Councilmember Charles Allen Circulates Budget Recommendations from Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

Proposed budget would restore funding for violence interruption, civil legal aid, affordable housing, and victims’ services, including new domestic violence shelter

Yesterday, Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6), Chair of the DC Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, circulated recommended changes to the budgets of the 33 agencies, boards, and commissions under the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. The Committee will meet remotely to consider and vote on the budget recommendations today June 25, at 1 pm. The meeting will be broadcast live, available to the public.

The budget recommendations come as the District faces a massive economic shortfall under necessary restrictions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. At the same time, protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky have the District, and the nation, once again confronting the role of policing in racial injustice today and in our history. The following is a statement from Councilmember Charles Allen:

“I am recommending a reinvestment of millions of dollars from traditional policing into programs better suited to meet the community’s needs. I do this recognizing policing is only one piece in a larger criminal justice system that has long overpoliced and overincarcerated our Black neighbors relative to White neighbors. And that even recently, policy change has not come easy in our community. It was a fight to decriminalize something as small as $2 bus fare evasion in 2018 and there has been a lot of fearmongering on my Second Look Amendment Act just last year to more humanely rehabilitate young people who commit a violent crime – even after serving significant time. These protests have hopefully changed those conversations for good as more people recognize the criminal justice system has disproportionately hurt Black residents.

This is the largest cut from MPD’s budget I can remember in my time on the Council, and this budget proposes reinvesting those tax dollars into violence prevention and provides services for survivors of crime and returning citizens. We are not only restoring proposed cuts to violence interruption, but adding additional funds. We are restoring cuts to access to civil legal representation for low-income residents. We are divesting funds from policing and investing in affordable housing and emergency rental assistance. We are building a new shelter for survivors of domestic violence, repairing recreation centers that provide a safe space for teenagers and seniors alike, and much more.

This budget, on its own, will not overcome decades of underinvestment in our Black neighbors. But it is a significant step forward, propelled by the advocacy of thousands of residents who have written, chanted, and marched to demand an end to the status quo.”

Below is the Executive Summary from the Committee’s report, which highlights where investments have been made:

Summary of FY21 Proposed Budget Recommendations

            This Report of Recommendations of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety on the FY21 Budget for the Agencies under its Purview was developed over several months of agency oversight and public and stakeholder engagement. The Committee’s recommended FY21 budget identifies $20 million of operating dollars and $6.25 million of capital dollars to support the Committee priorities below, including a $15.1 million reduction from the Metropolitan Police Department, as follows:

Re-Directs Funding to Violence Prevention and Intervention and Restorative Justice Programming

  • Partners with the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice to fund a new position for a Gun Violence Prevention Director to spearhead the District’s inter-agency strategy for preventing gun violence

  • Restores all $675,000 in cuts in the proposed budget for violence prevention and intervention contracts at the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) and adds an additional $575,000, for a total recurring enhancement of $1.25 million for these contracts; reverses the effective elimination of the Cure the Streets program at the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and expands its funding to up to $7.2 million, for a total of up to $11.8 million for violence interruption contracts across the District

  • Creates a new program at ONSE – the Restorative Justice Collaborative – to coordinate and foster restorative justice programming and practices within the District government and by and in partnership with District community-based organizations, with a focus on the 18-to-35-year old population; adds a Director and 4 “Restorative Justice Fellows”, the latter of which the Committee intends the agency to fill with residents returning home pursuant to the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act of 2016[1]

  • Continues to expand alternatives to prosecution by funding a social worker for the restorative justice program at the OAG

  • Identifies $336,339 for stipends to support four cohorts in ONSE’s Pathways Program, a transitional wrap-around employment and anti-violence program that aims to decrease participants' involvement in the criminal justice system and improve their employment, education, and training outcomes

  • Transfers $750,000 in capital dollars from MPD to ONSE to allow the latter to build out its lower floor to accommodate additional Pathways cohorts

  • Funds a public information campaign about the District’s underutilized “red flag” law, which allows concerned family members, mental health professionals, and law enforcement officers to remove guns and ammunition from someone who may be a danger to themselves or others

Leads on Criminal Justice Reform and Reentry Support

  • Includes Councilmember Robert White’s “Restore the Vote Amendment Act of 2020” as a Budget Support Act subtitle, which will enfranchise thousands of District residents currently incarcerated in the Bureau of Prisons’ custody[2]

  • Adds new staff and educational materials funding to the Corrections Information Council, which serves as the District’s liaison to the Bureau of Prisons and inspects, monitors, and reports on the conditions of confinement at facilities where District residents are incarcerated

  • Makes the Criminal Code Reform Commission – which had been funded to sunset halfway through FY21 – permanent, thereby ensuring an independent agency will pursue criminal code reform and best practices in criminal law

  • Identifies nearly $50 million for immediate capital renovations to the D.C. Jail to repair critical conditions like the HVAC system and water penetration

  • Funds $80,000 through the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants to continue the work of the Jails & Justice Task Force

  • Eliminates 10 new proposed correctional officers at the Department of Corrections and reinvests those savings into reentry grants

  • Restores $972,000 in cuts to the justice grants program at the Office of Victim Services & Justice Grants and adds an additional $2.4 million enhancement, for a total of $10.3 million for justice grants, including for[3]:

    • $1 million (recurring) for a reentry housing program for adult men returning from incarceration;
    • $300,000 (one-time) from the Committee on Facilities & Procurement for community-based reentry grants, intended to expand the number of organizations receiving assistance;
    • $350,000 (recurring) for a grant for an organization that provides advocacy and legal assistance to individuals seeking sentence review, such as pursuant to the IRAA;
    • $200,000 (recurring) for a grant for reentry supports for IRAA petitioners and recipients for an organization that supports District youth incarcerated as adults through creative writing and peer support; and
    • $80,000 (one-time), as mentioned above, for a task force focused on jails and justice reforms
  • Restores funding for the Office on Returning Citizen Affairs’ successful Paralegal Training Program
  • Increases capacity through new case management staff for the OAG’s ATTEND truancy mediation program to avoid prosecution for parents and students by addressing underlying issues causing chronic absenteeism

Supports LGBTQ District Residents

  • Increases staff at the Office on Human Rights to support hate crimes education and coordination

  • Funds a survey of transgender District government employees' workplace experiences and District government hiring and recruitment practices through the D.C. Department of Human Resources

  • Creates a new $500,000 wrap-around workforce development program for transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming District residents through the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants

Supports Victims/Survivors of Crime

  • Restores $1.9 million in net cuts to the victim services program at the Office of Victim Services & Justice Grants and adds an additional $3.4 million enhancement, for a total of $27.5 million for victim services grants, including:
  • $3 million (one-time) for a new domestic violence shelter; and
  • $500,000 (recurring), as mentioned above, for a new wrap-around workforce development program for transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming District residents
  • Maintains funding for a new Place-Based Trauma-Informed Care Services Center in a neighborhood with high rates of violent crime and trauma – this site will link to existing violence prevention programming and provide trauma supports for residents

Restores Cuts and Enhanced Legal Services for Vulnerable Residents

  • Restores all cuts to the Access to Justice grants program, which funds legal services for domestic violence survivors, seniors, consumers, individuals with disabilities, individuals experiencing homelessness and housing instability, and residents with criminal records seeking expungement

  • Continues the Committee’s partnership with the Committee on Labor & Workforce Development by accepting their enhancement of a wage theft attorney at the Office of the Attorney General

Supports Dignified and Affordable Housing

  • Fully funds the Civil Legal Counsel Projects Project at $4.5 million for lawyers for low-income tenants facing eviction who cannot afford an attorney
  • Preserves affordable rental housing by enhancing the Housing Preservation Fund by $250,000 through a transfer to the Committee on Housing & Neighborhood Revitalization
  • Supports the Emergency Rental Assistance Program with a transfer of $250,000 to the Committee on Human Services

  • Funds Chairperson Allen’s “Housing Conversion and Eviction Clarification Amendment Act of 2020”, which would protect existing affordable housing by:

    • Investing proceeds from a new fee in the Housing Production Trust Fund when developers reduce the number of available units in a building as a way to protect existing affordable housing; and
    • Strengthening an existing law protecting tenants from being evicted under a false premise by landlords

 Invests in Fire, EMS, and 911/311; Reducing Health Inequities

  • Approves $42.75 million to build a new Fleet Maintenance Facility and $14.75 million to design and replace Engine 7, which is co-located with the apparatus maintenance facility
  • Invests $86 million over 6 years to support the Department’s apparatus needs, including $13.5 million to purchase new ladder trucks and $23 million to purchase new ambulances

  • Sustains funding for the fourth year of the “Right Care, Right Now” Nurse Triage Line, which reduces 911 volume for non-emergency healthcare needs

  • Supports a healthy FEMS workforce by investing an additional $250,000 in the O2X nutrition and physical and mental wellness program

  • Funds the design phase for a new Fireboat-1 in FY21 to replace the aging John H. Glenn, Jr. Fireboat

  • Restores the proposed reduction of Maternal Mortality Review Committee staff at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to improve maternal health outcomes

  • Funds Chairperson Allen’s “Transit Benefits Equity Amendment Act of 2020”, which requires employers who offer free parking as a perk to employees to offer that employee a similarly-valued benefit if they prefer to take public transit, bike, walk, or any other form rather than driving

Promotes Fair Elections and Government Accountability

  • Dedicates $4.3 million to fully fund the District’s Fair Elections Program for the 2022 election cycle

  • Identifies funding for the Board of Elections and Office of Campaign Finance implementation costs of the Campaign Finance Reform Amendment Act of 2018 to prohibit pay-to-play government contracting

  • Strengthens the District’s government ethics laws and enforcement: (1) right-sizes the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability by adding 3 positions to reduce caseloads and enforce the Open Meetings Act; (2) funds the head of a new public corruption division at the Office of the Attorney General to enforce the District’s government ethics laws, and (3) includes legislative language to give teeth to the Ethics Act’s enforcement provisions

  • Increases staffing in the Board of Elections to implement paid leave to vote legislation passed by the Committee

[1] See, section 306(b) of the Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment Act of 2016, effective April 4, 2017 (D.C. Law 21-238; D.C. Official Code § 24-403.03), as amended by the Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Amendment Act of 2018 (D.C. Act 22-614), and as proposed to be amended by B23-0127, the “Second Look Amendment Act of 2019”.

[2] Note that in the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, the Committee already enfranchised individuals currently incarcerated for felony sentences who are in the legal custody of the Bureau of Prisons but the care of the Department of Corrections:

[3] These grant enhancements are intended to supplement (1) any other grant funding the selected grantees may receive from OVSJG, and (2) the IRAA-specific recurring grants funded by the Committee in the FY20 approved budget. The Committee will work with OVSJG before first reading to draft a Budget Support Act subtitle to further underscore the Committee’s intent.

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