“Federal resources, which are often the only ones that can investigate and prosecute these crimes, are often far away and stretched thin. Tribal governments — police, prosecutors, and courts — should be essential parts of the response to these crimes; but under current law, they lack the authority to address many of these crimes. Until recently, no matter how violent the offense, tribal courts could only sentence Indian offenders to one year in prison. And, research shows that law enforcement’s failure to arrest and prosecute abusers both emboldens attackers and deters victims from reporting future incidents. In short, the jurisdictional framework has left many serious acts of domestic violence and dating violence unprosecuted and unpunished.”The Justice Department is already working to combat such inefficiencies. We have deployed 28 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys whose sole mission is to prosecute crime in Indian country, instructed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize the prosecution of crimes against Indian women and children, established new domestic-violence training programs for law enforcement officials, and created a Violence Against Women Federal-Tribal Prosecution Task Force. Yet, as Associate Attorney General Perrelli told the Senate Committee, there are areas ripe for legislative reform. These include:
- The lack of recognition of certain tribes’ power to exercise concurrent criminal jurisdiction over domestic violence cases, regardless of whether the defendant is Indian or non-Indian.
- The lack of civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce protection orders against Indians and non-Indians throughout Indian country.
- The lack of the necessary statutory tools in the hands of Federal prosecutors to combat domestic violence in Indian country.