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Strengthening and Rebuilding Tribal Justice Systems: A Participatory Outcomes Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Justice Comprehensive Indian Resources for Community and Law Enforcement (CIRCLE) Project, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2007
80 pages
This report provides an overview of the outcomes of the federally funded Comprehensive Indian Resources for Community and Law Enforcement (CIRCLE) project of fiscal years 2002 and 2003.
Key findings show that in the right circumstances, investments in improving criminal justice system functioning can help Native nations address pressing crime problems; that where circumstances are not yet right for the system’s reform to have an effect, there may be opportunities for targeted change to improve institution performance, promote safety, address crime, and potentially lay the groundwork for later, more comprehensive reform; and that sustainability was a formidable challenge at every site, but without sustainability, short-term investments might amount to little more than short-term job programs. Of the three Native nations evaluated, the Oglala Sioux, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, and the Pueblo of Zuni, the outcome of reduction in near-term crime was most evident in the Pueblo of Zuni. Key components for the Pueblo of Zuni were operational, such as increased police department size and training, new youth development programs, and measures to respond to family violence. The outcomes included reduction in alcohol-related crime, and an overall drop in arrests for simple assault, aggravated assault, and assaults by juveniles. However, the data on arrests for domestic violence showed an increase. The evidence of CIRCLE’s success for the Oglala Sioux and Northern Cheyenne nations was less prominent. For these Native nations, the CIRCLE project, and particularly the evaluation component, generated concrete ideas about how best to proceed against short-term criminal justice concerns with the goal of creating opportunities and political will for long-term system change. These ideas are methodological and programmatic, as they suggest new ways of collecting data and new ways of using resulting information to address pressing local crime problems. Guidelines are provided to help Native nations craft viable, local-evidence-based action agendas and provide best practices for both community change initiatives and indigenous community development. Guidelines for collecting and analyzing data in other tribal settings are discussed. Tables, references, appendix

Date Published: September 1, 2007