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Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

Tribal Justice, Safety, and Wellness Session
Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Breakout Sessions

December 7, 2010
Palm Springs, CA

       Good afternoon. I'm Mary Lou Leary, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs. It's great to see so many of you here today. I'm so encouraged by the intergovernmental collaborations we've heard about all morning.

       I want to particularly acknowledge the tribal leaders who are with us today, and who will be participating in our consultation tomorrow. Your input is vital to the success of our efforts.

       Chris Chaney provided an excellent summary of the Department of Justice's responsibilities under the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) this morning. I'd like to talk a little more about the roles of my office, the Office of Justice Programs. Many of these involve - actually, require - intergovernmental coordination - at the tribal, federal, state, and local levels. From ongoing consultations to overlapping federal roles, government partnerships are the foundation of the Act. The heart of the Act, of course, is our shared vision of an Indian Country where crime is not the status quo, where women and children are safe, and where tribal sovereignty is honored.

       The current crime statistics in Indian Country are an affront to the essential values of all our nations. It is with this spirit that TLOA was passed. And it is with this same spirit that we must begin the long and challenging process of implementation.

        One of our first steps toward implementation at OJP was to establish a TLOA Steering Committee to ensure that we are leveraging all our resources. I convened the OJP staff on the Committee on December 1, and we have already identified and will invite members from other Department of Justice components, and the Departments of Interior and Health and Human Services.

       The Committee is dedicated to making sure that we stay on track - and on schedule - to fulfill the promise of TLOA. This is really about more than meeting legal obligations. This is about making the vision of Indian Country that was the impetus behind the Act a reality.

        The group's five subcommittees cover pressing issues like alcohol and substance abuse and corrections and detention.

       In the area of alcohol and substance abuse, we have already completed a draft memorandum of agreement and a sample tribal action plan. And, as part of our interagency coordination, I'm pleased to announce that Dennis Romero, the Acting Director of the Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Office at SAMHSA, has officially started his assignment at OJP. You'll get to hear from Dennis in just a few moments. I'll let him handle the details of the MOA and the tribal action plans, but I want to stress that both of these documents are works in progress - and that they will not progress without your input.

       Trish Thackston from our Bureau of Justice Assistance is also here and can tell you more about resources that we already have in place to support strategies to address crime issues related to substance abuse, alcohol, and strategic planning - all which can assist you in developing Tribal Action Plans.

       In the area of corrections and detention, TLOA calls for OJP to work with BIA and tribal leaders to develop a long-term plan for tribal detention programs. As you all know, too many tribal jails are overcrowded, understaffed, and literally falling apart. These inadequate facilities put inmates, officers, and the community at risk. We also know the enhanced tribal sentencing authority provided by the Act may change tribal detention needs. We want to work with you to reform this system to address the concerns of tribal law enforcement and enhance public safety.

       Currently, TLOA requires three long-term plans for detention and alternatives to incarceration. We already know that many tribes would prefer a single plan. This is a great example of why we are here. We need your input to balance statutory requirements and tribal needs - to make the law work for you. Tomorrow, we hope to get your feedback on the number and type of plans you need, as well as any other thoughts you have on the plans.

       We do, of course, have some ideas for what a long-term plan should include. As a starting point, it should feature specific strategies for building, operating, or maintaining, juvenile and adult tribal facilities, regional facilities, and federal facilities in Indian Country. It also needs to include approaches for using community-based alternatives to incarceration, including traditional interventions like healing circles, problem-solving courts such as Healing to Wellness Courts, strategies for community supervision, and culturally relevant rehabilitation programs. Research has shown that alternatives to incarceration can save money and make communities safer. Tribal communities have the opportunity to put this research into practice.

       Any final plan will also hopefully draw from the experiences of tribes under our Correctional Facilities on Tribal Lands grant program, known as CFTL, that has been administered by BJA since 2007. We know that grant funding is essential to the implementation of TLOA. In this time of ongoing economic uncertainty, we will continue to do all that we can to provide resources to help you meet the needs of tribal communities. This is why we are very pleased that TLOA expanded the scope of how CFTL funding can be used to address correctional needs to include multi-purpose tribal justice facilities. Julius Dupree from BJA will speak more about these changes later on in this panel. Sarah Pearson from our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention will also talk about how TLOA will help expand juvenile options.

       I'd like to end by reminding you all again that intergovernmental collaboration is at the heart of the Tribal Law and Order Act. We are excited about this new law, and we want you to know that our existing resources are available to help you with implementation.

       I look forward to hearing your ideas tomorrow and following your lead in the implementation of this landmark Act. Thank you.

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