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March 01, 2016

Model Indian Juvenile Justice Code

The Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of Interior is in the process of updating the Indian Juvenile Code for the first time in more than 25 years. A draft Model Indian Juvenile Code, made available for comment Feb. 29, is one of the results of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among the Departments of Interior, Justice, and Health and Human Services following passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. The MOA established a framework for collaboration among the departments for coordination of resources and programs. The model code includes principles focusing on the following: right to counsel for each child brought into the system, right to counsel for parents; preference for alternatives to secure detention; and opportunities to divert cases out of an adversarial process and into traditional forums as preferred by a particular tribal community. During hearings held last summer by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the ABA urged that Indian tribes be empowered with meaningful decision-making authority about their juvenile justice systems and that greater emphasis be placed on providing alternatives to incarceration and culturally appropriate intervention and support. In a statement to the committee, the ABA expressed support for recommendations from the Indian Law and Order Commission’s report, A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer, which found that Native youth are among the most vulnerable groups of children in the United States as a result of centuries of harmful public policies that continue to inflict intergenerational trauma on children in Indian country. Opportunities for input on the draft model code will be available during teleconferences March 30-31 and April 13-14 and in person April 4 during the National Indian Child Welfare Association annual conference in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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