The United States Department of Justice has released plans aimed at strengthening its efforts to fight crime on American Indian lands.
The DOJ intends to make the Office of Tribal Justice a separate component within the Department and will establish a “Tribal Nations Leadership Council” to help improve collaboration and communication between American Indian leaders and Justice Department officials. Currently the Office is under the Deputy Attorney General but it is not a permanent entity within the Justice Department structure.
In addition, U.S. Attorneys that have Indian reservations in their districts and DOJ officials that handle tribal grants will be required to meet with tribal leaders. DOJ will also establish an American Indian task force to create guidance and strategies for prosecutions of crimes of violence against women in Indian country, according to the memo.
The plans, which were sent to Office of Management and Budget on Jan. 27, will be financed through existing DOJ funds. The department received more than $237 million in its fiscal 2010 budget for Indian country prosecutions and criminal investigations. The proposed fiscal 2011 DOJ budget includes nearly $450 million to fund initiatives in American Indian tribal lands.
The Office of Tribal Justice was created by a federal statute in 1995, but it currently exists only at the discretion of the Attorney General. The Office of Tribal Justice serves as the department’s point of contact with American Indian tribes on justice issues.
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved legislation last September that would give the Office of Tribal Justice a presidentially appointed head. The full Senate has yet to act on the bill.
The plans are the latest in a series of Justice Department initiatives to fight Indian country crime, which former Deputy Attorney General David Ogden said last month has hit “unacceptable levels” and is diminishing the quality of life for American Indians.