New York Times on crime in Indian Country

The NY Times reports today that Indian reservations have had to contend for years with chronic rates of crime much higher than all but some of the nation’s most violent cities. "But the Justice Department, which is responsible for prosecuting the most serious crimes on reservations, files charges in only about half of Indian Country murder investigations and turns down nearly two-thirds of sexual assault cases, according to new federal data."   

The crime rate on the 310 Indian reservations in the United States are more than two and a half times higher than the national average, according to the Justice Department and Indian women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than other Americans. They are raped or sexually assaulted at a rate four times the national average, with more than one in three having either been raped or experienced an attempted rape.

The tangled mish-mash of criminal jurisdiction in Indian country is one of the problems and the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court denied tribal governments the power to prosecute non-Indians in the Oliphant case in 1978.

Others also blame the low rate of criminal prosecutions on United States attorneys, who along with the FBI generally have jurisdiction for the most serious crimes on reservations.  Tribal governments say this amounts to a second-class system of justice that encourages law breaking.   

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