In a climate where conservatives continue to find ways to criminalize people of color while cutting funds and resources from the federal government, Attorney General Eric Holder somehow has managed to find money to help keep people out of prison. Last week, Holder was in St. Louis lauding the efforts of the Expanding Addicts’ Recovery Netork, or Project EARN, a federal drug court project that helps non-violent drug offenders overcome addiction and find work in exchange for reduced prison terms.
Said Holder of the program, "If more communities adopt reentry programs like the one I witnessed today in St. Louis, it will reduce criminal justice spending, ensure the fairest possible outcomes, and forge the stronger, safer communities that all of our citizens deserve."
After the St. Louis trip, he was off to Peoria, Ill. to give props to a similar federal drug court program there. Part of the reason for this short tour was for Holder to reinforce his commitment to reducing the mass incarceration crisis in America and how it impacts communities of color. But the tour also appeared to help Holder deflect attention from the news that some House Republicans are seeking to impeach him over controversies involving the Fast and Furious program, that led to U.S. guns funneled to Mexican drug cartels, and the IRS auditing of some Tea Party groups — both of which have been exploited by conservatives looking to smear the Obama administration.
According to the online news outlet St. Louis Today, Holder was unbothered by the impeachment calls.
Instead, Holder used the occasion to speak about over $62 million in grants the Justice Department has awarded for programs that help people effectively re-enter society after being released from prison. The awards are part of his "Smart on Crime" initiative that seeks to reduce incarceration and prison recidivism rates.
The grants have been awarded to programs like Project EARN, many of them tied to federal drug courts. Not bad for an agency that has been seriously strapped for cash lately. In October, Holder also announced millions in grants to help with criminal defense of those who can’t afford private lawyers.
The purpose for the grants, as explained in a DOJ press release:
- $57 million will support smart probation projects, treatment of returning adult and juveniles with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders; adult and juvenile reentry demonstration projects; adult mentoring programs; technology career training projects for incarcerated adults and juveniles; and demonstration field experiments to test a parole reentry model.
- $5.4 million supports two awards for evaluation activities and training and technical assistance for Second Chance Act grantees and the reentry field in general.
- $9.7 million in Second Chance Act Juvenile Reentry Program grant awards to reduce recidivism and assist youth in successfully returning to their communities after secure confinement, including:
- $176,000 to assist four jurisdictions in planning a juvenile reentry program,
- $6,573,177 for ten jurisdictions to implement evidence-based reentry programs that provide a comprehensive range of services for juveniles up to 18 years of age.
- $2,977,252 for five community programs to reduce long-term alcohol and other substance abuse among youth in secure confinement facilities and to increase drug treatment and mental health services for these youth.
"Too many young people caught up in the juvenile justice system fail to return to school, find a job, or live healthy, drug-free lives after being confined," said Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Administrator Robert L. Listenbee in a press statement about the grants.