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New Pine Ridge Justice Center to Meet Unique Needs of Tribal Legal System

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The first tribal justice center to blend a traditional Indian justice system and technologically advanced design is midway through completion on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Funded by a $40 million grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Oglala Sioux Tribe's free-standing justice center in Pine Ridge, South Dakota will house the tribe’s judicial system under one roof to accommodate the unique needs of Indian Country legal systems. Construction, scheduled to begin by fall 2011, will take 15 months to complete.

“Witnessing this project move forward from concept to design is a major achievement for our community,” said Roxanne Two Bulls, Oglala Sioux Tribe grants and contracts manager. “Once completed, our new judicial center will help curb crime, improve public safety and serve as a model for future BIA reservation projects.”

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A ceremonial outdoor circular courtyard will serve as a space for restorative justice ceremonies, reflection and healing. All public spaces and major waiting areas will surround the courtyard. A special courtroom will accommodate circle sentencing and talking circle events to keep with traditional native peacemaking principles.

The center's design earned a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver rating, awarded for the use of sustainable materials, systems and practices.

“We have worked closely with the BIA and tribal leaders to ensure that the project’s key design elements are sensitive to the needs of the community,” said John Cain, principal of Venture Architects and a member of the design team. “As part of this effort, a cultural artwork design competition will be open to residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Selected artwork will be prominently displayed in public areas to represent the Lakota way of life, values, leaders and history.”

The new facility will address the issues of deteriorating and overcrowded jails, courts and administrative offices, as well as introduce an enhanced communication tower system that will allow the tribe's police department to be on the federal digital 911 system and associated frequencies.

For more information, view the Pine Ridge Justice Center fact sheet.