Judge Deb O’Gara enters the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s Tribal Court on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Funding from federal grants will allow Tlingit and Haida to expand its court. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Judge Deb O’Gara enters the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s Tribal Court on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Funding from federal grants will allow Tlingit and Haida to expand its court. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Tlingit and Haida receives federal public safety grants

The two Department of Justice grants totalled nearly $3 million.

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska is looking to continue victims service and double the number of courtrooms for its tribal courts with a pair of grants from the Department of Justice that total nearly $3 million.

Tribal Court Administrator Frances Andrews said the money would help improve services for citizens of Tlingit and Haida everywhere.

Tlingit and Haida received money from two long-standing grants, Andrews said. The first is the Victims of Crime Act, which helps provide services for tribal citizens who have become the victim of lawbreaking. Tlingit and Haida received about $1.7 million from this grant, and the money will go to continuing or expanding services across Southeast Alaska, Andrews said.

The second grant, from the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation grant, is specifically so that Tlingit and Haida can add a second courtroom, which will have long-lasting and beneficial effects across all aspects of tribal courts, Andrews said.

Specific benefits will manifest in shortened waits for court dates.

See a news release containing a full list of recipients below:



“Any time you have a calendar and one room to have a hearing in, you’re limited to the seven and a half hours in a workday,” Andrews said in a phone interview. “At this point we have hearings booked every single day except Monday and Friday for the next four months.”

The improvement will be especially evident for domestic violence protective orders, which are same-day processes. With two courtrooms, the process will become much more streamlined, Andrews said.

“American Indian and Alaska Native communities experience rates of violent crime and domestic abuse that are among the highest in the nation,” said Attorney General William P. Barr in a news release. “The awards announced today underscore the Department of Justice’s deep commitment to improving public safety in tribal communities throughout the United States. This administration will continue to work closely with our tribal partners to guarantee that they have the resources they need to combat violence and bring criminals to justice.”

More than $77 million was awarded in grants around Alaska. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska received more than $1.4 million and Ketchikan Indian Community recieved nearly $1.2 million. Other funds also went to the Village Public Safety Officer program, among others.

The effort to figure out how best to enhance the capacity of the courts will be a 28-month project, Andrews said, which will likely be handled by a member of Tlingit and Haida tribal leadership as a special project.

The continued growth and development of the tribal courts can only be regarded as a great thing, Andrews said, providing a forum for families and an aid to the community.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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