For advocates of prison reform like us at NCIA, it was welcome to read that the administration’s proposed FY 2019 budget “Strengthens Prisoner Reentry Programming” in the BOP by providing $739 million in funding for reentry programming:
Yet, aside from this lone mention in the overall “An American Budget,” there is no evidence that the DOJ actually intends to ask Congress for (or spend) additional money on reentry. It is entirely unclear where the $739 million is to be found in the budget. First, there is no relevant proposed change to the appropriations language from FY 2017, so none of the supposed spending on reentry will be mandated. Also, the BOP FY 2019 “Budget Request At A Glance” does not include any provision for an increase in reentry services (though it does include $10 million for an “Apprenticeship Initiative”).
The FY 2019 Second Chance Act request of $48 million is a substantial decrease from the FY 2017 appropriation of $68 million, so it is hard to see how reentry is “strengthened” by reducing SCA funding. For FY 2018, Trump’s BOP similarly requested a $20 million drop in funding for the SCA grants program, so it appears the administration is staying consistent in its commitment to reducing this funding to under $50 million. By comparison, the Obama administration requested $100 million for SCA grants for FY 2017 (although Congress only ended up appropriating $68 million).
To be fair, when it passed the FY 2017 Continuing Resolution, Congress didn’t specify whether it was or was not appropriating any of the additional $91.3 million for reentry that the Obama administration requested- they just approved a lump sum. Nevertheless, if we assume that the funding was in fact included in the overall Salaries and Expenses appropriation of just over $7 billion, it is easy to compare FY 2017 to FY 2019. Obama’s $91.3 million request was on top of the $456.6 million that was spent at the time on reentry services, for a total request for FY 2017 of $547.9 million.
So where in the proposed FY 2019 budget is the mystery ~$200 million increase in reentry spending ($739 million less $547 million)? Maybe the BOP is creatively including more categories of spending under the “reentry services” umbrella. It wouldn’t be the first time Trump’s BOP has played fast and loose with hundreds of millions of dollars. Whatever the case, NCIA continues to urge members of Congress to mandate spending on reentry programs in the budget- including for evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which was inexplicably removed from Residential Reentry Centers in April last year.