January | February 2014

Justice Department Task Force Holds Second Public Hearing on American Indian and Alaska Native Children's Exposure to Violence
Task Force Holds Second Public Hearing on American Indian and Alaska Native Children's Exposure to Violence, Defending Childhood 'Protect, Heal, Thrive'

On February 11, 2014, a task force advisory committee appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder held the second of four public hearings to examine the impact of violence on children in Indian country. The hearing, which took place in Scottsdale, AZ, focused on how juvenile courts and other programs within tribal juvenile justice systems address exposure to violence, as well as promising approaches in juvenile justice. More than 30 tribal leaders, juvenile court judges, child advocates, juvenile justice system experts, and community members from the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community testified.


Iroquois singer and composer Joanne Shenandoah and former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan are co-chairs of the Advisory Committee of the Attorney General's Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence.

“Too many native children encounter violence in their homes and communities that can disrupt a path to living healthy adult lives, and we must do all that we can to protect these young people,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West in his opening remarks. “By intervening early, we can help these children avoid a fate involving courts and the corrections system.”

 

During the hearing, experts explained how children entering tribal, state, or federal justice systems are screened and treated for trauma from previous exposure to violence. They also discussed a variety of issues facing American Indian and Alaska Native children in juvenile justice systems, including the availability of legal representation, tribal court transfer of juvenile cases to adult courts, culturally sensitive programs, and services that divert youth from entering the juvenile justice system.

The Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence is composed of a federal working group that includes U.S. Attorneys and officials from the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Justice and an advisory committee of experts on American Indian/Alaska Native studies, child health and trauma, and child welfare. The 13-member advisory committee is co-chaired by former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan and Iroquois composer and singer Joanne Shenandoah. 

The Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence is a key component of Attorney General Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative to prevent and reduce children’s trauma from experiencing violence as victims or witnesses. The advisory committee will hold additional public hearings in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and Anchorage, AK, in 2014, and will conduct several listening sessions throughout the year. After the hearings are completed, the committee will analyze the findings and provide policy and program recommendations to Attorney General Holder in the fall of 2014.

Robert L. Listenbee Op-Ed Addresses Children's Exposure to Violence in Indian Country

On January 22, the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) published an op-ed by OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee emphasizing the importance of preventing children's exposure to violence in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Listenbee, who co-chaired the Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, calls for countering the effects of violence among tribal youth. Listenbee cites important steps that the Attorney General's Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence has taken, including expanding educational services inside Bureau of Indian Affairs juvenile detention facilities and holding public hearings of its advisory committee on the trauma that native children experience. To read the op-ed, visit JJIE's Web site.



Resources:

Associate Attorney General Tony West’s speech at the public hearing, a press release about the hearing, and more information about the Attorney General's Defending Childhood Initiative and the Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence are available on the U.S. Department of Justice Web site.

 

To learn more about OJJDP's tribal youth initiatives, visit the Office's Web site.