OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Advocating for Victims' Rights in Tribal Courts
Dianne Barker-Harrold  -  2010/11/10
How do Tribal Victim Assistance Programs work in conjunction with local service agencies,specifically with regard to coordinating advocacy efforts (for example, support during trial proceedings, identifying and securing community resources when needed)?
1.  Dianne
 Collaboration is really the name of the game. Establishing contacts with local service agencies whether they are internal tribal programs, community programs or state or federal programs is essential in providing maximum information and assistance to tribal victims. For coordinating advocacy efforts, a multi-disciplinary team is a great way to establish this coordination. For court issues, working with court personnel and your prosecutors is also a good beginning. Often times, while judges can make policies, they must remain neutral when it comes to some issues of this type. However, judges can dictate activities within their courts. If your judge is open to this discussion, it would be a great opportunity to express any concerns such as victim safety when a victim and an offender are both present in the courtroom. If there is a specific danger or lethality issue, then certainly meeting with the court clerk or court security officer is a must prior to the actual proceeding.
How do Tribal Victim Assistance Programs work in conjunction with State &/or Federal Victim Assistance Programs, specifically with regard to financial compensation for loss/damages?
1.  Dianne
 This is a response to the second question within this first question:In Oklahoma, the Crime Victims Compensation Office does a huge amount of outreach by personally visiting each of the 38 Oklahoma tribes each year to update them on new issues, funding, etc. This past year, this group expanded their policies and procedures to include culturally specific services and activities for victims compensation. This is a great example of how these tribal and state collaborations can be very successful.
2.  Aisha
 Do you have any suggestions for establishing a relationship with tribal victim assistance advocates? Is there an association or board whom regional/state/local advocates (and service agencies as well) can contact?
3.  Dianne
 State Victims Compensation Programs are the source for all state, federal and tribal victim compensation claims. A tribal victim assistance program should reach out to their state compensation program to establish a collaborative relationship in advance of the need to apply on behalf of a victim. The following is information to contact your state program to obtain contact info, eligibility requirements and other information to assist you. National Crime Victims Compensation Boards www.nacvcb.org Go to their web site and click on program directory. A map will appear and you can click on each state which will provide contact info and other information such as eligibility requirements, policies, and compensation maximums.
We'd like to be more knowledgable and educate our staff on tribal courts. Do you have any educational materials that explain the tribal court system and process as it may differ from a nontribal court?
1.  Spring L.
 I'd like to add, if you are working with a specific Tribal Court, whether it's a first time thing or in an ongoing basis, contact the court, get to know the staff and, if at all possible, the judges. I work for a tribal government and our Tribal Court is always more than willing to offer assistance and information to those who inquire! In fact, it makes things easier when all parties who are involved in a Tribal Court case know the procedures and policies of the court.
2.  Dianne
 The Bureau of Justice Assistance, an OJP program through the US Department of Justice has a specific tribal courts grant funding program with facts sheets for the last few funding years that can be obtained online at www.bja.gov. Another great source is a paper written by B.J. Jones who is the Director of the Northern Plains Tribal Judicial Institute at the University of North Dakota School of Law. He also serves as the Chief Judge for the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribal Court and the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court of Appeals. It is entitled the Role of Indian Tribal Courts in the Justice System. Another resource is www.nationalcenterforstatecourts.orgThis website has an alphabetical directory for a huge number of topics which includes tribal courts and victims. The resources provides articles, case summaries and other resources to assist you on a variety of issues.
Have you encountered any issues regarding obtaining and enforcing protective orders between tribal and nontribal jurisdictions? If so, do you have any suggestions for easing this burden for victims?
1.  Dianne
 One of the great accomplishments of the Violence Against Women Act was the full faith and credit legislation for protective orders which dictates that protective orders, regardless of where they are issued are effective everywhere (a simplistic interpretation of the legislation). I am aware of a recent state court ruling in Washington State which totally denied the effect of a tribally issued protective order in the state. I believe this is still being challenged locally but it is troubling that these instances occur because it puts victims at much greater risk. Unfortunately, it is very common that state court judges and state prosecutors are not well versed on tribal legal issues and protective orders in general. Education for judges and prosecutors is essential in making sure that protective orders are honored in all courts. One suggestion is to collaborate with your local or state bar associations, district attorney associations and judicial education commissions to provide education, outreach and information to assist in educating these folks. A few years back the National Association of Family Court Judges, in conjunction with the Office on Violence Against Women, created a Bench Book on Full Faith and Credit of Protective Orders which provides a tremendous amount of information which I provided to a number of judges where I live and it was a great benefit to all of us. You might want to reach out to this entity to see if they still have those available-at the time I obtained these they were free. This would be a great way to begin a beneficial dialog.
What are advantages/disadvantages to communicating with County and State court systems? I know an advantage for me would have been having access to records from other counties.
1.  Dianne
 I think there is always some advantage to collaboration and open communication is generally helpful. The majority of county and state court records are public record (usually with the except of juvenile cases, guardianships and adoptions which are usually kept confidential). Getting to know the folks in the court clerk's offices is always a plus as well as other court personnel. One challenge is obtaining policesheriff's records. While some states have open records legislation that makes police reports accessible, some are conditional as to what is released and to whom they are released. Also, being able to know if an offender is beling released, bail is being set, etc., assists in protecting victims. Establishing relationships before you need information allows you to develop an established communication as well as your own reliability and credibility. I would certainly encourage these communications with county and state court systems.
Is there a grant or TA available to apply for funding to draft children's codes and for planning a tribal court?
1.  Diane
 The Justice for Native Children Project has provided Tribal court and Tribal code development training specifically to address child abuse issues. See http://justice.aksummit.com/index.php for description and contact information
2.  Dianne
 There are several Technical Assistance Providers who are experienced in this type of effort. If you receive a grant from an existing funding source these TA folks can provide services free of charge. If not, you can hire them on your own if you have funds available. The Bureau of Justice Assistance Tribal Courts programs offers a number of grant opportunties to plan a tribal court. Their web site is www.bja.gov. For assistance for childrens codes you may want to access the websites of the following organizations: National Indian Child Welfare Association, Native American Children's Alliance, National CASA (court appointed special advocates) or CHILD WELFARE INFORMATION GATEWAY www.childwelfare.gov.
To what extent have tribes or tribal courts adopted victims' rights comparable to state statutory and constitutional rights?
1.  Dianne
 While most states have victims rights codes, many tribes are still in the development stages while a number of tribes have enacted victims rights codes. The KLASS KIDS Foundation www.klasskids.org/vrts.htm has a directory of state victim rights codes-click at the top of the page on 50 states map and click on a specific state on the map which will provide you with a copy of that states victims rights legislation which will provide you with sample codes. I do have a sample code from the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas that we can provide to you. We strongly encourage tribes to enact this type of legislation to aid tribal victims and victim assistance and law enforcement in tribal communities. In passing these codes tribal leaders send a message of support to their citizens that they are committed to assisting victims in their tribal communities, a very powerful message to send!
Hi Dianne:Are you still on line? I wanted you to please contact me through this email address if possible. I am a Victims Advocate that works with hundreds of Survivors of Crimes. I have developed 15 programs for Survivors of violent Crimes in Richmond, California. What type of programs do you have for victims/survivors?Charleneharris@maskofrichmond.org
1.  Dianne
 The tribal victims programs that I work with have huge number of very effective and innovative programs to address a varitey of victimizations within their tribal communities. These range from working with tribal youth and in tribal schools to provide presentations regarding dating violence, all kinds of community education and outreach programs, culturally specific programs such as traditional healers, healing through the arts programs for both children, adolescent and adults, and tribally specific cultural activities and support groups. They also have created very innovative collaborations and partnerships and multidisciplinary teams to strengthen and expand their services. You can check out OVC's 2009 Report to the Nation for an example of three tribal victim programs which is available on line at ovc.gov.
Is it common practice for a perpetrators public defender to call the victim? The public denfender knows me and could go through me just as the prosecutor does. Two of the victims have been offended and revictimized by our primary public defender calling them.
1.  Dianne
 Speaking from an attorney's perspective, a defense attorney would always want to interview the victim prior to a hearing or trial. However, there is nothing that requires a victim to do so and a victim can simply refuse to speak to the defense attorney unless a Judge rules otherwise. From a victim advocate perspective, I would recommend that you work with your prosecutor to establish a protocol specific to your area so that this doesn't continue to happen and further traumatize victims. The court proceeding itself is enough stress for them after having been victimized by the actual crime.
Are there victim advocate programs for victims in the Tribal Courts? If not, what programs exist that are designed to assist victims during the court process?
1.  Debi
 Hi Dianne, I am new to this but very interested in Advocating Victims Rights in Tribal Court. What is the best course for me to proceed. Thanks
2.  Jennifer
 Diane, what state and tribal program do you work with?
3.  Dianne
 The Office for Victims of Crime currently funds three programs: Tribal Victim Assistance, Children's Justice Act and Faith Based and Counseling Services for Crime Victims in Indian Country which funds a total 37 tribal victims programs in Indian Country through a competitive grant process. The Office on Violence Against Women has a grant that funds victim advocacy and legal assistance for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence and by accessing their web site you can obtain a list of current grantees for those services. Unfortunately as far as legal assistance, funding is very minimal for victims as opposed to offenders. However, tribal victim services programs do provide accompaniment to victims in attending court proceedings such as protective orders and criminal cases. With the passage of the new Tribal Law and Order Act, I anticipate that there will be increased activity of criminal prosecutions in tribal courts and the need for more victim advocates will be greatly enhanced. Hopefully, as activities with that legislation move forward, more funding will become available to meet these needs. The need for victim assistance in tribal communities is a tremendous need in Indian Country.
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