Pretrial Services in the Tribal Justice Systems
The United States is home to about 560 federally-recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. A number of these tribes operate their own jails, sometimes as part of their own judicial systems. Tribal justice systems, like their counterparts in counties, must assure the appearance of the accused in court and the safety of the community pending adjudication of the charges, while avoiding inappropriate detention and excessive, costly, jail use.
In 2007, the Pretrial Justice Institute received a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance to provide technical assistance to tribes on the development of pretrial services. We are working in three areas: educating tribal leaders about the benefits of pretrial services; introducing tribal justice leaders to the protocols of pretrial services, and developing culturally appropriate model tribal codes relating to pretrial release decision making.
According to the most recent data, at midyear 2004, jails in Indian Country held an estimated 1,745 American Indians or Alaska Natives. Many of these jails are severely crowded; in the most recent survey, 13 of 68 tribal jails were operating at 1.5 times their capacity at their peak, several of them at over two or three times their capacity. Thirteen tribal jails were under court order or consent decree to limit their populations.
Effective pretrial release practices in tribal jurisdictions should enable many individuals to avoid unnecessary detention, protect community safety, reduce tribal jail costs, ease the crowding problem experienced by many tribal jails, improve the conditions of confinement in tribal jails and enhance the overall quality of justice.
This section contains PJI’s publications and related documents on the issue of pretrial justice in Indian County.