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Press Release

Office on Violence Against Women Announces New Program to Support Tribal Governments Exercise Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) today released a grant solicitation launching the new Grants to Tribal Governments to Exercise Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction Program (Tribal Jurisdiction Program).  This new program was authorized in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) and received its first appropriation in fiscal year 2016. 

VAWA 2013 recognizes tribes’ inherent power to exercise “special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction” (SDVCJ) over certain defendants, regardless of their Indian or non-Indian status, who commit acts of domestic violence or dating violence or violate certain protection orders in Indian country.  Specifically, tribes can investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence Indians and non-Indians who assault Indian spouses or dating partners or violate a protection order in Indian country.

“VAWA 2013 closed jurisdictional gaps that had long compromised American Indian and Alaska Native women’s safety and access to justice,” said Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson for OVW.  “And this new grant program is another step in the department’s ongoing effort to help tribes across the country make full use of the SDVCJ authority.”

The Tribal Jurisdiction Program encourages the coordinated involvement of the entire tribal criminal justice system and victim service providers to incorporate systemic change that ensures victim safety and offender accountability.  Funds from the Tribal Jurisdiction Program can be used to:

  • strengthen tribal criminal justice systems to assist Indian tribes in exercising SDVCJ;
  • provide indigent criminal defendants with the effective assistance of licensed defense counsel, at no cost to the defendant, in criminal proceedings in which a participating tribe  prosecutes a crime of domestic violence or dating violence or a criminal violation of a protection order;
  • ensure that, in criminal proceedings in which a participating tribe exercises SDVCJ, jurors are summoned, selected and instructed in a manner consistent with all applicable requirements; and
  • accord victims of domestic violence, dating violence and violations of protection orders rights that are similar to the rights of a crime victim described the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, consistent with tribal law and custom.

OVW anticipates making 36-month awards in the range of $300,000 to $450,000.  Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time (E.T.) on June 20.

OVW will conduct a pre-application webinar on Wednesday, May 25, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. E.T.  During this webinar, OVW staff will review the FY 2016 Tribal Jurisdiction Program solicitation and grant requirements followed by a brief question and answer session.  To register, e-mail no later than Monday, May 23.

All OVW open solicitations are posted at

Updated May 9, 2016

Indian Country Law and Justice
Press Release Number: 16-544