On April 9, President Biden submitted his first discretionary budget request to Congress, which outlines his funding priorities for the 2022 fiscal year. The request spans an array of policy areas and includes several important investments related to the criminal and juvenile justice system—largely through increased funding to the Department of Justice (with an increase of $1.8 billion for a total of $35.2 billion) and the Department of Health and Human Services (with an increase of $25.1 billion for a total of $133.7 billion).
The request prioritizes funding for mental health initiatives to deal with the increased prevalence of mental health disorders particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also increases workforce opportunities for disadvantaged groups—including adults and youth in the justice system.
Here’s a quick breakdown of key initiatives included in the proposal:
1.Criminal Justice System Reforms
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted all facets of the U.S. criminal justice system, highlighting the critical need to decrease the number of people in prison and provide alternatives to incarceration. The discretionary budget includes significant investments to reform federal, state, and local criminal justice systems, with the aim of reducing incarceration and promoting positive outcomes for people within the system. This includes over $1 billion in funding for substance use disorder treatments, reentry services, juvenile justice programs, recidivism reduction, alternative courts, and implementation of the 2018 First Step Act.
2. Access to Mental Health Care and Substance Use Disorder Treatment
Many states and local jurisdictions struggle to treat the large number of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders who cycle through their justice systems. This challenge has been further strained during the COVID-19 pandemic with budget shortfalls across the U.S. President Biden’s budget request includes funding to help mental health providers partner with law enforcement, improve mental health services for incarcerated people, and invest in treatment for individuals with substance use disorders. This includes:
- $1.6 billion for community mental health services block grants to fund comprehensive and community-based mental health resources
- $1 billion to expand mental health resources in schools, including hiring counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals
- $3.9 billion to fight the opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment, and recovery support services, including hiring behavioral health specialists
3. Violence Prevention and Community Policing
Policing practices that create trust and respect between law enforcement and the communities in which they work are crucial to increasing public safety and eliminating systemic inequities in the criminal justice system. Included in President Biden’s budget request are funding for community violence prevention and intervention measures as well as mechanisms to improve policing practices and strengthen connections between law enforcement and the communities they serve. This includes:
- $1.2 billion for programs that support positive police-community relationships, including the Community Oriented Policing Services program; racial sensitivity, hate crime, and implicit bias training; and police innovation programs
- $2.1 billion for gun violence prevention research and programs
- $200 million for a Community Violence Intervention Initiative to support evidence-based and local strategies
4. Resources for Survivors of Domestic and Gender-Based Violence
Rates of reported intimate partner and family violence have increased dramatically during the pandemic. The 2022 discretionary budget would increase resources for victims’ services, especially survivors of domestic violence, through funding for phone hotlines, financial aid, and medical support and services. This includes:
- $1 billion to support Violence Against Women Act programs
- $30.4 billion to expand housing assistance, focusing on people escaping domestic violence situations or experiencing homelessness
5. Racial Equity and Economic Mobility Advancements
Many people returning to their communities post-incarceration struggle to find employment and permanent housing. Historic discrimination and segregation in the housing and labor markets, along with the negative economic fallout of COVID-19, have also disproportionately impacted communities of color. A cornerstone of the budget request is promoting equity and addressing the systemic racism and economic inequality experienced by many people in the U.S. by expanding pathways to employment and housing. This includes:
- $3.8 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program for communities to increase affordable housing options and modernize public infrastructure
- $3.7 billion for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act State Grants to fund career services and training programs aimed at adults and youth with low incomes and people involved in the justice system
This budget request will be followed by a full proposal later this spring. Final funding levels will ultimately depend upon the congressional appropriations process later this year.