Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, Acting Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Office of Justice Programs Tribal Justice and Safety Training and Technical Assistance Session
March 7, 2008
Thank you for that kind introduction. I need to admit I was a little concerned when I learned that I would be one of the last speakers, but I’m glad to see that so many people stayed to the end.
I am honored to be here with representatives from our federal partners from HHS, HUD, DOI and SBA. Their participation is critical to making these sessions so successful.
I would like to thank, the OJP and other Department of Justice staff, and the wonderful people at FirstPic for their work in planning these sessions and making sure that they ran smoothly these past three days for the tribal consultation, symposium, and today’s training & technical assistance workshops and general sessions.
Most of all, I would like to thank you, the Tribal leaders who helped us moderate and lead the discussions, and to all of you in attendance today for bringing your issues forward. We truly appreciate the work you do. Thank you for your hard work and commitment. I know that this was a long journey for many of you. We are grateful that you took time out of your busy schedules to be here this week.
Let me emphasize that the President and the Attorney General are committed to improving law enforcement and criminal justice in Indian country, and to ensuring that federally recognized Indian tribes are full partners in this effort.
This was our sixth tribal training and technical assistance session and our fifth consultation. We have expanded these sessions and brought in more federal partners. More tribal representatives are attending, a trend that I hope will continue.
We have already seen some results from the earlier consultations.
You’ve asked that we do more to educate the federal workforce about the trust responsibilities and working with tribes on a government-to-government basis. We responded by developing an online Native Education training program for federal employees.
On January 31, 2008, we held a press conference at the National Press Club where I, along with White House Intergovernmental Affairs Director, Janet Creighton, Secretary Kempthorne, EPA Administrator Johnson, SBA Deputy Administrator Carranza and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Chairman John Nau, announced a new federal employee online training program called “Working Effectively with Tribal Governments”. It is a great training program designed by an interagency working group of federal staff. I am pleased DOJ could play a major role in its development.
We evaluated the training program earlier today in one of our workshops to learn how we might improve it; and, I also invite you to view the training program while it is available on a limited timeframe at no cost until April 30, 2008. Simply go online and type in www.GoLearn.gov. Please let us know what you think about it.
After hearing from tribes about challenges and barriers to accessing OJP grants resources, we responded. OJP implemented a new Tribal Grants Policy beginning this fiscal year. The new policy is designed to result in more timely and thorough information to Tribes about available grants and their eligibility. It also should make it easier for Tribes to apply for OJP funds.
Another important outcome from our Tribal consultations has been establishing a Tribal Justice Advisory Group (TJAG). The TJAG, comprised of Tribal leaders and their designees, provides advice and assistance to me on Tribal justice and safety issues. It convened its initial meeting in November and we met again earlier today.
The TJAG will work closely with our Justice Programs Council on Native American Affairs. The Council coordinates OJP’s efforts on behalf of tribes and serves as a liaison with other Department of Justice components on tribal issues. Through the Council we have better informed Tribal leaders about our grants and program services, we have scheduled Tribal site visits for senior staff, and we have improved our outreach to Indian media to promote OJP’s Tribal justice and safety initiatives.
Perhaps our strongest area of outreach to Tribes has been on implementation of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. Yesterday we convened our second National Tribal Symposium on Sex Offender Management and Accountability. We had very productive discussions about the challenges involved and how we can work together to get this done. I would like to thank Laura Rogers, Leslie Hagen and all the staff of the SMART Office for their work on the Symposium.
I know that the Adam Walsh Act raised some difficult issues and presented some tough decisions for the Tribes. While I am pleased with our efforts in this area, I am especially proud that most of the eligible tribes elected to carry out the sex offender registration requirements of the Adam Walsh Act. The Department of Justice, especially the SMART Office, will continue to provide whatever resources we have available to assist the Tribes that have taken on this critical responsibility.
These past couple of days have also been an opportunity to address many other issues important to both the federal partners and the Tribes. We just finished a session on improving Tribal data collection and information sharing. We talked about national standards on justice information sharing. We discussed strengthening Tribal capacity to collect, manage, and analyze crime data. This has been a priority for me ever since I became Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Earlier today we also discussed the problem of methamphetamine abuse in Tribal communities. We are pleased that our interdepartmental session held last July hosted the Office of National Drug Control and Policy’s Tribal Methamphetamine Summit. We were pleased to have ONDCP’s Deputy Director Scott Burns back with us today, and our panel presenters, to discuss our progress as well as resources to address this problem. I am proud that OJP supported the development of a meth investigation training specifically tailored to tribal law enforcement, providing them with the information needed to conduct successful and safe meth investigations. We conducted two trainings in Montana and South Dakota with nearly 200 tribal justice professionals trained in meth investigation. We are also partnering with ONDCP in other areas to address drug trafficking, and working closely with HHS to support their Indian Country Methamphetamine Initiative.
Today’s session addressed the needs of crime victims in Indian country. Our Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) supports efforts to help these victims through its Tribal Victim Assistance (TVA) Discretionary Grant Program. TVA funds programs that help tribal victims of many different types of crimes, including homicide, child abuse, DUI, and gang violence.
Another key priority is addressing child abuse and child sexual assault in Indian country. OVC helps tribes build their capacity to handle serious child abuse and child sexual assault cases through the Children’s Justice Act (CJA) Partnerships for Indian Communities Discretionary Grant Program. The program has made numerous improvements in the handling of child abuse cases in Indian Country.
As you are probably aware, I am also the National AMBER Alert Coordinator. We are exploring ways to raise awareness about the AMBER Alert program for residents in Indian Country. The AMBER Alert program is the nation’s first early warning system for missing and abducted children who are presumed to be in imminent danger.
In September 2007, we selected ten Tribal sites to serve as pilot communities as part of the Department's AMBER Alert in Indian Country Initiative. The sites will serve as models for other Tribal communities working to develop AMBER Alert plans so that children in Indian country can benefit from the AMBER Alert network. The sites also will bridge the gap between Tribal communities and state and regional AMBER Alert programs across the country.
In addition, we all recognize the need for improved research on crime in Indian Country, including what sort of programs are most effective in combating violence and substance abuse. Our National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is developing a National Tribal Crime & Justice Research and Evaluation Agenda. NIJ has several Tribal research projects underway, including an evaluation of the Tribal Victim Assistance Program and a review of larger issues of criminal justice administration in Indian Country.
Consultations and training sessions such as this one are critical, but we must provide timely information to Tribes every day. One way we are doing this is through the Department of Justice’s Tribal Justice and Safety Web site, which features information on grants, training, technical assistance, publications, and conferences that can help tribal communities. The site also includes links to relevant laws and regulations.
The Web site has grown in popularity as we use it to keep Tribal communities informed on all of our Tribal initiatives. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the Web site, and would welcome any ideas or suggestions.
We are also working with our federal partners to plan our future sessions.. We will share the details as soon as they are finalized but would welcome any feedback as to how these sessions could be improved.
In my short time as Acting Assistant Attorney General, I have had the privilege of meeting several Tribal leaders and I have met with many more over the past couple of days. I am grateful for the warm reception I’ve received and I hope we can continue to build a relationship based on support and trust.
I will continue to meet with you to work together on your issues and priorities, and I will travel to Indian country to learn about Tribal justice and public safety needs first-hand. Please invite me, and it is vitally important that you know that my door is always open.
Thank you again for your attendance, and for your commitment to your communities. I wish you well in all that you do.