Tribal Juvenile Justice

American Indian and Alaska Native youth are at a much greater risk of being placed in the juvenile justice system than their non-native peers. Tribal youth are over represented in federal and state detention facilities, which are not equipped to address or meet their needs. Due to the complex civil and criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country many times tribal youth are lost in a system that tends to re-traumatize rather than heal them. 

The Attorney General’s National Taskforce on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence used the following phrase to describe the status quo in American Indian and Alaska Native youth support services: “an exceptional degree of unmet need.” Tribal youth are one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States and have an enormous amount of trauma to overcome. Time and again, advocates, researchers, and federal reports have made clear that this is a population that needs support, treatment, and rehabilitation instead of incarceration and punishment.

Tribal youth also draw on community strengths including inter-generational resilience—a resource that we are just now beginning to appropriately recognize and study. American Indians and Alaska Natives draw strength from their traditions, cultures, kinship and other relationships, ceremonies, humor, and collective successes. The use of traditionally grounded, trauma aware programs to foster resilience in could promote the most effective healing and support of vulnerable tribal youth.

Some tribes have focused their efforts to develop culturally appropriate healing methods for their youth. Since tribal youth offenders in the juvenile justice system have demonstrated better outcomes when they receive targeted, culturally-and community-based services. NCAI has highlighted the complex difficulties that American Indian and Alaska Native youth face in the juvenile justice system and emphasized best practices from tribes who work to heal their youth. 

Tribal Juvenile Justice Resources

1. NCAI, Tribal Juvenile Justice: Background and Recommendations (May 2019)
2. NCAI 2018 Mid-Year Conference, Breakout Session: Innovative Practices in Juvenile Justice
3. Indian Law & Order Commission, A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer, Chapter 6 – Juvenile Justice: Failing the Next Generation (2013)
4. Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence, Ending Violence So Children Can Thrive (2014)
5. United States Department of the Interior, United States Department of Justice, and United States Department of Health and Human Services, Model Indian Juvenile Code: 2016 Revision
6. Office of Juvenile Justice and Dequincy Prevention, Literature Review: Tribal Youth in the Juvenile Justice System (2016)
7. United States Government Accountability Office, Native American Youth Involvement in Justice Systems and Information on Grants to Help Address Juvenile Delinquency (2018)
8. United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Oversight Hearing on "Justice for Native Youth: the GAO Report on 'Native American Youth Involvement in Justice Systems and Information on Grants to Help Address Juvenile Delinquency'" (2018)
9. United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Oversight Hearing on “Juvenile Justice in Indian Country: Challenges and Promising Strategies” (2015)
10. NCAI Testimony for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Juvenile Justice in Indian Country (2015)
11. NCAI Policy Research Center, Supporting Our Native Boys & Young Men, Backgrounder (2014)
12. NCAI Policy Research Center, Are Native Youth Being Pushed into Prison?
13. NCAI Policy Research Center, Resilience & Trauma (2015)
14. NCAI and the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, The Importance of Resilience in Overcoming Adversity and Restoring Balance (2014) - Webinar 1
15. NCAI and the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, The Importance of Resilience in Overcoming Adversity and Restoring Balance (2014) - Webinar 2
16. NCAI and the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, The Importance of Resilience in Overcoming Adversity and Restoring Balance (2014) - Webinar 3
17. What is CAIR?, Center for American Indian Resilience
18. Neelum Arya and Addie C. Rolnick, A Tangled Web of Justice: American Indian and Alaska Native Youth in Federal, State, and Tribal Justice System (2008)
19. Addie C. Rolnick, Untangling the Web: Juvenile Justice in Indian Country, Legislation and Public Policy (2016)