first peoples put last: an overview of tribal juvenile justice

American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children face a unique set of challenges navigating federal, state, and tribal courts, a report from the National Congress of American Indians

We go to National Congress of American Indians for this week’s study, “Tribal Juvenile Justice: Background and Recommendations” funded by Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“The juvenile justice system tends to re-traumatize rather than heal the youth who come in contact with it.”

  • 573 federally recognized tribes in the U.S.

  • Tribes control roughly 56 million acres of land in the U.S. in reservation land or trust land.

  • Approximately one in three (American Indian) AI/ (Alaska Native) people in the United States today is under the age of eighteen

    • Making the population comparatively young 

  • In South Dakota, under 40% of the American Indian population is under the age 18 

    • This compares to 24% nationally

  • Over a quarter of AI/AN children live in poverty,

  • An estimated 22 percent of AI/AN children experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Services are limited for trauma pertaining to the AI/AN youth experience.

  • AI/AN juveniles are over-represented in federal and state detention facilities when compared to any other racial or ethnic group

  • AI/AN youth are twice as likely as white youth to be petitioned for a status offense.

  • American Indian youth are more likely than any other minority group to be found delinquent.

  • AI/AN youth are at greater risk of entering juvenile justice system than non-Native counterparts

  • AI/ AN youth face higher rates of mental and physical health issues, poverty, alcohol and substance abuse, suicide and exposure to violence.

The challenges

  • “AI/AN children living on reservations are subject to a complex jurisdictional scheme that puts these children at an even greater disadvantage.”

  • “Depending on where one commits an offense and the severity of the offense, the AI/AN youth may be subject to the laws of either state, federal, and/or tribal governments.”

  • “The usually complex jurisdictional scheme at work in Indian Country is made even more complex in the juvenile context since juvenile justice falls in the grey area between civil and criminal jurisdiction, and tribal civil and criminal jurisdiction are subject to different rules and restrictions.”

  • “ As a result, AI/AN children in the juvenile justice system often receive no services or support.”

“AI/AN are one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States and have an enormous amount of trauma to overcome.”

Read the whole study here

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