Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $330,325)
The White Mountain Apache Tribe (“WMAT” or “Tribe”) consists of approximately 17,500 current enrolled members, 84% of whom reside on the 1.67-million-acre Fort Apache Indian Reservation (“Reservation”) located in east-central Arizona. The population living on the Reservation is roughly 15,487 based on the most recently available Census estimates. To fully understand the profile of the Tribe, it is essential to contextualize the community’s economic and social disadvantages.
Systemic and chronic social and health inequities plague the Tribe and its people, who, by all statistical measurements, comprise one of the most distressed communities in the U.S. By definition, the WMAT community and its Reservation qualify on every federal metric as an “underserved community and population.” Crime is a symptom of persistent poverty and is an outmatched challenge with underfunded police and justice services to cover the entire Reservation. The Tribe is disproportionately affected by many crimes, especially domestic violence, child abuse, sexual offenses, substance abuse, drugs, violent crime, and disproportionally high incidence of arson.
Like the Tribe itself, the Tribal Court is in a precarious condition on many levels including being drastically understaffed, and having serious safety and security deficiencies. These key areas of need are the priority of this grant.
Solution # 1 – Improve Security & Safety Measures
This grant will allow security doors and windows within the Court be upgraded to withstand break in attempts, shield court individuals from projectiles, and add to the security for staff and visitors alike. Cameras will be installed to deter intruders and provide a system to monitor and identify attempted break-ins, theft, and damage to court property.
Solution #2 – Restore Staff Lost from Lack of Funding
The Court’s staffing shortage creates problems that reverberate across the entire tribal justice system. As the Court struggles to support its over-burdened backlog of cases, and as the volume of cases continue to increase, so too does the delay from one stage of the criminal process to the other. As a proposed solution, Tribal Court proposes adding five full-time positions and a Court Administrative Aid.
Funding from this grant could quite literally be considered life-safety measures, as well as alleviating serious backlogs of cases. Improving current conditions of staff shortages will take offenders off the street, close unresolved cases that have been pending for far too long, and access revenue-generation strategies that will help sustain new staff positions.