURTS
Riverside County Probation Department and the California Superior Court in Solano County are among 13 state and local jurisdictions chosen to receive a combined $4 million to help develop and run treatment courts for veterans. (Riverside will receive $300,000 and the CA Superior Court in Solano will receive $296,875.)
Veterans courts aim to help, rather than punish, vets who are often suffering from PTSD, mental illnesses, substance abuse, or a combination of those issues. The veterans courts are similar to alternative drug courts and offer low-level offenders an alternative to incarceration.
The use of veteran-specific court programs is on the rise in California and in other states, but many veterans in smaller counties don’t yet have access to alternative court programs.
A bill that died in committee this year would have required the Judicial Council of California to analyze veterans courts run in 25 of the state’s 58 counties, as well as the need for the specialized courts in the other 33 counties.
On Monday, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced $20 million in grants to 106 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to expand use of officer-worn cameras nationwide. In California, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties were chosen to receive funding under the Fiscal Year 2016 Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program from the Office of Justice Programs.
Attorney General Lynch says the funds will assist dozens of agencies in improving transparency and accountability and public trust in local law enforcement.
“As we strive to support local leaders and law enforcement officials in their work to protect their communities, we are mindful that effective public safety requires more than arrests and prosecutions,” said AG Lynch. “It also requires winning—and keeping—the trust and confidence of the citizens we serve.”
Contra Costa County was also selected to receive $400,000 in federal aid to participate in the Smart Defense program to ensure that indigent defendants have a public defender or court-appointed lawyer with enough time, skills, and resources to provide a proper defense. The money will go to hiring defense attorneys and providing specialized training and technical assistance to attorneys representing poor defendants.
The county was selected for a third federal grant that will help develop strategies for improving re-entry success for inmates leaving lock-ups in Contra Costa. Just under $6 million will be split between six jurisdictions, including Contra Costa.
IMPROVING PUBLIC SAFETY FOR NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITIES
The Department of Justice also announced a pile of $107 million to be divided between 248 grants to more than 131 Native American tribes, Alaska Native villages, and other tribal groups to boost public safety and help victims of domestic violence.
Native Americans experience disproportionate rates of victimization and violence and have minimal access to the services available to their non-native peers.
Children growing up in tribal communities experience violence at a rate higher than any other race, according to a 2014 Justice Department report. More than $3 million of the pot will go to toward studying sex trafficking on tribal land and to supporting the the American Indian/Alaska Native Defending Childhood Policy Initiative, which works to reduce kids’ exposure to violence, and to treat the long-term negative effects of violence on children, including physical and psychological harm, as well as an increased risk of future contact with the justice system.
“These vital grants support everything from hiring law enforcement officers to empowering native youth, giving tribes the resources they need to meet the particular challenges facing their communities,” said AG Lynch. “We are also proud to continue support for those tribes exercising greater authority over crimes of domestic violence under the VAWA 2013 tribal provisions, the direct result of a proposal by this Justice Department and written into law by Congress that is today making communities safer and stronger.”