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Enhanced Sentencing in Tribal Courts: Lessons Learned From Tribes

NCJ Number
Christine Folsom-Smith
Date Published
January 2015
17 pages
This report presents an overview of the changes that have occurred in tribal courts under the Tribal Law & Order Act of 2010 (TLOA), which amends the Indian Civil Rights Act to allow felony sentencing for certain crimes through the provisions of enhanced sentencing authority, the establishment of new minimum standards for protecting defendants' rights in the tribal court system, and encouragement for federally recognized Indian tribes to consider the use of alternatives to incarceration.
Because the law is so new and so few tribes have begun implementing it, there are few resources and/or tools available to guide tribes in implementing enhanced sentencing in their courts. In order to meet this need, this report features a checklist based upon the experiences of tribes that have led the way in implementing the TLOA. The checklist includes two general preparatory activities. First, determine the existing competencies/capabilities of the tribe to implement enhanced sentencing under the TLOA. Second, determine whether there will be increased costs to the tribal justice system. Two sections of the checklist pertain to the responsibilities of the judicial officer and defense counsel who meet TLOA qualifications. Other sections of the checklist address inmate incarceration for enhanced sentences, ensuring that the tribe's laws are publicly available, and code revisions. Suggestions are also offered for obtaining funding to support changes under the TLOA.

Date Published: January 1, 2015