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Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

Tribal Justice, Safety, and Wellness Session
Tribal Law and Order Act Consultation

December 8, 2010
Palm Springs, CA

       Thank you. I'd like to start by thanking all the tribal representatives for traveling to be with us. We really cannot fulfill the responsibilities - and realize the opportunities - of this Act without input from tribal leaders. I'd also like to thank all my federal colleagues at the table with me for your efforts.

        Throughout this Administration, there is a deep commitment to partnering with tribes to improve public safety and enhance communities. At the Office of Justice Programs, we are dedicated to working with tribes - and for tribes.

       In fact, these Tribal Justice, Safety, and Wellness Consultation Training and Technical Assistance Sessions are run directly through the Office of the Assistant Attorney General. We are pleased that the Department of Justice selected this session for this important consultation; these sessions were designed with this purpose in mind.

       Since taking the helm at OJP, Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson has made partnerships with criminal and juvenile justice stakeholders one of her top priorities. This includes tribal officers, providers, practitioners, and policymakers at every level of criminal and juvenile justice. We are working hard to forge strong relationships with tribes that can be translated into real improvements to tribal communities.

       To help leverage all our resources and better coordinate with other federal agencies, we recently established an OJP Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) Steering Committee. We held our first meeting on December 1, and I can tell you that the committee members are excited and motivated.

       As I mentioned during yesterday's breakout session, this is about more than just staying on schedule and meeting legal obligations - although those are important goals. This is also about making sure that we honor the hopeful spirit with which TLOA was enacted - that we move forward with the expectation that Indian Country can - and will - be safe and prosperous.

       To achieve this goal, our steering committee is organized into subcommittees covering crucial issues ranging from alcohol and substance abuse - which we discussed yesterday - to corrections and detention and data collection and information sharing.

       OJP will be working with tribal leaders and BIA to develop long-term plans for tribal detention and alternatives to incarceration. The three required plans are due to Congress next summer, but we need your help before we can move forward. That's one of our major objectives today. We want your feedback on the number and type of plans you need, as well as any other thoughts you have on the plans.

       We have a lot of ideas and some basic parameters, but we need you to fill in the details - to give this plan the practical knowledge that will make it work in your communities. You have seen tribal facilities; you know the people who run them, staff them, and occupy them. What do you need in a detention facility - or in alternatives to corrections? What does a model facility look like? What alternatives are already working?

       There are a few things that any plan needs to include - not just statutorily, but also practically. Of course, it should feature specific strategies for building, operating, and maintaining, juvenile and adult tribal facilities, regional facilities, and federal facilities in Indian Country. We have to make sure that these different types of facilities provide overlapping, but not duplicative, services. It also needs to include approaches for using alternatives to incarceration, including specialty courts, community corrections, and culturally relevant rehabilitation programs.

       We are very pleased that TLOA expanded the scope of how existing funding can be used to address correctional needs to include multi-purpose tribal justice facilities. Under this authority, OJP will continue to provide grants for construction and maintenance of facilities. These funds will also be used for developing alternatives to incarceration.

       Again, this process is really beginning in earnest today - and the plan will be based largely on your insights.

       We'll also cover data sharing issues during this session, and I'm thrilled to be joined by Dr. James Lynch, the director of our Bureau of Justice Statistics. Jim is a nationally recognized expert on measurement issues in criminal justice data and statistics and has a firm grasp on how important - and useful - reliable data can be to frontline practitioners.

       He's leading our efforts to implement the data collection and information sharing requirements of TLOA. I'll let him cover the details of how these efforts will expand on and enhance our existing programs. I'll just point out that we must have reliable information on the scope and nature of crime in Indian Country before we can adequately address it. These data will also be essential to tracking success as we implement new initiatives. Finally, this will continue our work to ensure that tribal governments are eligible for Justice Department programs and grants, including Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, or JAG, funds.

       In both of these areas, we sincerely want - and truly need - your input as to what is working, what isn't, and what should be done. We look forward to hearing from you.


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