Report: JDAI Sites Must Do Better for Native American Youth

Posted November 28, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
New report says JDAI sites must do better by American Indian youth

Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tive® (JDAI) sites across the coun­try must reeval­u­ate their assump­tions and process­es to safe­ly reduce deten­tion of Native Amer­i­can youth says a new report by the Asso­ci­a­tion on Amer­i­can Indi­an Affairs.

Released in con­junc­tion with Native Amer­i­can Her­itage Month, the report reviews how JDAI sites cur­rent­ly iden­ti­fy and respond to Native Amer­i­can youth, high­light­ing both areas in need of improve­ment and promis­ing efforts.

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion fund­ed report — Exam­in­ing How JDAI Sites Inter­act with Native Youth and Tribes — is based on a 2016 sur­vey and inter­views con­duct­ed by the Asso­ci­a­tion on Amer­i­can Indi­an Affairs. Sites were asked to iden­ti­fy Native Amer­i­can youth and whether or not they had col­lab­o­rat­ed with trib­al gov­ern­ments and trib­al juve­nile jus­tice staff to pro­vide cul­tur­al­ly appro­pri­ate alter­na­tives to detention.

This research revealed two key areas of concern:

  1. A lack of reli­able process­es for iden­ti­fy­ing and col­lect­ing data on Native Amer­i­can youth; and
  2. A lack of out­reach to tribes to: 
    • col­lect infor­ma­tion on a youth’s sta­tus as a cit­i­zen or mem­ber of a tribe;
    • pro­vide notice to the tribe of a young person’s offens­es; and
    • deter­mine whether there are cul­tur­al­ly appro­pri­ate ser­vices available.

The survey’s find­ings are con­sis­tent with data indi­cat­ing that juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems across the coun­try are fail­ing Native Amer­i­can youth. These youth are detained at dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly high­er rates than any oth­er racial or eth­nic group. They also have the high­est rate of detain­ment for sta­tus offens­es, drug offens­es and tech­ni­cal vio­la­tions of pro­ba­tion and face a high risk of sub­stance abuse and sui­cide as well as sus­pen­sion and expul­sion from school.

Casey Foun­da­tion Senior Asso­ciate David E. Brown says the report’s find­ings serve as an impor­tant call to action for JDAI sites. As we at the Foun­da­tion have increased our empha­sis on race and equi­ty, equi­ty for Native youth in juve­nile jus­tice has been a blind spot for us and many of the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems with which we work. Now we know bet­ter, and lead­ers in the field are show­ing us how to do better.”

One such leader is Shan­non Keller O’Loughlin, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Asso­ci­a­tion on Amer­i­can Indi­an Affairs and one of the report’s pri­ma­ry authors. While there are a few JDAI sites engaged in emerg­ing best prac­tices, O’Loughlin notes that most sites lack con­sis­tent and cul­tur­al­ly appro­pri­ate pro­to­cols to col­lect robust data on Native Amer­i­can youth and to con­nect these youth with cul­tur­al­ly appro­pri­ate alter­na­tives to deten­tion — two core tenets of JDAI.

To help JDAI sites address these con­cerns, the report offers con­crete rec­om­men­da­tions, including:

  • Devel­op­ing uni­form and con­sis­tent pro­to­cols for iden­ti­fy­ing Native Amer­i­can youth by trib­al affiliation;
  • Estab­lish­ing noti­fi­ca­tion pro­to­cols for inform­ing tribes when a Native Amer­i­can youth enters the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem; and
  • Edu­cat­ing staff on the unique issues fac­ing Native Amer­i­can youth and the avail­abil­i­ty of cul­tur­al­ly rel­e­vant alter­na­tives to detention.

JDAI sites in Ari­zona, Mon­tana, New Mex­i­co and Wash­ing­ton are pur­su­ing some of these rec­om­men­da­tions. For exam­ple, Arizona’s Native Amer­i­can Youth Col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­vides guid­ance on iden­ti­fy­ing Native Amer­i­can youth and con­nect­ing them with cul­tur­al­ly appro­pri­ate ser­vices. New Mex­i­co requires trib­al noti­fi­ca­tion in all juve­nile jus­tice pro­ceed­ings where a youth may be detained — and it is the only state in the nation to do so. And in Sno­homish Coun­ty, Wash­ing­ton, court staff and com­mu­ni­ty part­ners par­tic­i­pate in cul­tur­al aware­ness train­ing, which high­lights the impor­tance of pro­vid­ing appro­pri­ate ser­vices to Native Amer­i­can youth.

The prac­tices being imple­ment­ed at these sites, along with efforts already under­way at two trib­al JDAI loca­tions — the Mis­sis­sip­pi Band of Choctaw Indi­ans and the Pueblo of Isle­ta near Albu­querque, New Mex­i­co — are start­ing points for JDAI sites across the coun­try to scru­ti­nize their work with Native Amer­i­can youth and to com­mit to doing better.

Read Exam­in­ing How JDAI Sites Inter­act with Native Youth and Tribes

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