Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Newsletter


Federal Emergency Management Agency Affected by Government Shutdown

The federal government shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history, entering day 33 since a continuing resolution expired at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 21. The government shutdown is partial, meaning some agencies (about 75 percent) are fully funded and not affected. However, that is not the case for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is funded through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and one of the agencies whose funding expired in December. As a result, much of FEMA’s operations are halted, except activities funded from sources other than annual appropriations and activities that are deemed necessary for the safety of life and property.   

Some of these operations include:

  • Disaster Operations through the Disaster Relief Fund.
  • The Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program.
  • The Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program.
  • Incident Management Assistance Teams.
  • Federal Coordinating Officer Operations.

Some activities that are temporarily discontinued include strategic planning, budget planning, responding to correspondence, long term project management, professional development, and exercises. On Jan. 21, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) released the latest compromise proposal to reopen the government, which included partial amnesty for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program recipients, $12.7 billion in disaster relief funds, and $5.7 billion for a border wall. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Thursday. If the measure does not receive the necessary 60 votes, the Senate will then consider a stopgap spending measure that would fund the closed agencies until mid-February, while negotiations continue.  It is uncertain whether either measure will pass the Senate and it has been reported that the House will not consider the Shelby proposal, even if passed.

DOJ Training on the Dark Web Cancelled Due to Government Shutdown

The federal government shutdown has forced the U.S. Department of Justice to cancel its January training for federal prosecutors on how to develop strategies to combat criminal activities on the dark web. According to the class description, the Dark Market and Online Investigations Seminar featured strategies from “prosecutors, agency investigators, and agency counsel responsible for several well-known dark market investigations, takedowns, and prosecutions, including PlayPen, Silk Road, and AlphaBay.” The Office of Justice Programs and the Bureau of Justice Assistance are also now non/minimally operational as their funding ran out on Jan. 18.

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act Reauthorization Becomes Law

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) was signed into law on Dec. 21. Overshadowed by news of the First Step Act’s swift and sudden movement through Congress, the JJDPA passage marks a critical moment in juvenile justice reform. Reviewed, revised, and postponed for over a decade, the bill implements a new version of the JJDPA that previously expired in 2007, and favors a more collaborative effort among parents, teachers, and community members in addressing juvenile offenders

Initially enacted in 1974, the original law aimed to focus federal and state efforts to improve juvenile justice systems on education and rehabilitation—trading federal grants for compliance with basic juvenile justice standards. Over the years, many of these state juvenile justice programs have improved outcomes for juvenile offenders—but not all have produced the same results, and there remain serious inequities in the system. Now, years later, JJDPA aims to improve on this framework by:

  • Providing greater flexibility to state and local leaders in meeting the needs of delinquent youth in their communities.
  • Improving support for prevention services, allowing at-risk youth to avoid the justice system altogether
  • Prioritizing evidence-based strategies with proven track records.
  • Authorizing funding for tutoring, mental health, and drug and alcohol programs for children.
  • Barring states from holding children in adult jails, even if they’ve been charged with adult crimes. In so doing, the bill eliminates a loophole in earlier versions of the law allowing juvenile offenders to be held in adult jails pretrial.
  • Requiring states that receive related federal funding to track data on racial disparities, and craft state plans to detail how to counter those trends.
  • Banning the shackling of pregnant women.

For more information, read NCSL’s Principles of Effective Juvenile Justice Policy.

FEMA Releases Guidance on New Management Cost Reimbursement Increases in DRRA

Following the passage of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) in October, FEMA has focused its efforts on implementation of the new law. Before the partial government shutdown furloughed much of the agency’s staff, it was able to release guidance on how states can take advantage of new management cost reimbursement increases applicable to the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and the Public Assistance Grant. Section 1215 of the DRRA amends the Stafford Act to establish increased and fixed reimbursement rates to state and local governments for direct and indirect administrative costs associated with disaster recovery efforts. This includes no more than 15 percent for hazard mitigation and 12 percent for essential assistance, repair, restoration and replacement, debris removal and transportation assistance. Additional details can be found on FEMA’s website.

Disaster Funds Disbursement Stalls at Federal Level

In February 2018, Congress passed legislation appropriating $16 billion to states to help cover the costs of recovery and mitigation efforts through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The measure allocated $8.3 billion to Puerto Rico, $4 billion to Texas, $1.2 billion to Louisiana, $774 million to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and $550 million to Florida. Despite nearly a year since the legislations passage, HUD has yet to issue guidance that directs states on how to apply for this critical and sizable aid package. With tornado and flood season fast approaching and another hurricane season a mere seven months away, some state officials are growing concerned over the availability of these funds. Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush issued a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in early January urging HUD to issue guidance and disburse funding without further delay. Unfortunately, the current partial government shutdown has served to extend this delay, as relevant staff at HUD are furloughed until Congress can pass a spending deal.

NCSL Blog: The Controversy Over Gang Databases

A new NCSL blog explores the controversy over gang databases. As violent crime by young people has been declining, concern over an apparent rise in gang membership has led states and localities to rely on gang databases used to measure and assess the extent of gang activity in communities. Opponents of gang databases however, assert the databases, are fraught with serious problems and raise serious concerns about the extent of police surveillance.

Pew Charitable Trusts’ New Tool on Juvenile Detention

Earlier this month, NCSL’s blog featured a new, interactive tool from The Pew Charitable Trusts that highlights data from the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and sheds new light on who is in juvenile detention and why. The most recent data, from 2015, shows that 10,885 of the 48,043 juveniles held in residential facilities across the United States on a single day were confined for non-criminal infractions such as status offenses or probation violations.

DHS Releases New Active Shooter Incident Kits Under Campus Resilience Program

The DHS Office of Intergovernmental Affairs’ Office of Academic Engagement recently released Exercise Starter Kits designed specifically for the K-12 community that focus on an active shooter incident as part of its Campus Resilience (CR) Program. The kits are a set of tools and resources for the academic community to self-conduct a tabletop exercise. They reinforce specific emergency plans, protocols, and procedures, while also testing and strengthening preparedness, response, and recovery capabilities. The new K-12 kits are available at the elementary school level, middle and junior high schools, and high school. They are part of the CR Program’s other suite of Exercise Starter Kits, which are designed for institutions of higher education and focus on a cyber-breach, hurricane, and active shooter incident.

Additional Resources

The Federal Commission on School Safety’s Final Report.
White House Primer on Local-State-Federal Partnership in Disaster Relief.

From the NCSL Blog       

Election Legislation: Coming Soon to a State Near You (Jan. 22)
State and Local Legal Center Files Amicus Brief In Agency Authority Case (Jan. 18)
Nevada Legislature Makes History with Female Majority (Dec. 19)