A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest
Senate version one-pagerTRIBAL LAW AND ORDER ACT SUMMARY
Over the past 3 years the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held 14 hearings on public safety and justice issues facing tribal communities that confirmed a longstanding crisis of violence on many Indian reservations.
Tribal communities nationwide face 2.5 times higher violent crime rates than non-Indian communities. Some reservations face more than 20 times the rate of violence. More than 1 in 3 American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetimes, and 2 in 5 will face domestic or partner violence. The crisis is the result of a broken and underfunded system of justice.
Senator Dorgan introduced S. 797 the Tribal Law and Order Act on April 2, 2009 to improve the system to address these shortfalls. The bill has 22 bi-partisan co-sponsors including Senators Barrasso, Baucus, Bingaman, Boxer, Begich, Bennet (CO), Cantwell, Crapo, Franken, Johnson, Kyl, Lieberman, McCain, Merkley, Murkowski, Murray, Stabenow, Tester, Thune, Tom Udall (NM), Mark Udall (CO), and Wyden.
The bill takes a comprehensive approach at reforming the justice system by establishing accountability measures for federal agencies responsible for investigating and prosecuting reservation crime, and by providing tribes with additional tools to combat crime locally.
Some major provisions include:
o Evidence Sharing and Declinations: Federal officials have declined to prosecute more than 50% of violent crimes in Indian country. The bill will require the Department of Justice to maintain data on criminal declinations and share evidence with tribal justice officials when a case is declined.
o 3-year Tribal Court Sentencing: Federal law limits tribal court authority to sentence offenders to no more than one year in prison, which limits their ability to provide justice to the victims and the tribal community. The bill establishes an option for tribes to increase sentencing authority for up to three years where a tribe provides added protections to defendants.
o Deputizing Tribal Police to Enforce Federal Law: The complex jurisdictional scheme in Indian country prevents tribal police from arresting offenders, even when a crime is committed in plain view. The bill will enhance the Special Law Enforcement Commission program to deputize tribal police officers to enforce federal laws on Indian lands.
o Tribal Police Access to Criminal History Records: Many tribal police have no access to criminal history records. As a result, when pulling over a suspect, the officer has no background on the person who is detained. The bill will provide tribal police greater access to criminal history databases such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
o Domestic and Sexual Violence: The bill will require tribal and federal officers serving Indian country to receive specialized training to interview victims of sexual assault, collect crime scene evidence. It also requires federal Indian Health Service and BIA officials to provide documents and testimony gained in the course of their duties to aid in prosecutions before tribal courts.
The Committee approved S. 797 by unanimous voice vote on September 10, 2009. The Committee filed Report No. 111-093 on October 29, 2009. The Senate passed the Tribal Law and Order Act as an amendment to H.R. 725, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act Amendments, on June 24, 2010.