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New Law Will Make American Indian Communities Safer

August 2, 2010 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Last week, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act into law, significantly increasing the ability for tribal police to ensure the safety of their communities. The Act will enhance tribal law enforcement and improve the cooperation between tribes and the federal government in apprehending and prosecuting criminals.

The Act was passed by an overwhelming majority in the House and unanimously in the Senate.  It is an effort to curb the nationwide crime rates on Indian reservations that are more than 2.5 times the national crime rate.

"This historic legislation is an opportunity for tribes and the federal government to work together to make our communities safer, and it supports the sovereignty of tribes to investigate and prosecute serious crimes on our lands," stated National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel.

Key parts of the Tribal Law & Order Act include:

  • Requiring federal prosecutors to share evidence for prosecutions in tribal court and to actively maintain information on criminal behavior in tribal regions;
  • Increasing the sentencing authority of tribal court in some cases;
  • Increasing sexual assault training and standardizing protocols for tribal police to effectively handle sex crimes;
  • Permitting tribal police to access criminal history databases with greater frequency;
  • Allowing special assistant U.S. attorneys to prosecute crimes committed on reservations in federal courts;
  • Strengthening existing programs intended to assist criminal justice proceedings in tribal lands; and
  • Implementing programs to treat and prevent alcohol and substance abuse and programs that develop opportunities for Indian youth.

The Act is also notable for increasing the protection women receive against rape and violence. More than one in three American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetime and two in five will face domestic abuse. 

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