Hello. My name is Tom Perrelli, and I am the Associate Attorney General. Thank you for joining me today at this incredible museum that celebrates the lives, languages, literature, art, and history of Native Americans. This ground-breaking museum works in collaboration with peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere to preserve Native cultures. The diverse collections speak so powerfully because they are a true amalgamation of Indian voices.
So, it is significant that, today, we are gathered here to share the results of another first-of-its-kind collaboration.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of you before on justice and public safety issues in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Our work in this area has never been easy, but it has always been critically important – a matter of life and death for too many tribal communities. I was proud to work with Attorney General Reno in the late-1990s and with tribal leaders across the country as we worked to identify the public safety challenges faced by tribal nations and to find new and creative ways to deal with them. That work – and its continuation – are the most meaningful of my career. It has been an honor to be part of the Department of Justice’s recommitment to public safety in tribal communities over the last 18 months. Prior to and following the Attorney General’s listening session with tribal leaders in October, the Department has sought to deepen our engagement with tribal communities, to listen to the needs of those communities as articulated by our First Americans, and to respond in a manner that enhances tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
Today, we take another major step toward true nation-to-nation collaboration. I’m pleased to announce that the Department of Justice is awarding nearly $127 million to support the public safety initiatives of federally recognized Indian tribes. These funds are being made available through a new grant-making process called the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, or CTAS.
I’d like to talk a little more about how CTAS works and what it means for tribal communities, but first I want to acknowledge the representatives from various Native American organizations who have joined us today. Your leadership has been – and will continue to be – essential to the Justice Department’s efforts to improve public safety in Indian Country. Specifically, I’d like to thank John Dossett and Robert Holden from the National Congress of American Indians and representatives of the Navajo Nation who are here today. I would also like to recognize Kim Teehee and Jodi Gillette representing the White House.
I also want to express my gratitude to the DOJ team who made this possible, including representatives from the Office of Justice Programs, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and the Office on Violence Against Women. I wish I had the time to name all the dedicated staff members in these offices who put in long hours to make this happen, but your extraordinary efforts at creating and implementing CTAS are sincerely appreciated.
Let me talk about CTAS and its origin. In the Department’s outreach to tribal leaders, we heard concern that the Department’s grant-making process was too cumbersome, but at the same time it did not allow tribal communities the flexibility to fully address their needs. CTAS was launched in direct response to those concerns. CTAS encourages local collaboration and coordination on public safety and justice planning, and it combines the application process for tribes seeking federal grants for public safety. This year, instead of submitting multiple applications, tribes were able – for the first time ever – to submit a single application for most of the Justice Department’s tribal grant programs.
On their single applications, tribes could select multiple purpose areas, ranging from juvenile justice to violence against women. This approach not only saves time and resources but also allows tribes and the Department to gain a better understanding of overall public safety needs.
In 2010, we received 237 CTAS applications, covering 10 public safety purpose areas. Tribes could opt to select one, two, or several of the 10 purpose areas on their applications. In all 10 purpose areas combined, we received a total of 720 individual funding requests. To put it simply, tribes submitted more than 200 applications, which included more than 700 funding requests. In contrast, in 2009, tribes submitted 540 individual purpose-area applications. That’s 540 applications for 540 funding requests. And, in many cases, that meant that an overworked service provider or dedicated public safety officer was entering the same information into separate applications. And that meant, in past years, they were filling out paperwork instead of filling the needs of their citizens.
By streamlining the process, CTAS has resulted in more applications for a more diverse group of grants. Although the Department still only has a limited pot of money, so we were not able to fund all the need in tribal communities, more participation in more areas ultimately leads to more federal assistance where it is needed most. For example, CTAS included a purpose area for alcohol and substance abuse prevention programs. Using the new application process, this program received 88 applications, up from 28 in fiscal year 2009.
This is significant because Native communities are working hard to address high rates of alcohol and drug abuse and the attendant crime. According to information from the National Crime Victimization Survey, approximately 62 percent of American Indian victims report being attacked by a perpetrator who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That number is only 42 percent for assaults nationwide. For the communities whose applications were approved, this program is making $10 million available to help prevent and reduce substance abuse-related crimes.
We also saw increases in applications for violence against women programs, tribal court assistance, and funding for correctional facilities on tribal lands, areas that are receiving nearly $33.4 million, $17 million, and $9 million, respectively. Other purpose areas will help to enhance community policing capacity, prevent and control juvenile delinquency, and address elder abuse.
CTAS is not just about a more streamlined process. It is part of the Department’s broader strategy of increased engagement with tribal communities across a broad range of areas. CTAS encourages tribal nations to take a comprehensive look at the public safety challenges their communities are facing and to work with the Department to find ways to address them. When the Department first met with tribal leaders last year, they had a very simple point for us – we appreciate your words, but we’ll judge you by your actions. And through CTAS and other initiatives, we have sought to take action to respond to tribal leaders and help end the inexcusably high crime rates in tribal communities.
We were proud to support the Tribal Law and Order Act, which President Obama signed into law in July. This landmark Act increases accountability for federal agencies responsible for public safety in Indian Country and gives greater local control to tribal law enforcement agencies.
Early this year, the Deputy Attorney General issued a memorandum to our United States Attorneys who have tribal communities in their jurisdictions. That memorandum directed the U.S. Attorneys to consult with tribal communities and develop strategic plans to improve public safety in those communities. In addition, the memorandum requires U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to focus on cases involving violence against women and children that is an epidemic in some communities.
The Department is also adding resources and implementing new programs in Indian Country. The Justice Department recently added 33 new Assistant U.S. Attorney positions in districts that contain Indian Country and launched three community prosecution pilot projects. These positions and projects will allow us to significantly increase prosecution in Indian Country and will further enhance collaboration between federal and tribal authorities.
Finally, we recognize that to be successful, the Department needs to be committed for the long haul and that far more resources are needed to meet the needs of tribal communities. That is why, for FY2011, the President has requested an increase of more than 50% in grant funding for tribal criminal justice programs and has sought funding for 45 more FBI agents to work in Indian Country. We urge Congress to appropriate the funds to meet these needs.
All of these efforts are an indication of our deep commitment to working with Native American communities to improve public safety. While we are proud of our efforts and committed to their success, we realize that these are merely a series of first steps in what will undoubtedly be a long process. We know that piecemeal approaches don’t work, and we know that actions – sustained, targeted actions – speak louder than words.
Thank you again for joining us today in this monument to your incredible cultures that was built on successful collaboration. We look forward to continuing to work together to build a safer and stronger future for American Indian and Alaska Native tribal communities.