Public hearing set for Justice Grant spending

FLINT TWP. — Public comment will be taken at a hearing set for 7 p.m. June 15 at the township hall, regarding spending of the 2015 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice.

The JAG Program is the primary provider of federal funding to state and local jurisdictions to support a range of program areas including law enforcement, prosecution, prevention and education programs, drug treatment and enforcement, and technology improvement programs.

Public Comment is a requirement of the JAG application, which is due June 26.

Annual JAG allocations are based on a formula derived from violent crime statistics and population size. Sixty percent of the calculated annual allocation goes to the state and 40 percent to local units of government.

In past years, Genesee County JAG awards were $262,970 in 2014, $230,045 in 2013, $226,615 in 2012, $282,555 in 2011 and $381,139 in 2010. Flint Township is one of several local municipalities receiving a share of this grant.

The Genesee County 2015 allocation amount will be available at the public hearing, said Clerk Kim Courts.

BJA is estimating that it will make up to 1,100 local and 56 state/territory awards in fiscal year 2015, totaling an estimated $255.7 million. That is a slightly less than in 2014, when JAGs totaling $290 million ((approximately $198.5 million to states and territories and $92.4 million to local units of government) was allocated to 1,224 local and 56 state eligible applicants.

In the past, Flint Township has spent its fund to purchase and equip police vehicles, buy gas masks, update it data processing technology system and other needs.

While JAG recipients are free to choose how to spend the money in keeping with federal guidelines, the BJA has set priorities this year in several areas: Reducing gun violence, body-worn cameras (BWC) for police officers; recidivism reduction, pretrial reform and justice system realignment; indigent defense and improving mental health services.

In an effort to reduce pervasive gun violence, BJA encourages states and localities to invest JAG funds in programs to combat gun violence, enforce existing firearms laws, improve the process used to ensure that those prohibited from purchasing or owning guns are prevented from doing so, enhance reporting to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and provide active shooter response training to law enforcement officers and first responders.

BJA also is emphasizing the benefits of equipping officers with body-worn cameras by implementing new BWC programs or enhancing existing programs.

BJA also touts reducing unnecessary incarceration, lowering the recidivism rate and pretrial reforms to reduce costs.

Another key priority area is support for indigent defense. BJA continues to encourage states and local recipients to use JAG funds to support the vital needs of the indigent defense (poor people) community.

Another BJA priority is focused on the disproportionate numbers of people with mental illness who become involved in the criminal justice system often as a result of untreated or under-treated mental illness. BJA encourages states to utilize JAG funding in support of programs and policy changes aimed at identifying and treating people with severe mental illness before they reach crisis point.

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