Tribes recognized for work in defender's office

Salish Kootenai Tribes recognized for work in public law

Montana Living  — Harvard University recognized today the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Defenders Office as part of the 100 programs named as Semifinalists in this year’s Innovations in American Government Awards competition.   

The Tribal Defenders will compete to be named a Finalist in the competition and have the chance to be awarded the $100,000 grand prize in Cambridge this spring.


The Tribal Defenders Office advanced from a pool of more than 500 applications from all 50 states, and was selected by the Innovations Award evaluators as examples of novel and effective action whose work has had significant impact, and who they believe can be replicated across the country and the world.
In 2009, with the help of a federal grant and technical assistance from the Bronx Defenders in New York, Tribal Defenders Office implemented an innovative public defense model called “holistic defense” that views the client as a whole person and addresses all aspects of the case, including underlying issues and collateral consequences.

Tribal Defenders Office offers psychology and case management services to individuals most at risk to recidivate due to mental illness and substance use disorders.  TDO implements court diversions, driver’s license restoration, cultural mentoring, civil assistance for collateral consequences to criminal charges, community service, community education and, in 2015 a reentry program.

“These programs demonstrate that there are no prerequisites for doing the good work of governing” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center, “small towns and massive cities, huge federal agencies and local school districts, large budgets or no budgets at all — what makes government work best is the drive to do better, and this group proves that drive can be found anywhere.”

The Semifinalist programs represent a cross-section of jurisdictions and policy areas, and embody one of the most diverse and sophisticated groups that have advanced to this stage in the competition’s 30-year history. They were invited to complete a supplementary application last fall, answering in-depth questions about their work, the process of creating and sustaining their programs, and how they believe they can teach others to do what they do. The Ash Center expects to announce 10 programs that will be named Finalists and be invited to Cambridge to present to the Innovation Awards Program’s National Selection Committee in March, with the grand prize winners to be named in June.

See the Government Innovators Network at for the full list of Semifinalists, and for more information regarding the Innovations in American Government Awards.

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs, and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens. For more information, visit

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