US spending on police, prisons headed wrong direction

Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Organizers and Candidates, n°83 | 26 May 2021

If you find these notes useful, you can support this newsletter here and SPRI, here. Sharing these newsletters also helps. Thank you!

Police get a lot of subsidies from the federal government. I’ve written before about the 1033 program, DOD’s domestic arms dumping initiative. But the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) both have grant programs for police, too. In 2020, DHS gave out $1.12 billion in grants to state/local police, DOJ gave out $1.89 billion.

Those last two are monetary grants unlike the 1033 program, which is measured in terms of the original acquisition value of the matériel received (so one would say “DOD sent $102 million worth of military equipment to police through the 1033 program in 2020” or whatever). Because weapons are less fungible than cash assistance, it’s little wonder that 1033 acquisitions don’t supplant local investments in police budgets, they just inflate them.

But I don’t see much evidence that the cash programs are driving state/local police expenditures down, either, at least when viewed in the aggregate (same can be said for incarceration costs):

A reference point for those latest figures:


Thanks for your time,

Stephen (@stephensemler; stephen@securityreform.org)

Find this note useful? Please consider becoming a supporter of SPRI. Unlike establishment think tanks, we rely exclusively on small donations.