Highlights of the House Justice & Public Safety Budget
- Total General Fund budget of $2.09 billion; nearly half is dedicated to prisons.
- Increase of 1.6 percent over 2007-08; increase of 14.9 percent over 2006-07.
- Adds 315 new positions (79 new positions plus those authorized for 2008-09 last year).
- Authorizes $90 million in special indebtedness (COPs) for prison expansion – $45 million for women’s health and mental health care and $45 million for new wings at three men’s prisons. Provides $12.7 million in capital for JPS agencies.
Significant or Contentious Items:
- $3 million for to-be-determined improvements to the probation system; outside study of probation system; separate study of probation officer compensation.
- $1 million for the cost of victims’ rape examinations, including insurance co-pays.
- New substance abuse treatment facility for women parolees and probationers.
- Repeal of the provision passed last year shifting the cost of courthouse telephone systems from the State to counties (see amendments on reverse).
- Elimination of some of the expansion approved last year, including three special superior court judges and staff. These positions were included in the 2007-09 budget but were not requested by the court system.
- Inclusion of the Director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services in the judicial retirement system.
- $1 million for the N.C. Sheriff’s Association to providing training and technical assistance for immigration enforcement.
- Budget an anticipated increase of $1.5 million in federal receipts for reimbursement for incarcerating illegal aliens.
- Establish reserves to fund costs associated with HB 44 (DV Orders/Repeat Violators) and SB 869 (Sex Offender/Register E-Mail Address) if those bills pass. No other reserves for pending legislation.
- Allows the Dept. of Correction to pay for temporary housing for homeless offenders on probation or parole – housing is limited to places such as shelters and halfway houses – locations such as hotels and nursing homes were prohibited by amendment.
- Two policy issues to be studied: (1) The impact of increasing the maximum age for the juvenile criminal justice system from under 16 to under 18. (2) Identification of misdemeanors that should be decriminalized.
Continuation Review Results:
Four JPS programs were placed on continuation review in 2007-08. This meant they received one-time money instead of their usual recurring appropriation, and had to prove their effectiveness in order to be funded in 2008-09. The budget proposed in House Appropriations restored – and expanded – funding for two of the four programs. House Floor amendments restored funding for the other two programs.
- Criminal Justice Partnership Program: Restored all $9.2 million in funding and increased funding by another $500,000.
- Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils: Restored all $22.7 million in funding and increased funding by another $1 million. New language requires more detailed annual reports and a study of the funding distribution formula.
- Conference of District Attorneys and Conference of Clerks: House Appropriations budget did not restore funds for these conferences. An amendment on the floor restored all $523,000 and all 7 positions.
Items that showed up in the Appropriations and Floor amendment processes:
- $200,000 for the Land Loss Prevention Project and the Financial Protection Law Center to assist low-income homeowners with legal issues related to foreclosure.
- $110,000 in two reserves ($100,000 for the courts, $10,000 for sheriffs) to implement HB 44 if it becomes law. HB 44 increases the penalty for a second violation of a domestic violence protection order (current law increases the penalty on the fourth violation).
- House Floor amendment to reduce funds for representation of indigent defendants:
- Governor’s budget had $3 million in one-time funds to fund increased demand for private attorneys who represent indigent criminal defendants;
- House Appropriations budget had $1 million in one-time funds;
- Final House budget eliminates the $1 million funding and also cuts $1.6 million of the funds approved last year to expand public defenders in the state.
- Funds cut from indigent defense are instead used to repeal the 2007 provision shifting responsibility for funding courthouse telephone systems from the State to the counties. (Still leaves about a $700,000 reduction in telephone funding.)
- $174,321 for new equipment in the SBI Crime Lab.
- Eliminate the funds ($200,000) allocated for evaluating the Support Our Students program funded through Juvenile Justice.
- Change funding for the National Guard’s Tarheel Challenge dropout prevention program from recurring to nonrecurring to match the requirement for a continuation review of the program. However, the budget still contains expansion funds of $193,000 (non-recurring) for Tarheel Challenge.
- $200,000 for Operation Kids on Guard to help children of National Guard members cope with deployment fears.
- Nearly $300,000 increase in chemical dependency treatment for male inmates.
- Reduction of nearly $700,000 in the expansion of contractual funds for the Department of Correction (net expansion now $1.2 million) – this expansion item was reduced to fund three different items through amendments.