NPR logo Budget Analysis By Issue: Justice

Budget Analysis By Issue: Justice

The president's fiscal 2011 budget includes $29.2 billion for the Department of Justice, an increase of $2 billion over the previous year.

The budget includes $73 million for the transfer, prosecution and incarceration of Guantanamo Bay detainees. It also allocates $237 million to acquire, renovate and staff Thompson prison in Illinois. The administration plans to use Thompson as an indefinite detention facility for roughly 50 Guantanamo detainees deemed unsuitable for trial or release.

The biggest jump in funding comes in assistance for state, local and tribal law enforcement. The second-highest increase is in money for prisons, detention and judicial security.

Analysis: This budget suggests that Guantanamo prison may not close until late in President Obama's first term. Congress can enact the budget no earlier than October 1, 2010, and the federal government cannot acquire Thompson prison until then. Then Thompson must be renovated and staffed. At a Justice Department briefing, Assistant Attorney General Lee Lofthus said detainees may arrive at Thompson in the first months of 2011 at the earliest. Closing Guantanamo was one of Obama's key campaign promises, and it would be a political liability for him to run for reelection with the detention center still open.