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Strengthening and Rebuilding Tribal Justice Systems: A Participatory Outcomes Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Justice Comprehensive Indian Resources for Community and Law Enforcement (CIRCLE) Project (Executive Summary Final Report)

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2007
9 pages
The study evaluated the Comprehensive Indian Resources for Community and Law Enforcement (CIRCLE) Project.
In 1998, several agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) conceived a partnership with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and Pueblo of Zuni to strengthen those Native nations’ justice systems. Through the CIRCLE initiative, USDOJ provided incentives and opportunities to develop a more effective coordination between the individual components of the tribal justice systems to better address pressing crime and social problems. Evaluation results demonstrate that investments like CIRCLE, which streamline and coordinate external funding, and create incentives and opportunities for system rather than program development, can support progress. Criminal justice system strengthening efforts take time, pay off in the longer term, and have a greater chance for success if they are part of a tribe’s broader nation-building agenda. CIRCLE evaluation results also provide guidance for these tribes. Its distinctive components included a focus on comprehensive criminal justice system change, a learning process to which the CIRCLE partners were committed in the participatory evaluation, and the Federal partners’ efforts to build an interagency problem-solving team. Evaluation research on the outcomes of the CIRCLE Projects points to three specific findings: investments in comprehensive improvements to criminal justice system function can help Native nations address pressing crime problems; where circumstances are not yet right for systems investments to have an effect, there may still be practical, near-term opportunities for targeted change that improves system performance and address crime; sustainability is a formidable challenge for any comprehensive change initiative, but without sustainability, short-term investments can amount to little more than short-term jobs program. Research identifies a number of planning considerations and institutional design features that promote sustainability. Evaluation of the CIRCLE Project occurred in two phases: an initial 18-month process phase and a followup 30-month outcomes phase.

Date Published: September 1, 2007