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Webinar 4: Building a Collaborative Court with Other Jurisdictions to Treat Nonviolent Tribal Adult Offenders

The webinar, “Building a Collaborative Court with Other Jurisdictions to Treat Nonviolent Tribal Adult Offenders,” was held on March 4, 2015 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. (E.T.).

Chief Judge Abby Abinanti, Anthony Trombetti, and Jolanda Ingram-Obie of the Yurok Tribal Court presented an overview of the collaborative court that administers the Yurok Wellness Program.  They explained that the wellness program began in 2009 with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.  The Yurok Wellness Program provides outpatient and residential treatment to tribal members, who have substance abuse problems.  The program incorporates cultural awareness by encouraging and supporting tribal members, who are recovering or recovered, to attend community and cultural events.  For example, the tribal court will sponsor a sober gathering or camping at a Yurok ceremonial dance.  The Yurok Tribe is a world renewal culture and has Brush Dances, White Deer Skin Dances, and Jump Dances. 

The presenters stressed how they built trust and intergovernmental cooperation prior to proposing the collaborative court model to the Del Norte and Humboldt counties.  First, the tribal court established its capacity and expertise to monitor, supervise, and treat tribal adult offenders.  The tribal court also participated in trainings on a consistent basis to learn and implement best practices.  The notoriety of Abby Abinanti among judges in the county court system greatly assisted in building the intergovernmental cooperation.  

The presenters described that the collaborative court began when the Yurok Tribal Court approached two counties and proposed taking responsibility for nonviolent tribal adult offenders, who were on probation.  A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was entered into with each county for the co-monitoring of adult offenders, establishing protocols for transferring cases, recognition of tribal court orders, and cultural needs of the offenders. The tribal court personnel are responsible for compliance monitoring of the adult offenders and reporting any violations to the appropriate county court, either Del Norte or Humboldt.  Treatment assessments and case management also is provided by tribal court personnel in Del Norte and Humboldt counties.  Personnel from the tribal court and the county courts cooperate and share client information.   

Next, the presenters discussed the success achieved through the collaborative court.  They identified elements of success that included tribal-state cooperation, tribal-state colleagues, strengthening tribal courts, strengthening tribal members, an empathetic work force, and sharing the victories between the tribal court and counties when tribal adults have graduated from the program.  The presenters provided data to show the court’s success in assisting tribal adult members to establish a drug free lifestyle.   

We hope this webinar will assist tribal courts in partnering with other jurisdictions to create a collaborative court.  The webinar slide deck and recording of the presentation will be sent via email to those who registered for the webinar.  It also will be archived on the National American Indian Court Judges Association's website for later viewing.   

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