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Juvenile Justice

Involvement in the juvenile justice system is correlated with experiencing child abuse and neglect. There is significant overlap between children and youth who are involved in the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system. Like the child welfare system, AI/AN youth are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system. NICWA’s juvenile justice research and technical assistance helped develop groundbreaking new tribal and state policies and tribal and private foundation initiatives. Our work supports promising “upstream” approaches that are proving successful. As opposed to interventions that occur after youth have been charged with an offense, providing youth with support services, building life skills, and reconnecting them with their culture addresses the root causes of delinquency.

Projects & Partners

New Mexico Juvenile Justice Tribal Notification Project

With support from the Public Welfare Foundation and in partnership with the Association on American Indian Affairs, NICWA conducted a research project about tribal notification in the juvenile justice system in New Mexico. Aimed at addressing the inconsistent nature by which tribes are notified when a juvenile tribal member is detained, the project was designed to improve outcomes for Native youth while improving tribal-state relationships. Since New Mexico was the only state with a tribal notification law at the time, we aimed to strengthen the policy and its implementation in New Mexico in hopes that other states would move toward such a model.

Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative

The Annie E. Casey Foundation led the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative that supported NICWA and the Association on American Indian Affairs in convening work groups to formulate alternatives to youth entering the juvenile justice system. As a result, the Foundation and the U.S. Department of Justice funded the Tribal Juvenile Detention and Reentry Green grant, which established several demonstration projects. One such project is the Choctaw Youth Justice Center run by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. It provides youth with a full array of culturally based services to facilitate successful reentry into the community and prevent them from reentering the juvenile justice system.

Policy & Advocacy

In New Mexico, NICWA convened 23 state stakeholders, including tribal leaders, judges, prosecutors, probation officers, professors, and youth service providers to study issues related to AI/AN youth who were involved or at risk of being involved in the state juvenile justice system. As a result, we identified the counties for our research focus, designed research to include Native families and legal and service personnel, and highlighted important issues impacting Native youth in New Mexico. Our research findings are intended to inform future policy and procedural changes to improve tribal notifications laws and access to supports for AI/AN youth that are involved in state juvenile justice systems.