By Kathryn Ford, Center for Court Innovation

  • the scope and dynamics of sex trafficking involving Native Americans;
  • the complexities of tribal justice;
  • the intersections among tribal justice, the state courts, and human-trafficking involved cases; and
  • lessons for state courts and tribal justice systems for working collaboratively to address sex trafficking of Native Americans

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Chapter Overview:

Bored woman in distribution warehouseNative American women experience the highest rates of domestic violence, sexual violence and sex trafficking of any group in the United States.  Since an effective response requires inter-agency coordination and informed decision making, it is imperative that state courts have a working knowledge of tribal justice and that each state court build respectful, collaborative relationships with their tribal justice system colleagues. While some state courts are knowledgeable about and collaborate closely with nearby tribal communities, others have historically had distant or even strained relationships with their tribal counterparts. This has resulted in dangerous offenders slipping through the cracks and victims not receiving the support and justice they deserve. Native Americans have often had negative experiences with state justice systems, which may feel intimidating, unsafe, discriminatory, and unresponsive to their needs. This chapter provides a framework for state courts to address sex trafficking through collaborative efforts with the tribal justice system in order to ensure cultural competency and effectiveness, improve Native litigants’ experience with the state court system and increase their willingness to utilize it to access safety and justice.

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