One of the largest and wealthiest components of the Justice Department is undergoing mammoth changes that some critics say could hurt its ability to function independently to carry out its mission — helping state and local governments fight crime.

During the last six years, the budget for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) has skyrocketed from $800 million in 1994 to more than $4 billion this year. The division, which employs roughly 900 people, is devoted to studying and funding a broad range of criminal justice issues and programs, including those focusing on drug-related violence, gangs, and juvenile delinquency.

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