Law and Justice

NNI staff have long been engaged on issues of justice and law enforcement in Indian Country for two evidence-based reasons:

1. the econometric evidence: Native nations with more effective court systems are those best able to attract investment of all forms, be it financial, physical, or human.

2. the qualitative evidence: It is difficult for healthy community development to proceed when tribal citizens feel unsafe and afraid.


A Roadmap For Making Native America Safer. 2012-2013

NNI supported the Indian Law and Order Commission as research staff for its report, A Roadmap for Making Native American Safer. This role included facilitation of commission meetings to determine and refine recommendations, factual and legal research to support recommendations, and drafting.

The Comprehensive Indian Resources for Community and Law Enforcement (CIRCLE) Project. 2000-2003

A pilot investment by the U.S. Dept. of Justice to test the effectiveness of more integrated justice systems funding.

Evaluation Reports

Articles summarizing the findings of the project:

Policing on American Indian Reservations. 1996-2001

In partnership with the U.S. Dept. of Justice and Harvard University, NNI conducted a national study of policing on federal jurisdiction Indian reservations that included large-sample primary data collection and in-depth case studies of law enforcement in four Native nations.

The projects key contributions to the field:

  • calibrated the underfunding of American Indian police services (data later used in the influential US Civil Rights Commission report, A Quiet Crisis)
  • explored the benefits to tribes of contracting and compacting in law enforcement
  • imagined the payoffs of even more self-determined forms of public safety provision
  • encouraged both tribal and federal policy makers to implement true community policing in Indian Country—not simply through tactics such as bicycle patrols, but through the integration of tribal values and approaches to community wellness into tribal policing practices, protocols, and organizational designs

Wakeling, Stewart, Miriam Jorgensen, Susan Michaelson, and Manley Begay. 2001. Policing on American Indian Reservations. National Institute of Justice.


Tribal Issues Advisory Group Report. 2016.

Criminal Intelligence Sharing: A National Plan for Intelligence-Led Policing At the Local, State & Federal Levels: Summit Report for International Association of Chiefs of Police. 2002.

Improving Safety in Indian Country: Summit Report for International Association of Chiefs of Police. 2001.

Case Reports on Criminal Justice with Harvard Project for American Indian Economic Development. 2000-present.


Rebuilding Native Nations: Strategies for Governance and Development

The State of the Native Nations: Conditions under US Policies of Self-Determination

Indigenous Justice: New Tools, Approaches, and Spaces


International Indigenous Community Safety Seminar

Tribal Constitutions Seminars

To learn more about NNI’s work in this area, please contact:

Miriam Jorgensen, Research Director

Share this