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Tribal Criminal Legal Assistance Program

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $600,000)

The Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) and the National Association of Indian Legal Services (NAILS) programs propose to enhance tribal civil justice systems and improve meaningful access to justice within the service areas of the 17 participating NAILS member programs under the Category 2, Tribal Criminal Legal Assistance Grant. To meet this goal, MLSA and the NAILS member programs will take a three-fold approach: 1) provide direct criminal legal assistance in tribal courts; 2) provide capacity-building services to tribes to assist with Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) implementation; and 3) provide assistance with other projects designed to meet the needs of local tribal communities. Primary activities and objectives include making subawards to 17 NAILS member programs, who will use the funding to provide direct criminal legal assistance to at least 800 individuals in tribal court and to provide capacity-building assistance to tribes in order to support the expanding needs of tribal justice systems. MLSA will administer and coordinate the grant, including monitoring grant compliance amongst the 17 subgrantees. Project deliverables include signed MOUs from the NAILS member programs and Tribal Resolutions from the tribes who will receive services as part of the proposed project. MLSA and the NAILS member programs will submit data and reports to BJA on a regular basis. Those who will benefit from the project include the 17 NAILS member programs and the more than 340 tribes and Indian communities they serve across 17 states, including Alaska and California. Individuals to be served are predominantly low income (i.e. living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level) and living on tribal land, where poverty rates are often high and there may be limited access to criminal defense attorneys. Each program determines for itself how to decide which tribes receive services; for most NAILS programs, this determination is based on which tribes reside in their service area. MLSA and the NAILS coalition expect that the proposed services and projects will result in increased access to criminal legal defense services for individuals charged with crimes in tribal courts, as well as an overall strengthening of individual tribal justice systems through capacity building projects. Ultimately, the proposed project will help ensure due process; protect the constitutional and civil rights of Native American defendants; and allow tribes to develop tribal codes and ordinances, which promote tribal sovereignty.

Date Created: November 2, 2021