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Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

Orientation for US Attorneys
January 19, 2010
Washington, DC

       Thank you. It's good to be here. I know a few of you are still awaiting confirmation, but let me extend my congratulations to all of you on your appointment.

       As U.S. Attorneys, we consider you the Office of Justice Programs' eyes and ears in the field. I want to build on our partnership, and I'm looking for opportunities to expand our relationship.

       We have a committee of staff from across OJP working with the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, the Law Enforcement Coordinators, and the COPS Office - exploring how we can improve coordination, particularly with regard to grants. I'll be asking for your input on how we can better coordinate as we move forward.

       Let me give you a little background on the Office of Justice Programs, then talk about some of our major activities and priorities:

       OJP is an umbrella agency within Justice that includes seven bureaus and program offices:

  • Our Bureau of Justice Assistance supports law enforcement, courts, corrections, and treatment and prevention initiatives. For example, our Byrne/JAG program is administered by BJA.
  • Our Bureau of Justice Statistics gathers and disseminates data on a wide range of criminal and juvenile justice issues. It also supports state and tribal criminal history record systems.
  • The National Institute of Justice is our research, development, evaluation, and technology arm. NIJ has been central to improving our knowledge of evidence-based approaches to crime.
  • Our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention supports efforts to prevent and reduce juvenile delinquency. It also supports child and youth protection efforts.
  • Our Office for Victims of Crime supports victim assistance and compensation programs. It also trains victim service providers and allied professionals.
  • Our Community Capacity Development Office works on neighborhood safety and revitalization efforts. Weed and Seed is its flagship program - I know you'll all become very familiar with that, if you aren't already.
  • Finally, our SMART Office works with states, tribes, and communities to improve the management of sex offenders.

       Over the years, the two programs that U.S. Attorneys' Offices have worked with OJP on most closely are the Weed and Seed program and Project Safe Neighborhoods. U.S. Attorneys take the lead in both these efforts. We've had great success in our partnership in these areas. Evidence from our NIJ evaluation of PSN shows the success of federal prosecution in bringing down violent crime.

       Weed and Seed is a strategy which can be implemented over a number of years. After receiving an initial grant to establish a Weed and Seed site, the site can submit an annual application for continued funding which may be awarded annually for a total of five years. You or your designee is a voting member of the Weed and Seed Steering Committee for all of the Weed and Seed sites in your district.

       A good example of Weed and Seed is in the Eastern District of Michigan. Downtown Flint is a designated Weed and Seed Community, and staff there are working to reduce crime through increased surveillance. They're also focusing on promoting home ownership, reducing code violations, and rehabilitating vacant properties.

       Another Weed and Seed example is in the Northern District of Georgia. The English Avenue Community in Atlanta is focusing on improving neighborhood engagement and youth development by actively recruiting residents and stakeholders to participate in Neighborhood Watch and Parent Patrol programs.

       This year, the Recovery Act had a huge impact on OJP-we awarded almost 4,000 grants totaling more than $2.7 billion of the Department's $4 billion in Recovery Act funding. Each of your districts received a portion of this funding for a variety of efforts.

       For example, in the Eastern District of Missouri, the Dunklin County Sheriff's Office is using Recovery Act funds to hire and train three full-time correctional officers. And in the other half of the state - in the Western District - Callaway County and Fulton City are using Recovery Act funds to equip and train their Special Tactics and Response Team.

       Improving our working relationship with tribes is another area of close partnership with U.S. Attorneys' Offices. This is a priority of the Attorney General, and I know will be a big issue for some of you. OJP provides a range of assistance to tribes - from tribal youth programs to tribal jail construction.

       For example, in the Western District of Oklahoma, we funded the Ponca Tribe under our Tribal Courts Assistance Program. Funds will help them establish an appellate court system by helping to hire and train staff and by helping them pay for new technology.

       And in the District of Montana, we funded the Fort Belknap Indian Community to help them hire 28 employees to staff their jail and a new long-term adult detention facility.

       Gangs and reentry are two other big issues for us. In the Northern District of New York, the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York in Albany got a grant from us under the Second Chance Act to support pre- and post-release mentoring of returning offenders.

       In terms of gangs, we funded the Green Bay Police Department in the District of Wisconsin to teach the Gang Resistance Education and Training curriculum - that's G.R.E.A.T., for short - in middle schools and to fourth- and fifth-graders.

       Also related to gangs - and getting back to PSN - in the District of Wyoming, we funded the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police to coordinate gun and gang investigations and prosecutions, and also to address the growing problem of youth gangs on the Wind River Reservation.

       One area where we've put a concentrated focus is on smarter sentencing practices. This gets to promoting alternatives to incarceration, like drug courts. For example, in the Northern District of Indiana, the Marion County Correctional Services received a grant out of BJA's Drug Court program to address participants with co-occurring disorders.

       OJP also has a long history of cooperation with U.S. Attorneys in working with victims. Your Financial Litigation Units collect the federal fines and penalties that make up the Crime Victims Fund, which in turn supports more than 4,000 local victim assistance programs and state victim compensation programs. Also, your Victim-Witness staff are the principal points of contact for services to federal victims, and we work closely with them on training and demonstration efforts.

       OJP is more than a grant-making agency. We provide training, technical assistance, and information resources. We also are focused on moving research from the lab to the field so practitioners can use what's been shown to work.

       We have an agency-wide effort called the Evidence Integration Initiative, which is designed to improve the quality and quantity of our research and to get information about what works out to jurisdictions. Part of this will be a Crime Solutions Resource Center and a diagnostic center that will offer training and assistance on evidence-based approaches.

       I encourage you to let us know if there are approaches in your districts that are showing evidence of success.

       Finally, I'll refer you to our Fiscal Year 2010 program plan, which includes funding and training opportunities and new OJP initiatives. It's on our Web site, at ojp.gov.

       I've tried to give you a cross-section of examples of some of the work we support in your districts. I hope this has been a helpful overview. You've all been given summaries of the active funding in each of your districts, so you can see what sorts of projects we're funding in your jurisdictions.

       Again, welcome to the Department of Justice, and I look forward to working with you.

       Thank you.

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