The Coalition on Juvenile Justice and the Tribal Law and Policy Institute have published a new brief paper, “American Indian/Alaska Native Youth & Status Offense Disparities: A Call For Tribal Initiatives, Coordination & Federal Funding.”

The paper examines the overrepresentation of American Indian and Alaskan Native youth in the nation’s juvenile justice system. The research indicates that these young people are almost twice as likely to be jailed for status offense (such as skipping school, under-age drinking and other offenses related to juvenile status) then the rest of this age group and population.

American Indian/Alaskan native youth are more likely to be petitioned to state courts for a status offense, especially liquor law violations and that they experience higher rates of detention, residential placements and are more likely to experience trauma, violence, and alcohol abuse than other youth. The authors argue that these young people experience a higher rate of detention and residential placement because they lack access to effective, strengths-based diversion programs that address their mental health and substance abuse issues.

The paper emphasizes that the federal, state, local, and tribal stakeholders should coordinate efforts to optimize limited resources, share information, resolve jurisdictional issues, and increase access to culturally relevant services for AI/AN youth who are charged with a status offense. But the paper also highlights the challenges and strains between these potential partners because of past history and interaction or in many cases no interaction.

“Tribes and states have different cultures and legal traditions and they can have very different views on tribal sovereignty…effective coordination requires building mutual respect and developing open communication lines between these stakeholders.”

They also suggest fully resourced tribally-driven responses to address status offenses are the best practice, but funding is a barrier. With federal funding under the Department of Justice budget (OJJDP AI/AN youth specific grants) have decreased from $24.2 million in 2010 to less than $4.9 million in 2014.

The report includes a number of actions for state and local stakeholders.