In what is surely one of the worst audit fails in the history of DOJ audits, the Inspector General for the DOJ paid a visit to Dallas County, Texas earlier this year and took a look at their payment requests for something called the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative (SWBPI). Before we get to the details of the SWBPI, let’s jump first to the embarrassment of the bottom line: of $1.3 million requested by Dallas County in 2009, $1.2 million was “deobligated.” That is, found to be bogus. Of the $891,077 that actually went out in the two years before and year after that Year of the Big Lies, the auditor found $520,549 to be disallowed, unsupported, unnecessary, or unreasonable. If criminal courts got graded the way NYC restaurant do, Dallas County would get an F-and be padlocked before sundown.
So what was the program that produced this gigantic fail? The audit report describes the SWBPI having been established immediately after 9/11, when Congress started paying state, county, parish, tribal, and municipal governments for
“the prosecution of criminal cases declined by local U.S. Attorneys’ offices…The SWBPI guidelines define federally initiated as a case resulting from a criminal investigation or an arrest involving federal law enforcement authorities for a potential violation of federal criminal law. This may include investigations resulting from multi-jurisdictional task forces, such as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF).”
For prosecuting cases that the U.S. Attorneys found too trivial to prosecute, Dallas County (and other participants in the SWBPI) were paid on a schedule based on length of disposition: $1,250 for each case of 1 to 15 days; $2,500 for each case of 16 to 30 days; $3,750 for each case of 31 to 90 days; $5,000 for each case over 90 days.
If the person being prosecuted is held in jail for the period, the payment amount doubles. So pick up a case deemed by the feds to be too trivial to prosecute, hold the accused in jail for 90 days, and collect $10,000. Hardly surprising Dallas County saw the program as a cash machine. The audit did not make any assessments whether SWBPI was encouraging unnecessary prosecutions and detentions.
PDF of the audit, including the Dallas County Court’s unapologetic response, here.