Elder Panels an Alternative to Incarceration for Tribal Members

In many tribal communities, elders serve their tribes as traditional healers, spiritual guiders, and council members. In a growing number of tribal communities, elders are also being asked to serve within tribal justice system to assist tribal members in making reparations to victims and/or the community as a result of criminal/delinquent behavior. Historically, elders have embraced their responsibility of sharing traditions and customs with new generations, so their involvement in the court system provides an opportunity to be reparative instead of punitive. This publication will provide a brief overview of the various ways elders can be used within the justice system and provide guidance on important things to consider if your community is interested in developing a formal elder panel or is interested in utilizing elders informally in your community.