CHICAGO (AP) The safety of southern Illinoisans could be put at risk if congressional budget cuts force federal prosecutors to take extended furlough days, the U.S. attorney for the region said.

If there’s no budgetary fix, the U.S. Department of Justice will require 16 days of unpaid leave in the coming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, Steve Wigginton told the Belleville News-Democrat.

FBI special agents and deputy U.S. marshals would be similarly affected.

“What the citizens of southern Illinois will see is a decrease in the number of investigations and prosecutions,” Wigginton said in a recent interview. “They will see a decrease in the number of individuals that are brought to justice. Public safety will suffer a setback.”

The district already saw its $6 million annual budget slashed by 4 percent earlier this year, if Congress doesn’t act, another 15 percent cut looms for next year, Wigginton said.

The region’s top federal prosecutor added that it was especially unfair for his office to face such deep cuts when through fines and settlements it generates around $24 million for federal coffers each year.

Prosecutors, courts and federal agencies nationwide have expressed concern and anger about cuts. Supporters say that, however painful in the short term, they are needed to rein in out-of-control spending.

Some reserve money enabled the Justice Department to avert furloughs over the last several months, but those funds have since been depleted.

Nearly everyone in Wigginton’s office will have to go on unpaid leave, he said. According to the rules, the only person not mandated to take furloughs days is Wigginton himself.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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