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MADISON - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen joined 50 Attorneys General in sending a letter today urging Congress to restore federal funding for crime and drug enforcement efforts. A 67 percent funding cut from last year to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne/JAG) program has already forced law enforcement agencies to shut down multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task forces.
The Attorneys General want fiscal year 2008 Byrne/JAG funds restored through supplemental appropriations, and adequate funding levels in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. If Byrne/JAG funding is not restored, police and prosecutors will be laid off and programs proven to assist drug-addicted citizens in becoming productive members of society will be shut down.
"The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program allows state and local law enforcement to fund a broad range of initiatives to prevent and control crime and to improve the criminal justice system," said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
"Public safety is the primary responsibility of government, and public safety should have the first claim on the public treasury. I strongly believe that the federal resources provided in the past are being used effectively and efficiently by numerous Wisconsin law enforcement agencies to prevent crime and provide justice for all."
Byrne/JAG is currently the only source of funding available for multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement, including methamphetamine initiatives, and is critical for drug courts, law enforcement information sharing, gang prevention and prisoner reentry programs.
Byrne/JAG funding supports the operations of 19 Multijurisdictional Enforcement Groups (MEG units) in Wisconsin. These 19 MEG units cover law enforcement needs in 58 counties and all tribal lands in Wisconsin. Most of these MEG units cover rural counties that are too small to maintain a comprehensive drug unit. MEG units are collaborative, multi-agency investigative units that focus mainly on drug crime investigations and prosecutions. Because serious drug crimes often cross jurisdictional lines, the established cooperation and coordination of MEG units is an efficient and effective manner of fighting crime.
"In addition, numerous criminal prosecutors in Wisconsin are funded with Byrne/JAG monies," said Van Hollen. "Prosecutors are an essential part of the criminal justice system. They assist in the investigation of crime, they prosecute crime, they seek restitution, they make appropriate sentencing recommendations, and they facilitate victim services. Quality prosecution can save the state money in a variety of areas and enhance public safety."
Not only do Byrne/JAG monies support the investigation and prosecution of crime in Wisconsin, these funds also support victims' rights. Counties in Wisconsin operate victim and witness programs that provide essential victim notification and other informational services. At the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the Office of Crime Victim Services (OCVS) administers a program that helps supplant county costs by providing partial reimbursement for county victim and witness services, as a percentage of their operating costs.
A copy of the letter from the 51 Attorneys General is available at