Issues

Trump Budget Emphasizes Criminal Justice, Targets ‘Worst of the Worst’ Criminal Groups

Donald Trump
AP

Supporters of the Trump administration's proposed FY 2018 budget have characterized it as "tough on crime." The budget spares many criminal justice agencies and programs the spending cuts, while increasing funding for border security.

The budget provides $44.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security and $27.7 billion for the Department of Justice, the Crime Report notes. The White House said in a release that the budget covers, "critical law enforcement, public safety and immigration enforcement programs and activities," and "provides critical resources for DOJ to confront terrorism, reduce violent crime, tackle the Nation’s opioid epidemic, and combat illegal immigration," as well as cybersecurity.

The budget adheres to President Donald Trump's tough stance on illegal immigration, seeking billions for "expanded detention, transportation, and removal of illegal immigrants."

The DHS proposal includes $300 million for hiring and training 500 new border patrol agents and 1,000 new ICE personnel as well as $2.6 billion to fund the construction of Trump's promised border wall.

The White House is also seeking an additional $175 million for the Justice Department "to target the worst of the worst criminal organizations and drug traffickers in order to address violent crime, gun-related deaths, and the opioid epidemic."

The overall budget makes cuts in discretionary spending while maintaining or increasing the budgets of the FBI, DEA, and ATF. The office of Community Oriented Policing Services' (COPS) budget will also be preserved, which Republicans have called for cutting in the past.

The FY2018 proposal also contains the largest ever budget for Office of National Drug Control Policy, after politicians on the left and right have called for action on the national opioid epidemic. Acting drug czar Richard Baum called this move "great news."

"It shows the White House strongly supports the mission of [the office] to advise the President on national and international drug control policies and to ensure the effective coordination of drug control programs," Baum said.

Although the budget increases criminal justice spending, it does make certain strategic cuts. The budget hopes to cut $210 million in spending on the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. Past attempts to cut the program have failed.

The White House described the program as "poorly targeted," noting that "two-thirds of the funding primarily reimburses four States for the cost of incarcerating certain illegal criminal aliens."

The administration expects to save almost $1 billion from the 14 percent decline in the federal prison population since 2013. This decline means new federal prisons will not need to be constructed; however, the budget does allow $113 billion for prison repairs and updates, and $80 billion to activate a currently dormant site in order to address overcrowding.

The Crime Report's analysis suggests that the expected federal prison savings may not be fully realized if the Department of Justice follows up on Attorney General Jeff Session's mandate that federal prosecutors should seek the harshest penalties available.

It is unlikely that the final budget will look like the Trump proposal, but the White House's budget reflects a continuing commitment to putting federal weight behind the president's tough-on-crime rhetoric.