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Collecting and Analyzing Tribal Data

Date Published
January 19, 2010

Researchers who wish to conduct informative and appropriate studies of American Indian and Alaska Native communities face a number of challenges, including the lack of available data.

Based on their experiences, the CIRCLE Project [1] evaluation team provided the following advice to help future researchers collect and analyze tribal criminal justice data:

  • Know the context. Researchers should understand local criminal justice systems and find out where and how to conduct data searches.
  • Engage community members in data collection. Local community members can better gather and interpret data than outside researchers.
  • Talk to people across the political spectrum, both on and off the reservation. This limits bias when interpreting data.
  • Focus data analysis on improving a tribe's criminal justice system. The analysis should not blame individuals or organizations for what is wrong.
  • Use relevant literature to analyze and interpret a tribe's criminal justice data. Data that describe what works in other communities — even outside Indian Country — may help a Native American nation better understand its own situation.
  • Examine how crime and safety problems are related to criminal justice system functioning. Researchers may wish to consider:
    • System operations (e.g., Does the tribe's criminal justice system lack training or equipment? Does a method used to patrol an area work efficiently?)
    • Fiscal resources (e.g., Would more funding for any specific program or technology help the entire system function better?)
    • Political stability (e.g., Do certain aspects of the tribe's criminal justice system make it vulnerable to opportunism and exploitation?)
    • System design (e.g., Should a tribe focus on community policing or another policing method? What public safety issues are dominant in a tribe?)

For more information, read the full report.

Date Published: January 19, 2010