New anti-violence funding system draws anger

A number of anti-violence community organizations are crying foul about how the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice has doled out $3.5 million in grant money.

Allen Nance, head of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, acknowledged that there was a break from tradition when awarding money to organizations that serve at-risk children.

Nance said funding this year was awarded primarily to those groups that serve children already in the legal system, a trend, he said, that is seen across the nation and one proven to work. Funding was also awarded this year to services that try to change children’s “attitudes, values and beliefs that support criminal behavior,” monolingual services and services exclusively for girls.

The Juvenile Justice Providers Association, an organization representing about 26 anti-violence community-based groups, has come out in opposition to the funding choices, saying the dropoff in funding for these groups will result in layoffs, service cuts and the loss of key services for at-risk children.

This year, 31 requests for funding totaling $4.9 million came into the criminal justice office. There was $3.5 million ingrants available.

Nance said given the record-setting 96 homicides last year and the 58 homicides to date this year, “We have to rethink the way we fund programs.”

Added Nance: “What we have done in the past hasn’t worked as it needs to.”

Jessica Hazard, chair of the JJPA, said that with almost every dollar going toward services for children already in the legal system, children “already showing the behaviors” for committing crimes will receive even less support. “A kid [now] has to get caught to receive the services,” Hazard said.

She said Nance’s new funding priority takes money away from groups like Brothers Against Guns, which is in the community, on the frontlines, talking children out of a crime lifestyle.

Groups like these, she said, are on-call at all hours of the day.

Hazard said Nance’s new funding philosophy is “academic” and “unrealistic.”

Nance acknowledged the change in who receives funding was a dramatic one and that more time could have helped the community groups better prepare.

But, he said, “We could not afford to delay this shift, given the gravity of what we’re seeing in the community with violent crime.”

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes one of the highest-crime neighborhoods — Western Addition — said he intends to call for a hearing on the funding choices when the Board of Supervisors reconvenes in September.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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