CRIMINAL JUSTICE IN INDIAN COUNTRY

AUDIT RESULTS

The Department of Justice provides criminal justice services to Native American tribes in areas such as law enforcement, prosecution, development and maintenance of effective tribal courts, and grant funding. The agencies responsible for providing these services include the Office of Justice Programs, the Office of Policy Development, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Attorneys' Offices. In addition, the Office of Tribal Justice was established to enhance the Department's communication and coordination with tribal governments.

The purpose of this audit was to assess criminal justice services provided to Native American tribes by Department of Justice agencies. Unless stated otherwise, the findings in this report are based on our audit work at the four main sites in Arizona, Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Dakota.

We found that actions taken by Department of Justice agencies have resulted in improvements in criminal justice services provided to Native American tribes. In brief, these actions included:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation established good communication and coordination with both tribal and the Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement agencies. As a result, law enforcement agencies were working together to provide effective law enforcement in Indian country.

United States Attorneys' Offices established good communication and working relationships with Native American tribes in their districts.

As a result of the Tribal Courts Project, several programs were initiated utilizing Departmental resources to assist Native American tribes in voluntary initiation, development, or enhancement of tribal courts.

The Office of Justice Programs enhanced criminal justice grant funding services to Native American tribes through various programs and activities including the establishment of the American Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs Desk.

In addition, we noted three areas in which Department of Justice agencies could improve criminal justice services provided to Native American tribes. These areas were:

Accurate crime statistics for Indian country were not available. Without accurate statistics on crime, trends in criminal activity, which could promote the more effective allocation of resources in Indian country by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, cannot be identified.

Three different case management systems were currently in use by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices to track Native American criminal cases. Although we were able to obtain a listing of Indian country cases at each audit site, the information contained in the listings was not consistent among offices, preventing analysis on a national basis.

Tribal representatives stated concerns regarding block and formula grants, the effects of grant funding on tribal sovereignty, and tribal eligibility for grant funding. These concerns were generally attributed to legislation creating grant programs, which is often ambiguous regarding tribal governments' status as sovereign entities.

Prior to the release of this report, we provided a working draft version to management of each Department of Justice component audited and requested comments on the recommendations. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys concurred with our recommendations; therefore, we were able to issue this report directly in final.

INTRODUCTION

Objectives

The Office of the Inspector General, Audit Division, has completed an audit of Criminal Justice in Indian Country. The purpose of our audit was to assess criminal justice services provided to Native American tribes by Department of Justice (DOJ) agencies. Specifically, the objectives of our audit were to evaluate actions and programs within:

the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to provide tribes with effective law enforcement services and communication of investigative results;

the U.S. Attorneys' Offices (USAOs), to provide tribes with effective prosecutorial services and communication of prosecution and declination decisions;

the Office of Policy Development (OPD), to assist tribal governments in the development and maintenance of effective tribal courts; and

the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), to determine if DOJ grant funds available to tribal governments are effectively announced and coordinated.

Scope and Methodology

We performed the audit in accordance with Government Auditing Standards and, accordingly, included such tests of records and procedures as we considered necessary. However, assessments of internal controls and compliance with laws and regulations were not applicable to this audit.

The last comprehensive DOJ report in this area was a Report of the DOJ Task Force on Indian Matters, October 1975 (1975 DOJ Task Force Report). We used this report as a baseline against which to measure current activities. In addition, although we conducted audit work at numerous sites during this audit, unless stated otherwise, the findings are generally based on the four main sites in Arizona, Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Dakota. (See Appendix I for a detailed description of the audit's scope and methodology).

Background

On April 29, 1994, during an address to American Indian and Alaskan Native leaders at the White House, President Clinton pledged to fulfill the trust obligations of the federal government. At that time, the President signed a governmental directive requiring each Executive Department and agency within the departments, to remove all barriers that prevent effective communication and coordination with tribal governments.

The Attorney General established the Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ) in an effort to enhance the Department's communication and coordination with tribal governments. The purpose of OTJ is to:

coordinate DOJ policies and positions on Native American issues;

maintain a liaison with the federally recognized tribes; and

work with appropriate federal, state, and local officials, professional associations, and public interest groups.

On June 1, 1995, the Attorney General signed the Department of Justice Policy on Indian Sovereignty and Government-to-Government Relations With Indian Tribes. The Departmental policy reaffirms DOJ's recognition of the sovereign status of federally recognized tribes as domestic dependent nations and provides guidance to the Department in its work in the field of Indian affairs.

Additionally, on September 20, 1995, the Attorney General announced the implementation of the Indian Country Justice Initiative. This project will examine justice systems in Indian country, while including Native Americans in the process of identifying problems and suggesting solutions.

The DOJ agencies also provide the following criminal justice services to Native American tribes:

grant funding to tribal governments for the enhancement of criminal justice systems,

programs to assist tribal governments in the development and maintenance of effective tribal courts, and

investigation and prosecution of crimes under federal jurisdiction.

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