Understanding JAG Funding

The funding is intended to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system at the state and local levels

By Linda Gilbertson
PoliceOne Columnist

You’ve probably heard of JAG — the official name is the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, but most people refer to it simply as JAG. The money, which is available annually, comes from the US Department of Justice / Bureau of Justice Assistance and is intended to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system at the state and local levels. To accomplish this, there are actually two separate funding streams to JAG — one is given directly to states and the other directly to cities and/or counties.

The pot of money for local funding is allocated by the federal government based on a formula, which includes population statistics and crime data. You will need to check with your own governing jurisdiction to find out if they receive JAG funding and if they make it available to your agency.

In addition to the local funds, each state gets a separate allotment of JAG grant funds, also formula-based. The State Administering Agency (SAA) for the JAG program is different for each state. For example, in Florida the JAG program is administered by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In Kentucky, it’s the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. It’s a good idea to find which agency in your state has that authority so you know who to contact about the funding.

The nice thing about JAG is that it generally enables jurisdictions to decide what is best for them, within the confines of the overall goal of the program, which is to prevent and control crime. For law enforcement agencies, this can be the best resource for items you can’t fund under your annual budget or through other competitive grants, such as equipment, training, personnel, technical assistance, and many other items that are necessary to the day-to-day operation of your agency.

Typically, each jurisdiction (the city/county or the SAA) makes its own determination as to the distribution of the JAG funds – who is eligible to receive it, how that is determined, and the specific topic areas it will fund within the general guidelines of BJA. That could mean that you, as the law enforcement agency for the jurisdiction, are guaranteed to receive funding and can decide how to spend it to best suit your current needs.  But it could also mean the awarding entity will require full grant applications for the funds on an open, competitive basis.

In many instances, law enforcement agencies aren’t the only ones eligible to receive JAG funding, so you could be in competition with a lot of other projects. Courts, corrections and even non-profit organizations could be awarded JAG funds for their projects. It’s important for you to fully understand what the SAA or your local jurisdiction will likely fund when you begin the process of requesting JAG funds, and that you are ready to submit a strong application when the time comes.

Overall the amount of available JAG funds has decreased steadily over the past few years, but there are signs that the funding could increase next year. Begin a conversation with your state and local funding entities early so you can be ready to take advantage of this important funding resource when it becomes available.

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