Fact Sheet: Justice Department Efforts in Indian Country
The Department of Justice understands the challenges facing Indian Country and is committed to working with the tribes, state and local law enforcement, the Department of the Interior, and others to improve the lives of those living in Indian Country. Over the past several years, the Department has invested significant resources to combat crime and violence in tribal regions across the country. These efforts draw on numerous components, including the FBI, ATF, DEA; U.S. Attorneys Offices, the Office of Tribal Justice, the Office on Violence Against Women, the Civil Rights Division, the Office of Justice Programs, the Office of Community Relations Services, and the Environment and Natural Resources Division. Some of the efforts of these agencies and offices are outlined below.
Office of Tribal Justice
The Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ) was established to provide a single point of contact within the Department of Justice for meeting the broad and complex Department responsibilities related to Indian tribes. The Office facilitates coordination between Departmental components working on Indian issues, and provides a permanent channel of communication for Indian tribal governments with the Department of Justice. The collective experience of the OTJ staff, many of whom are Tribal members, is over 60 years of federal Indian law experience, including federal, state and tribal court practice, teaching federal Indian law and history, and writing law review and journal articles.
The U.S. Attorney Community
-This year the Department began a pilot cross deputization program in cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Thus far, the U.S. Attorneys Offices have trained 60 tribal or state law enforcement officers to be deputized through the BIA. And recently, the Department sponsored a two day national training for Tribal Liaisons to facilitate cross deputization at the National Advocacy Center. This will enable greater numbers of tribal law enforcement officers to be cross deputized to enforce federal law, more quickly.
-Training of Assistant United States Attorneys continues to occur on important areas that affect Indian Country, including methamphetamine use, gun violence, and sexual assault.
Violence Against Women
The Department of Justice has long recognized the serious problem presented by violence against women in Indian Country and has been actively working on various fronts to combat this problem.
-The Department worked with Congress in 2006 to pass three laws to help protect the safety of women in Indian Country including creation of a federal habitual domestic offender law, broadening federal firearms provisions which restrict the possession of guns by individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to include qualifying convictions under tribal law, and expanding arrest authority for Bureau of Indian Affairs’ police officers to permit warrantless arrests in cases of misdemeanor domestic violence, where the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that an offense has been committed.The Department of Justice provides grants to Indian tribal governments and tribal coalitions through the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). From 2003 through 2006, the Department provided funds totaling over $80 million to address violence against Indian women through OVW.
The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program includes targeted funding to tribal communities to provide for, among other things, hiring, training, and equipment. To date, COPS has provided over $288.9 million to 274 tribal law enforcement agencies. This funding has placed 1,650 officers in tribal communities.
-The Department regularly funds research on violence against Indian women, including
-The National Baseline Study on Violence Against Indian Women which is being conducted in conjunction with OVW. This study will examine violence against women in Indian Country; evaluate the effectiveness of federal, tribal, and state programs; and provide recommendations to increase effectiveness.
-A study of the characteristics, process and outcome of sexual assaults in Alaska. This project will investigate the epidemiology of sexual assaults in Alaska and the ways in which alcohol use affects the reported assaults.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The FBI Indian Country activities are coordinated by the Indian Country / Special Crimes Unit. This Unit develops and implements strategies to address identified crime problems in Indian Country for which the FBI has responsibility, and supports the efforts of all law enforcement personnel working in Indian Country.
-In an effort to address the surge of methamphetamine trafficking in Indian Country, the FBI continues to expand its Safe Trails Task Force (STTF) initiative. Sixteen STTFs, comprised of federal, tribal, state, and local law enforcement officers operate throughout Indian Country. To date, during FY 2007, STTFs have obtained 77 indictments, arrested and/or located 117 subjects, obtained 113 convictions, and disrupted two drug trafficking organizations.
-During FY 2007, the FBI’s Indian Country Unit (ICU) collaborated with the FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance to develop an IC Forensic Interviewing of Children course. In addition, throughout FY 2007, the ICU worked closely with the Salt Lake City Division to fund the formation of a state-of-the-art child advocacy center on the Crow Reservation in Montana.
-Each fiscal year, pursuant to the Joint Indian Country Training Initiative, the ICU sponsors approximately 25 classes for federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement regarding Native American gangs, crime scene processing, child abuse investigations, and Indian Gaming. During FY 2007, ICU training expenditures will total approximately $300,000.
Office of Justice Programs
The Department’s Office of Justice Programs oversees numerous programs and grants that directly affect criminal justice in Indian Country, including:
-Government-wide Tribal Justice and Safety Web Site: http://www.tribaljusticeandsafety.gov
-Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program (IASAP): Created in 2001, IASAP has provided over $21.7 million to tribal grantees to implement culturally appropriate strategies.
-Tribal Courts Assistance Program (TCAP): Since 1999, TCAP has awarded more than $45 million to tribal communities to plan, implement, and enhance tribal court systems. This program provides funding opportunities to tribes which are implementing a new tribal court or enhancing an existing court. This can include funding to provide for prosecutors, investigators, probation officers, and other personnel integral to a functioning criminal justice system.
-Tribal Victim Assistance (TVA) Program: The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) provides funding for this program, including the funding of tribal victim assistance personnel working in tribal sexual assault and domestic violence crisis centers.
-Correctional Facilities on Tribal Lands Program: Since inception, the Program has distributed to 26 tribal grantees a total of nearly $140 million.
-Tribal Youth Program (TYP) and Tribal Juvenile Accountability Discretionary Grant (JADG) Program: TYP provides funding and training and technical assistance to support and enhance tribal efforts to prevent and control delinquency and improve the juvenile justice system for tribal youth. JADG provides funding to tribal communities to develop and implement programs that hold tribal youth accountable for their delinquent behavior and strengthen tribal juvenile justice systems. Together, these programs have provided over $92 million to 365 grantees.
-Indian Nations Conference: Since 1988, OVC has sponsored 10 national conferences for tribal, state, and federal professionals working on behalf of victims in Indian Country.
-Children’s Justice Act Partnerships for Indian Communities (CJA): CJA provides funds to tribal communities to develop programs to improve investigation and prosecution of child abuse, particularly sexual abuse. Since 1989, OVC has awarded 231 CJA grants to tribes and tribal agencies.
Civil Rights Division
The Civil Rights Division has a major role in preserving and enforcing the civil rights of Native Americans, and litigates on their behalf. In addition to other cases:
-The Civil Rights Division filed a complaint to enforce the voting rights of Native Americans in U.S. v Cibola County, N.M.
-The Civil Rights Division also filed a complaint on Sept. 29, 2004 against the City of Gallup, NM resulting in relief for 27 American Indian individuals.
Environment and Natural Resources
The Environment and Natural Resources Division works with the Tribes to ensure that their interests are protected. These efforts include protecting Tribal Hunting, Fishing, and Gathering Rights; protecting tribal lands and reservations; asserting Tribal Interests in Water Rights Adjudications; defending the United States’ Actions for the Benefit of Tribes. Civil Litigation
The Civil Division engages in litigation related to and in support of various Indian Country interests. For example, it enforces the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, as in Native American Arts, Inc. v. Grey Eagle Trader, No. 06-3429 (N.D. Ill.); Native American Arts, Inc. v. Seventh Avenue, Inc., No. 05-2716 (N.D. Ill.).
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