Female Sexuality in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus: Lavinia and Tamora

 

There is an irony to the fact that Lavinia and Tamora are the only women in the Shakespearian tragedy Titus Andronicus.  These two women are the complete opposites of one another in almost every aspect, representing two spectrums of femininity.  Lavinia represents the socially acceptable practices and lifestyles of women in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe.  This is because she is both graceful and passive. Tamora, on the other hand, displays the negative examples of femininity seen through her vulgar sexuality and behavior. Tamora vows revenge on the Andronicus family, practices promiscuity by maintaining an affair, and aids in committing murder and corruption while Lavinia is the opposite. Lavinia kneels to her father, maintains her chastity, and remains powerless in her relationships with the men.  In terms of love and sexuality, they maintain their differences. Lavinia is pure, innocent, and virginal whereas Tamora is married more than once and familiar with her sexuality. With this in mind, the play displays vivid images of women and their roles in society; the sadistic and sexual Tamora and the innocent and defenseless Lavinia.

Within the first act of the play Tamora is a loving mother. Like all mothers she is willing to do everything for her family. This includes pleading with Titus to spare the life of her first son.  After her new husband Saturninus chooses to marry her, Tamora speaks sweet promises and words of affection to her husband. However, the sentiment is not innocent. She states she will be “a handmaid be to his desires, A loving nurse, a mother to his youth”(I.i,337).  Tamora presents herself as a 17th century MILF. Middle aged with adult children, she lets the audience know that she is not naive about sex. The statement introduces that audience to her character as assertive because she is outspoken when it comes to men and does not hesitate to express her feelings.  Although Tamora has just met Saturninus before their wedding, it does not take long demonstrate her sexual freedom. Tamora comes to represent power that women possess including men and sexuality.

As Tamora’s contrast, Lavinia is viewed as true and virtuous. This is observed when Lavinia kneels in her father’s honor in the first scene.  The virtue of her femininity is seen again when Saturninus asks Lavinia’s father, Titus, for her hand in marriage.  Saturninus describes Lavinia as “Rome’s royal mistress” and “thy name and honorable family”(I.i,243).  Here, the reader is aware of Lavinia’s youthful age as a young woman suitable for marriage and also desirable by two men Saturninus and Bassianus.  With the new emperor of Rome asking for Lavinia’s hand in marriage it is implied that her virginity is intact. She is what the average man wants. Lavinia is loyal to her father and society. She lives up to the standards of what a woman should be.  As a result, she is submissive and defenseless. When Bassianus “seizing[es] Lavinia” and protest to Saturninus marriage proposal with an exclamation that “this maid is mine.”  Bassainus does not hesitate to show ownership and control over Lavinia in which, Lavinia remains passive. She does not take this opportunity to be assertive and state to her father who she wants to marry.  She just stands in the scene, allowing her father to use his best judgment of her future.

Tamora remains opposite to Lavinia in her action. This is seen later in the play when Tamora’s affair with Aaron is revealed. Aaron admits his true feelings for her saying, “I will arm thy heart and fit thy thoughts, to mount aloft with thy imperial mistress”(I.i,511). Participating in pre-marital sex with Aaron, Tamora is seen as evil and full of sexual desires.  This is further displayed in Act II when she attempts to persuade Aaron to have sex with her in the woods, asking “let us sit down and mark their yellowing noise;”(II,ii,20).  Tamora’s words expose her sexual liberation. She does not feel tied down by rules and expectations relating to the role of women. Through her sexual promiscuity, Tamora rebels against the social norms in her society.  Even though Aaron is aware that his mistress is now married and queened empress of Rome, he still has intentions to have sex with her.  Thus, by the end of the first act, the readers are aware of Tamora’s promiscuity.  Although most of the first scene displays the typical qualities and behavior of a woman, the end of the scene rebuffs the previous statements. This sets the reader up for her evil corruptions that seen throughout the entirety of the play.

Lavinia’s submissive behavior displays her personality and character. It demonstrates her devotion to her father as she stays within the role of female.  The part that she plays within the structures of the tragedy is passiveness.  Her powerless state is equivalent to her female sexuality.  Her sexuality is stripped from her when she is brutally raped. Her purity is now mutilated, her virginity and virtue taken. The passiveness that she maintains, even after her rape, is a representation of herself and family.  By keeping her virtue, she keeps the high merit of her family and the ability to marry a man of high stature and wealth.  Her father choosing her suitor displays his need to watch over and protect her into her new life as a wife.  Titus reveals his own devotion towards his daughter as he attempts to keep her pure and away from harm even after her sexual assault.

In the end, both Lavinia, and then Tamora are dead.  Each died at the hand of another and for different reasons.  Titus kills his only daughter because of her lost virginity and virtue.  Before killing her he states: “thy shame with thee, and with thy shame thy father sorrow die.”  He kills her to rid her of her shame and ridicule that is marked upon her mutilated body. He also kills her to rid Titus of his own shame of the brutal rape and the helplessness of his daughter.  With her purity lost, she felt shame. This is the same shame that comes with the essence of rape is never gained back.  She herself wanted to die if she did not have her dignity and chastity.  Tamora, on the other hand, found herself in a continuous spin of evil, corruption, and deception.  She is punished and killed because of her power, while Lavinia was killed because of her powerlessness.  Tamora’s power was channeled through her growing sexual freedom and her part in the deaths and mutilation that occurred throughout the play.  Ironically enough both women brought apprehension towards their male counterparts.  They challenged the male illusion of what a woman is to be as well as what she represents.  They stood on different ends of the spectrum and still the men around them felt threaten. The men were intimidated by the self-reliance of these women. For Titus, the traditional role of the female was problematic.  The end of the play placed him into the role of nurturer and protector towards his daughter. This occurred with Tamora’s lover Aaron as well.   He took the attributes of a mother when it came to his baby, a son.  In the last scenes he asked for the child’s life to be spared.  Good and evil of the men were eliminated to fatherhood as Titus and Aaron attempt to protect their children.

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Love and Courtship in Classic Literature

Courtship is a popular topic among writers of the 16th and 17th century Europe as seen through the poetry and plays of this era. From this, readers can distinguish how men and women court one another. This includes how couples date and treat each other through the concept of chivalry. The idea of chivalry of originates with Knights and the Kings Court. It suggests that a man must romance a woman through promises of love. Love becomes a key element in these works as Knights were expected to woo women by doing good deeds and shows gifts of affection. Poets and dramatist began to glamorize these acts chivalry within their works, some condoning chivalry while others satirizing it.  Women are also depicted as practicing chivalry as an attempt to win over the hearts of men. They did this through promises and pleas of bountiful love and adoration. Classical writers of this time, including Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, and Christopher Marlowe, showed no diversity in acts of chivalry, courtship, and love. The treatment of women remains consistent with ideals of courtship through vows and promises to honor love and marriage that is often reciprocated.

 

Poet Ben Jonson in Song: To Celia, shows a prime example of how men dote on women through chivalry and courtship. The poem demonstrates that chivalry is practiced  whether or not a maidens accepts or rejects these sentiments. If a maiden rejects them, a man will practice chivalry by presenting them with gifts and affection, as well as other good deeds to prove their loyalty.  Although the narrator does not make extra attempts to woo her, the narrator continuous to show interest towards the Lady.  He starts the poem saying: “I will pledge with mine, or leave a kiss but in the cup; and I’ll not look for wine”(2-4).  In this line he shows his devotion by stating he will substitute wine for a kiss. It shows not only devotion but desire as the narrator compares her lips to a cup of wine, but it is her lips that he thirsts after. He promises that even if his soul pleads for thirst he still would not except it because her kiss is a better substitute.  After he makes this promise he sends her the gifts to win her over when he says, “I sent thee late a rosy wreath,”(9).  He did not send her a bouquet of roses, he sent her a wreath signifying a unified circle or rather the symbol of love and marriage that is associated with a wedding ring.  He blatantly admits that “thereon didst only breathe, sent’st it back to me;”(14); meaning that all she did was “breathe” or take a short moment before sending the flowers back.  This makes the reader understand that the narrator is not upset or dismayed. It is observed through the voice of the narrator. Even though he is rejected, he continues his invitation for love. The narrator is not silenced so quickly as he continues to show affection. “Since when it grows and smells, I swear, Not of itself, but thee”(15-16).  From this statement it is understood that even though she has rejected him, his love for her is still strong. Although the reader knows that this is not possible, it gives a clear understanding of his act of chivalry. The narrator is willing to wear his heart on his sleeve and bear his feelings, even at the risk of rejection.

 

Shakespeare has famously written about love and chivalry through his works. In many cases, women are observed being just as romantic and displaying acts of chivalry as their male counterparts. In these incidents female characters seek out their objects of affections. Some of these women are brazen and bold, unafraid of failure or rejection.  This can be seen in the character Helena, in the comedy Midsummer Night’s Dream. Throughout the play Helena goes unscathed by the fact that her main affection, Demetrius, does not love her. In fact he seems to hate her with every passing moment.  Throughout scene i of act II Demetrius runs from Helena in attempt to elude her.  Despite this, Helena does not submit and continues to swear by love.  After Demetrius tells Helena that he “do[es] not nor cannot love you”(201), Helena exclaims that “even for that I will love you the more”(202).  She goes on to state that “the more you beat me, I will fawn on you”(204). She even begins to “beg in [his] love”(208) by telling him to “use me as your spaniel”(206).  Helena goes on like this throughout Acts I and II desperately pleading for Demetrius’s love.  She appears to have no will or drive contain herself. She puts her integrity on the line by doing this, often appearing desperate or crazed. Her emotionally dramatic appeals and the lengths she goes demonstrates all she is willing to do to make Demetrius love her.  Instead of Demetrius viewing Helena’s love as a proof of her loyalty and devotion, he scorns her and turns her away continuously. He does not succumbing to her passions and is turned away from her because of it.

 

Shakespeare also demonstrates male chivalry in his works. This can be seen through the promises of love Demetrious made towards another throughout MidSummer’s Night Dream. While turning down Helena and her vows of love, Demetrious swooned after Hermia. Even through Demetrious knows that Hermia does not love him, he attempts to force Hermia into marriage. He uses Athenian law and ties with Hermia’s father to persuade her. Demetrious begs her, “relent, sweet Hermia” so the two can marry.  His actions display chivalry of devotion to his love.  This is seen when he follows Hermia into the woods to keep her from marrying someone else. Knowing that Hermia does not love him, he tries to coerce her despite her unhappiness. It depicts chivalry at this time as being on the edge of madness, the inability to accept no for an answer. The carelessness of love shows a hint of insanity as men go out of their way to win a woman’s heart. The satire of the love affair shows chivalry and courtship in a different light. This includes how people can lose themselves in the name of love.  It represents the lengths that people go to show loyalty, devotion, and determination, in order to have love and marriage with the one’s they love. This is through the acts of coxes and promises.

 

The poem by Christopher Marlowe further demonstrates how men attempted to capture a lady by material things and special deeds for love.  In the piece entitled, Passionate Shepherd, he bravely tells a Lady “Come live with me and be my love.”(1). The narrator is direct and straight to the point in his statements. He does not ask her to live with him, he simply tells her then attempt to adorn her with specialties. He believes it might bring her to live with him by offering her promises and vows.  He does not offer her jewels or a rich estate. He offers her beauty that only nature can provide. Everything from what they would do in  “that valleys, groves, hills, and fields; woods, or steepy mountain yields”(3-4), he also promises to coat her with the riches of the lands to dress her from head to foot.  The narrator vows to make her everything from “A cap of flowers,”(11) to “Fair lined slippers for the cold”(15).  His vows and what he would do for her love indicates to the reader that nature is riches and his proof of love.  Though he cannot offer her jewelry or fine clothes, the next best thing is the nature around him.  He wants to lull her into his lifestyle of “shallow rivers to whose falls; Melodioous birds sing madrigals”(7-8) to view nature how he does.  What he can create with nature’s beauty is what he would like to share with his maiden.  He wants to appeal her to nature because that is his perception of beauty as well as what he would like to see in a woman.  To get her he promises to merge his two loves, the love of the Maiden and his love for his surrounds.  To encompass the two he wants to make her “a kirtle; Embroidered all with leaves of “myrtle;” and “A gown made of the finest wool”(11-12).  Then after reciting all that he is willing to do for her, he asks, “if these pleasure may thee move,” (19). Simply asking her that if she likes what she hears, if she wants to live with nature with him and embody herself with its beauty. Doing this she can “come with me, and be my love”(20).  So that she can have what he has to offer and live a life with him.

 

Another comedy written by Shakespeare also displays women’s insistence in the pursuit of love.  In the comedy Twelfth Night, the character, Olivia falls in love at first sight with another character name Cesario.  She is very assertive and direct with her love coming off as a less dramatic character than Helena.  Olivia has less out burst of love and is level headed about the situation.  She appears to be more assertive in her pursuit of Cesario by attempting to chide him with jewels.  First she has her messenger give Cesario a ring in order to bring him back to her palace.  Later when they meet in the garden, she gives him a diamond brooch that contains a picture of herself.  All of these acts are a symbol of her adoration of him.  Olivia giving him riches and jewels also acknowledges her wealth, openly stating to Cesario that he may have more if they “prithee”.  She goes on to admit that she gave Cesario the ring to bring him back.  Putting her pride on the line she curiously asks, “let me hear you speak,”(III, i, 120). After it appears that Cesario is dumbfounded by Olivia’s love and adoration.  Though she does all these things to win Cesario’s affection, the only response he has is “I pity you.”(III, i, 121). While in conversation, Olivia is unable to contain her emotions much longer and releases a passionate declaration of love. She swears “everything, I love thee so, that maugre all thy pride, nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.”(III, i, 146-150)  Despite her spontaneous words of love she is unwanted. Rejected once by Cesario, Olivia does not hesitate to try again later on in Act IV. In this scene she directly asks for his hand in marriage.  This displays the boldness of women in their quest for love.  While most women chose their suitors carefully to ensure she is not married for money, Olivia is willing to share abundant fortune with her “servant”.

 

Courtship and chivalry is an act that couples do which leads to marriage. Individuals show their love and devotion for a love interest which can end with acceptance or rejection. In the two Shakespeare plays analyzed, loyalty and devotion is used in exchange for love. The characters go to great lengths to show their desires and affections. At then end of Mid Summer Night’s Dream, Helena marries Demetrius, and in Twelfth Night, Olivia marries Cesario’s twin brother -which is somewhat the same.  In the selected poetry, the acts of chivalry end in rejection. As seen in Song: To Celia, the narrator is rejected, but still is in love with the Lady.  This is the same for the poem Passionate Shepherd. In another poem written entitled The Nymph’s Reply, the author, Walter Raleigh, replays to the Passionate Shepherd with a poem of rejection. The poem argues that love is fleeting and often fades away. Just how nature dies when it changes to winter, the Shepherd’s love for her will die to.  It claims that the Shepherd’s words were untrue, comparing it to an infatuation or fling because like seasons change so do human feelings. It is heart breaking to see men and women rejected when they’re so loving and devoted to another.  With this ability to sympathize with the characters of the play and other poems, writes portray aspects of love that a 21st century reader can still relate. The idea of men practicing chivalry is still present today in modern America.  Men practicing chivalry is a practice that has been around for hundreds of years and probably will remain for hundreds more. However, the idea of women doing the same in today’s era is a hard concept to digest.  In movies and shows women starting to be more assertive when it comes to love and choosing a life partner. Even still women are not noticed for chivalry and courtship or for promises of love and devotion. They are noticed for their beauty and sexuality. This makes female chivalry displayed in Shakespeare’s comedy a radical concept for today’s time.

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Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence by Adrienne Rich, 1980

Adrienne Rich offers great insight into the male desire for dominance and control. This primal male characteristic is what drives the denial and negative associations given to lesbians and the lesbian existence. Rich gives great detail and history into what she calls, “the institution of heterosexuality and male dominance”, (Rich, 1980, p. 633). She provides a thorough and clever analysis of the male species and their need to dominate women. It is to stimulate the claim that women are weak and dependent creatures that require care and sexualization. The author admits the stereotypes and assumptions placed on women. As a result, Rich cites that women are consumers of victimization throughout history even though they hold the womb and are carriers of life. This causes men to be driven by women; the continuous cycle of coming home. The womb or women is the first source of home both literally and figuratively that is romanticized throughout history and literature.

Rich states: “If women are the earliest sources of emotional caring and physical nurture for both female and male children, it would seem logical, from a feminist perspective at least, to pose the following questions: whether the search for love and tenderness in both sexes does not originally lead toward women”, (Rich, 1980,p. 637). This provides a biological understanding on the case of lesbianism. Doing this Rich gathers credible points against the male denial of lesbian existence and other negative assumptions. Although male dominance has negative effects on feminism, the author answers fundamental questions of why this happens. This includes the real power and influence of women.

Rich goes on to say that, “The male need to control women sexually results from some primal male ‘fear of women’ and of women’s sexual insatiability…is that women could be indifferent to them altogether, that men could be allowed sexual and emotional therefore economic access to women only on women’s terms, otherwise being left on the periphery of the matrix”, (Rich, 1980, p. 644).

The root of the denial of lesbian existence has an apparent cause and effect. By better understanding the sexual harassment and heterosexual pressures that women are placed, the desire for male dominance and the institution of heterosexual male identity becomes clear. It is a failure of inequality and obligations to the important role that women play. They are not only mothers, they are wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, and the necessary function of life and the power and influence of overly sexualized and romanticized male ego.

References

Rich, A. (1980). Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence. Women: Sex and Sexuality. 5(4) p. 631-60.

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Substance Use and Family-Centered Therapy: Adapting Therapy to Meet the Needs of African American Families

Drug abuse and substance addiction is a problem that affects families across the globe. This problem does not discriminate. It affects individuals from all walks of life, regardless of class, age, and cultural background. As a result, it is a problem that affects everyone. To better understand and treat addiction it is important to include family into the therapeutic framework. This is because family relates to “the set of beliefs and values known as ideology and culture”, (McCollum & Trepper, 2001, p. 16). Culture directly influences the individual and their family such as styles of communication, roles, and expectations. Culture is important to counseling. It can predict and determine environmental stressors or even treatment outcomes. To provide effective therapeutic services for families facing addiction, counselors must adapt family-centered therapy strategies to meet the needs of cultural groups. This can be observed in the African American client.

There are factors which can contribute to the onset of substance abuse. These are observed within the family environment. It can be seen in different families from various religions, backgrounds, and socio-economic class. Research conducted by K.L Kumpfer found predictors for substance abuse within the family environment includes:

  • Limited family bonding
  • Chaotic home environment
  • Poor parenting
  • History of substance abuse
  • Social isolation
  • Poor communication of values
  • Lack of discipline

Through the use of family-centered therapy, families facing addiction are able to learn interrelation skills, understanding, improved communication, improvements in parenting, and more. All of these qualities allow individuals and their families to overcome addiction and mend relationships. “Implemented to improve specific problem behavior such as substance abuse… family centered therapy can impact a broad range of other adolescent and adult outcomes such as improved school and job performance, mental health, delinquency, health, and goal attainment”, (Kumpfer, 2014). This is done by engaging family support through understanding and setting goals. However, to address the needs of the individual and their family, counselors must be aware of, acknowledge, and adapt to family culture and cultural differences. This is important to providing effective treatment and positive outcomes.

African Americans represent a unique culture within American society. They are impacted by a history of American slavery, racial discrimination, and social disparities in incarceration, class, and educational outcomes. In addition, African American families are more likely to drop out of therapy and less likely to seek out counseling. (Kelly, 2006). For this reason, therapist must practice cultural sensitivity to encourage participation and growth. When working with all clients whether they are culturally different are similar, counselors must be (1) aware of the significance of culture (2) use cultural differences as an expansion of self and (3) develop uniqueness and understanding of cultural differences, (Kelly, 2006). The best way to do this is to talk about culture. Openly discussing cultural traditions and values that set African Americans apart, counselors can gain an understanding of the African American family.

The aim of family-centered therapy is to treat the family and not the individual. In this way the family is observed as a functioning unit. Culture affects individuals and the whole family. When counseling a family that is culturally different, counselors must modify treatment according to cultural needs and dynamics. Research found that “adapting the program to target the needs and cultural sensitivities of the families… increased program success”, (Kumpfer, 2014). It is important for therapist to address the culture and cultural differences observed in families. This includes validating, supporting, and acknowledging cultural similarities and differences. Gaining understanding of how culture shapes the family structure, counselors can apply appropriate strategies for treatment and improved treatment outcomes.  It can be done by taking simple measures. “Therapists may respectfully ask African Americans to share aspects of their heritage and background of which they are proud, and then acknowledge and validate those strengths”, (Kelly, 2006, p. 109). This can help clients and counselors to develop a rapport with one another and establish comfort as well as address cultural assumptions. In addition, counselors can also use this as an assessment tool and strategy for treatment. For instance, when these cultural strengths are lacking within the family it can be used as a goal to rebuild and reinstate cultural values.

Racism, discrimination, and cultural stereotypes are a problem facing African American families. It also negatively affects individuals within the family as members can internalize these assumptions. When this happens it can encourage poor mental health for the client and his or her relationships with others. “Negative racial identity is strongly associated with greater personal distress… therapist need to assess the degree to which their African American clients internalize racist and self-blaming societal messages”, (Kelly, 2006). This is important because it can affect family structures, roles, and rules. African American men, especially feel the pressures of society including racial bias and cultural stigma. They may feel worthless, less likely to succeed, or encouraged to meet the demands of racial stereotypes. When this occurs it affects the roles and rules for African American women and their relationship with their loved one. In this case women may feel the need to verbally castrate male family members or test their boundaries or male identity. According to Kelly this is also a common theme found in African American families because it comes from social stereotypes. As a result, negative themes related to the African American identity are most often found in those suffering from substance abuse, (Kelly, 2006).

“Family systems theory recognizes and respects the importance of each system in the ecology of the individual, from his or her own internal processes to the social and cultural forces”, (McCollum & Trepper, 2001, p. 16). Family systems theory recognizes the importance of culture and how this shapes the individual and the family unit. This includes the African American culture and family dynamics. Black families are heavily affected by incarceration, single-parent households, and single-mothers. It is a common assumption that African American households are fatherless homes, some children do not know or have a relationship with their father. Regardless of these myths, African Americans are heavily impacted by racial stereotypes and cultural disparities. Family centered therapy recognizes the importance and influence of family as well as how individuals are affected by the family structure. For this reason, family systems theory is a therapeutic approach that is popular to treat individuals suffering from substance abuse. This is because family systems theory recognizes the risks and stressors which stimulate and contribute to addiction. By attacking the problem within his or her family environment, members can develop strategies to improve on themselves as well as their relationships with others. As a result, research has found that, “family based interventions are the most effective way of preventing or treating substance abuse”, (Kumpfer, 2014).

 

References

Kelly, S. (2006). Cognitive-behavioral therapy with African americans. In P.A Hays & G.Y  Iwamasa (Eds.) Culturally responsive cognitive behavioral therapy: Assessment, practice, and supervision (pp. 97-116). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: http://gsappweb.rutgers.edu/cstudents/readings/Summer/Kelly_Diversity/Kelly%202006%20CBT%20with%20African%20Americans.pdf

Kumpfer, K. (2014). Family-based interventions for prevention of substance abuse and other impulse control disorders in girls. International Scholarly Research Notices Addiction. 2014(2). 1-23. Retrieved from: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2014/308789/

Snyder, W. (2013). Understanding the family in context: Family systems theory and practice. In E.E McCollum & T.S Trepper (Eds.) Family solutions for substance abuse: Clinical and counseling approaches (pp. 11-33). New York, NY. Routledge Press.

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Byrne Discretionary Grant Program

With the steady rise of crime over the decades, congress has issued various acts and policies to ensure safety on the streets of America. To finance safety measures government grants are available to help law enforcement, individuals, and organizations combat crime. These special programs aid in crime prevention through different avenues like correctional institution and youth groups. This can be seen in the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.

On February 17, 2009 the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed to legislation by President Obama. This legislation is designed to provide funding to the United States Department of Justice, also referred to the DOJ. The purpose of these funds give individuals and organizations the ability “to combat violence against women, to fight internet crimes against children, to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system, to assist victims of crime, and to support youth mentoring”(DOJ, 2009). If any person wants to help society and reduce unlawful behavior, they may apply for a grant and receive money for these services.

The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 began the history of what is known as the Byrne Discretionary Grant Program. It is the beginning of federal support to diminish crime. After this, came the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 which provided funding for substance abuse and limit drug trafficking. Amended in 1988, the Act “and programs were renamed The Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program” (Laney, 1998). Thereafter Congress has continued to award the program millions of dollars towards crime prevention programs. This includes, “multi- jurisdictional drug and gang task forces, to crime prevention and domestic violence programs, courts, corrections, treatment, and justice information sharing initiatives” (DOJ, 2009).

The Office of Justice Program maintains the yearly budget of net awards provided to the Byrne Discretionary Grant. After the enactment of 1994’s, Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the annual budget had increased significantly. $361 billion was given to the Byrne Program in 1997. A year later, in 1998, Congress gave the program a large surge, receiving $509 million. However, it was last reported, in 2009, that the funding available had reached an access of $1.9 billion. This allows state and local governments the opportunity to either establish or improve current programs or obtain needed service advancement like technology and equipment to better serve and protect.

There is a stringent process to receive these funds. First one must apply for the Byrne Discretionary Grant. This is done by going to the Department of Justice official website to determine eligibility. “Applicants are limited to units of local government” (DOJ, 2009). A unit of local government has a large range. This includes Native American and Alaskan Native tribes and tribal councils to any village, parish, or town. As a result, applicants must be individuals or “organization[s] that performs law enforcement functions” (DOJ, 2009).

To increase likelihood of being awarded with the Byrne Discretionary Grant, the funds must go towards an area of purpose. Although all areas which can reduce crime are acceptable, there are specialty areas that the Dept. of Justice is looking for. This includes drug education and treatment programs to other avenues such as “crime victim and witness programs” (DOJ, 2009). Furthermore, the Dept. of Justice takes interest in technology advances and improvement that will aid the community through crime education and prevention. However, purpose areas are not limited to correction facilities, courts, and youth mentoring programs. It can be half-way houses or domestic violence prevention centers or homeless shelters.

There are several provisions included on how funds are used when allocated. One provision addresses buildings and infrastructure. Monies received may not be used to buy or purchase land or “construction or major renovation to a correctional facility” (DOJ, 2009). In addition, the Byrne Assistance Grant cannot be used outside the arena of law enforcement and crime prevention. “Buy American” requirements are also included, meaning that all goods must be manufactured in America as well as promote job creation and wage requirements if applicable.

To ensure correct use of funds, the care of each grantee is monitored by the Office of Justice Program’s Assistant Attorney General. As requested by the president, use of funds and program progress must be reported to the Justice Program throughout the fiscal year. Thus, “recipients must be prepared to track and report on the specific outcomes and benefits attributable to the use of Recovery Act funds” (DOJ, 2009). Not only must data and information be provided, they must be measured and identified in quarterly reports. Reports include cost, administrative fees, materials, supplies, and other expenses like tracking and program results or material.

Even with government monitoring, it was reported that “monitoring should be better documented” (“Justice Discretionary Grants”, 2001). With a considerable growth of funds given to the Byrne Program, Washington D.C that reports the money was not properly managed. This was seen as “a substantial number of Byrne files did not contain progress and financial reports significant to cover the grant period” (“Justice Discretionary Grants:”, 2001). Some organizations awarded failed to submit any report at all. In addition, a staggering 68% produced their progress reports late and 29% did not contain the monitoring plan that followed the required guidelines.

Close monitoring is a package deal with the grant program. The protocols and rules establish grantees between the government and organizations that funds are used appropriately and with positive results. The Byrne Assistance Program awarded nearly a hundred grants in the year 2000 adding up to $69 million. In the previous year, 110 grants were awarded. As a result, “discretionary funds are awarded on a competitive basis” (Laney, 1998). However, some programs or initiatives can receive priority over others. These priorities are issued by the Byrne Program it’s self with help from Congress. It can be seen in bills passed or amended throughout the Congressional year. In this way, all applications are subject to a review by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

In this world nothing is considered perfect. Most things in life require hard work to become the best it can be. This holds true to the criminal justice system. The system requires assistance to combat crime and reach out to victim. From retraining officers and changing tactics to informational programs for youth, all help is good help to provide a safe environment. Specialized grant program like Byrne Discretionary Grant Program, provides an avenue to crime prevention. It is a useful and creditable source of funding that is closely monitored and ensures a peaceful community for generations to come.

 

Bibliography

(2001). Justice discretionary grants: Byrne program and violence against women office grant monitoring should be better documented (GOA 02 25). Retrieved from General Accounting Office of Washington D.C website: http://books.google.com/books?id=xkZ8NTeUDQEC&pg=PA32&dq=byrne+discretionary+grant+program&hl=en&ei=sp7RTr2rHci4tgfrhOW4DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=byrne%20discretionary%20grant%20program&f=false

Laney, G. (2008). Crime control assistance through the byrne programs (97-265 GOV).Retrieved from CRS Report for Congress website: http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metacrs534/m1/1/high_res_d/97-265gov_1998May20.pdf

(2009). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Assistance website: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/recoveryJAG/JAGrecoveryLock

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