On June 25, 2020, OJJDP held a tribal consultation via webinar with 288 tribal leaders and representatives from across the country. The consultation sought feedback on how OJJDP can assist tribes in carrying out provisions of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act (JJRA) and increase tribes’ access to juvenile justice funding.
The JJRA mandates that state advisory groups (SAGs) in areas with one or more federally recognized tribes include a tribal representative or a person with expertise in law enforcement and juvenile justice in Indian country. SAGs provide input into their state’s use of Title II formula grant funds and are responsible for supporting compliance with grant requirements. Several states, such as Idaho and Minnesota, already have tribal representation on their SAGs. Attendees expressed enthusiasm about the new provision but cautioned that SAGs should respect the government-to-government relationship between states and tribes and acknowledge tribal diversity. In addition, they suggested that OJJDP play a central role in educating states about the JJRA requirement.
Administrator Caren Harp recommended OJJDP’s interactive state map as a helpful starting point for tribes to begin engaging with SAGs. The user-friendly map provides contact information for the SAG chair, state planning agency director, and OJJDP state program manager, as well as descriptions of current OJJDP funding in every state and territory.
The second provision of the JJRA discussed at the consultation was that of the tribal pass-through. The JJRA continues to require states to pass through a specified amount of their formula grants to tribes, and the JJRA expanded the types of programs and activities that can be funded through formula grant funds. Administrator Harp said OJJDP encourages states to provide additional funding above the required pass-through allocations to support effective services for tribal youth. Participants reported, however, that pass-through funds are not reaching some tribes. Administrator Harp urged tribes to notify OJJDP about these issues and said this information will be important as OJJDP conducts state audits.
The level of formula grants funding allocated to states is determined in part by population size. One participant recommended that tribal enrollment figures be used as the basis for population counts, emphasizing that federal statistics such as the U.S. Census are less accurate. Using tribal enrollment figures would most likely result in an increase of pass-through funding to tribes. The participant added that another potential source of additional funding is OJJDP’s Nonparticipating States Program. In states that do not participate in the Office’s Formula Grants program, private nonprofit agencies and local public agencies—including tribal agencies—are eligible to apply directly to OJJDP for funding.
Following this discussion, Administrator Harp provided an overview of OJJDP funding opportunities available through discretionary grant programs such as the Department of Justice’s Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS). CTAS supports tribal juvenile healing to wellness courts, diversion and afterschool programs, summer camps grounded in cultural approaches, truancy prevention efforts, and Boys & Girls Clubs. Tribes are eligible to apply not only for CTAS, but also for most of OJJDP’s other discretionary grants. “While we receive a number of applicants from tribal communities for CTAS grants, specifically OJJDP’s Tribal Youth Program, we receive very few applications for other OJJDP funding opportunities,” said Administrator Harp. “Our goal is to ensure that tribal communities are aware of, and able to apply for, all funding opportunities [for which they are eligible].”
“Funding needs to be less restricted and allow us to use our cultural knowledge. Our youth are disconnected. Prevention needs to be culturally appropriate. We know how to serve and restore our youth through our cultural activities and teachings.”
— Denise Kinegak, Orutsararmiut Native Council
The consultation closed with a discussion of public safety and juvenile justice needs in Indian country. A major concern was the requirement of many federal grants that tribes use evidence-based practices, which often take a one-size-fits-all approach. Many participants stressed that connecting youth to their indigenous culture is a powerful preventive tool, and that culturally relevant approaches to helping at-risk and system-involved youth should be funded by the federal government in a more substantive way.
Attendees cited a range of other tribal needs, including expert guidance on grantwriting, the application process, program implementation, and the development of memorandums of understanding to enhance coordination between tribes and local governments. They also stressed the need for additional funding to build tribal court facilities and hire law enforcement and tribal court personnel, ensure program sustainability, facilitate cross-site and cross-agency gatherings, and more effectively track and share juvenile justice data in Indian country.
The OJJDP Tribal Youth Programs and Services webpage provides detailed information about OJJDP tribal youth initiatives, funding, and training and technical assistance. The page includes a recording of the tribal consultation webinar.
Additional information about OJJDP’s support of youth in Indian country is available in the Tribal Youth Initiatives fact sheet.
To learn more about the JJRA tribal provisions, visit the OJJDP website.