BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Tribal courts
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Passage of the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934 encouraged tribes to enact their own laws and establish their own modern tribal courts. Modern tribal courts are under tribal control, and are directly oriented to the needs of tribal members. Some tribes have developed a hybrid or blended judicial system, incorporating the dispute resolution elements of indigenous or Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) courts and a more modern focus to ensure due process. In 2002, about 60% (188) of all the tribes had some form of a tribal justice system. 

The court systems operating in Indian country vary by tribe. The Indian country judicial system revolves around a core of four legal institutions—Court of Indian Offenses (CFR courts), tribal courts of appeal, tribal courts of general jurisdiction, and indigenous forums.

Summary findings

Over 92% (314) of the 341 federally recognized American Indian tribes in the lower 48 states participated in the BJS Census of Tribal Justice Agencies, 2002. Highlights from the report include:

  • An estimated 59% (188) of the 314 tribes had some form of judicial system
  • Eighty four percent of the tribal justice systems operating in Indian Country handled misdemeanor cases
  • 175 tribes had a formal tribal court. Of these:
    • About 174 had a separate, general jurisdiction tribal court;
    • 91 had an appellate court;
    • 80 had a juvenile court;
    • 51 had a family court, and
    • Over 60% (112) provided victim services.

Data Collections & Surveys

Publications & Products


Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities, 2015 Describes Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) activities to collect and improve data on crime and justice in Indian country, as required by the Tribal Law and Order Act, 2010.
  Summary (PDF 205KB) | PDF (790KB) | ASCII file (37KB) | Comma-delimited format (csv) (Zip format 6KB)
Part of the Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities Series

Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities, 2014 Describes Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) activities to collect and improve data on crime and justice in Indian country, as required by the Tribal Law and Order Act, 2010.
  PDF (465K) | ASCII file (23K)
Part of the Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities Series

Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities, 2013 Describes Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) activities to collect and improve data on crime and justice in Indian country, as required by the Tribal Law and Order Act, 2010.
  PDF (888K) | ASCII file (34K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 23K)
Part of the Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities Series

Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities, 2012 Describes Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) activities to collect and improve data on crime and justice in Indian country, as required by the Tribal Law and Order Act, 2010.
  PDF (1.71M) | ASCII file (23K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 39K)
Part of the Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities Series

Jails in Indian Country, 2011 2,239 INMATES IN INDIAN COUNTRY JAILS IN 2011, UP 5.7 PERCENT FROM 2010
  Press Release
Part of the Jails in Indian Country Series

Compendium of Tribal Crime Data, 2011 Focuses on BJS's existing data on key criminal justice issues in Indian country and addresses gaps in tribal crime data.
 

Census of Tribal Justice Agencies in Indian Country, 2002 Presents detailed information gathered on tribal law enforcement agencies, tribal courts and services, and criminal record systems from the 2002 Census of Tribal Justice Agencies in American Indian Jurisdictions.
  hi

1984 State Trial Court Jurisdiction Guide for Statistical Reporting - Summary Tables These 19 summary tables provide information relating to the completeness and comparability of State trial court statistics for 1984.
  PDF

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