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

Attorney General's Advisory Committee Meeting
December 3, 2009
Washington, DC

       Thank you. I'm pleased to be here. And let me congratulate you all on your appointment to the AG's Advisory Committee.

       I'm sure you heard from the Associate earlier about how important the AGAC is in guiding the Department. I'll second that for OJP.

       Let me just take a minute to tell you about OJP, for those of you who may not be familiar with us. Our role is mainly to support state, local, and tribal criminal and juvenile justice efforts. We do this through funding, training, technical assistance, statistics, and research, and by getting information out about promising practices.

       One of our most important roles - as I see it - is to get information out to the field about programs that have been shown to work. You've heard the Attorney General talk about encouraging evidence-based approaches to public safety. One of our big OJP-wide efforts is an effort we call the Evidence Integration Initiative, which is designed to improve the quantity and quality of evidence that we generate through our research, evaluation, and statistical functions, and to better integrate evidence in program and policy decisions.

       U.S. Attorneys are key to our work - we view you as our eyes and ears in the field. U.S. Attorneys have been close partners with OJP for many years, and I want to build on that partnership. We're looking for opportunities to expand our relationship with U.S. Attorneys. In fact, we're working on a parallel track with state attorneys general and district attorneys, and we've heard from them that they want to coordinate their work with you. We've already had several conversations with incoming U.S. Attorneys and EOUSA about how we can improve our coordination efforts. I think working with the AGAC is the next big step toward that goal.

       The AGAC is a very important vehicle to reach out to U.S. Attorneys, and I hope we can explore here how to maximize that link. And I'll just put in a plug - as you work on developing your list of subcommittees, I'd ask that you seriously consider a subcommittee on OJP. We've had this in the past, and some of you - like you, Todd - were involved with that. It's a great way to ensure coordination between our federal prosecutors and local communities.

       I'd like to take a few minutes to talk specifically about coordination efforts between OJP and U.S. Attorneys.

       We have a committee of representatives from across OJP working with EOUSA and pulling in LECs and the COPS Office to explore how we can improve coordination, particularly with regard to grants. We held the first conference call on November 18. Specifically, we:

  • Discussed updates of funding, training, technical assistance opportunities, and webinars, research, and publications.
  • Had good exchange about how to improve coordination.
  • And talked about involving LECs in planning of OJP events, including giving USAOs opportunities to co-sponsor or co-host.

       The call was recorded so that others not in attendance could listen later. And we'll continue with these calls.

       Generally, we're making a concerted effort to coordinate grant activities with U.S. Attorneys. For example, we prepared reports of active grants for each of your districts, which are being shared with EOUSA, and every U.S. Attorney will get one electronically. EOUSA will also get us a list of LEC names and contact info, which we'll provide to each of our bureaus so we can improve outreach on individual projects and activities.

       OJP representatives have also been invited to LECC Working Group meetings convened by EOUSA. Pam Cammarata from our Bureau of Justice Assistance is addressing that group today.

       BJA is also working on a "Secure Communities" portal, which will give LECs a closed forum to communicate with BJA staff. We're still working out the mechanics (BJA is awaiting approval from JMD on our Web 2.0 applications).

       One big issue is the vetting of grant applications. We're exploring the capability of providing electronic notification of applications when they move to the peer review stage. In theory, this would give USAOs an opportunity to vet - to flag whether there are any investigations targeting the applicant. One issue with this is its feasibility, given the volume of notifications USAOs would receive from OJP. Since COPS already does this, EOUSA is looking at how that process works with COPS grants. In other words, how often do LECs comment on proposed COPS awards? The EOUSA and OJP coordination group will then make a recommendation on how to handle vetting.

       As I mentioned, in the November 18 conference call, we discussed some current training opportunities and other activities. I'll just highlight some of them:

  • BJA is hosting a series of training sessions on performance measures and reporting requirements for Recovery Act JAG grantees. The remaining 3 sessions have been coordinated with the LECs.
  • BJA also awarded $25 million under the Second Chance Act, including a grant for the National Reentry Resource Center, which provides training and technical assistance and information to state, local, and tribal agencies. The resource center is now up and running.
  • Our Community Capacity Development Office worked with EOUSA to coordinate an announcement of training on drug prevention and intervention in Weed and Seed sites.
  • We talked about how LECs can access the National Criminal Justice Reference Service to get updates on upcoming trainings, conferences, publications. There are also topical listserves based on areas of interest.
  • USAOs can also request training and technical assistance online for victim-witness coordinators through the Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center.
  • Also, our National Institute of Justice funded an evaluation of Project Safe Neighborhood and found it to be effective in reducing crime. For example, the evaluation found that reductions were greater in cities with higher levels of federal prosecution.
  • NIJ will also soon release an evaluation of the High Point/Drug Market Intervention.

       Also, on Monday we released our Program Plan, which includes current funding and training opportunities and new OJP initiatives. I encourage you to share that resource with your colleagues in your districts. It's on our Web site, at www.ojp.gov.

       Before signing off, I encourage you not to think of OJP as a big ATM machine. We do provide funding, but I think some of our most important resources are in the areas of training, information, and research - and those resources are available to you. I look forward to working together, and I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on how we can better coordinate.

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