Addressing Tribal Victims of Crime

The National Congress of American Indians Task Force on Violence Against Women will provide an update on efforts to remove barriers preventing American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages from accessing the Crime Victim Fund. Unlike state and territorial governments, tribal governments do not receive an annual allocation from the Crime Victims Fund to help crime victims in their communities.

American Indians and Alaska Natives experience the highest crime victimization rates in the country. Complex jurisdictional issues, along with the cultural diversity of tribes and the basic reality of geography, pose significant challenges for tribal crime victims. Tribal governments, like other governments, are responsible for meeting the needs of victims in their communities. Unfortunately, tribal governments often have few or no resources available to provide services to victims.

Unlike state and territorial governments, who receive an annual formula distribution from the Crime Victim Fund, Indian tribes are only able to access these funds via pass-through grants from the states or by competing for very limited resources administered by the Department of Justice. According to DOJ, from 2010–2014, state governments passed through 0.5% of available funds to programs serving tribal victims—less than $2.5 million annually nationwide. In 2013—the year with the highest number of state subgrants to date—more than 60% of states with Indian tribes made no subgrants to tribal programs.

Congress created the Crime Victims Fund in 1984 based on the idea that money that the government collects from criminals should be used to help those victimized by crime. Fines paid by convicted federal criminal offenders finance the Fund, not taxpayer dollars. In FY 2015 the CVF distribution was $2.3 billion and in FY 2016 the distribution was $2.6 billion.