Justice Department Reports Increase In Prosecutions For Crimes On Reservations

The New York Times has published a Justice Department statement indicating that it has increased the rate of criminal prosecutions in Native communities by more than 50% in the past four years, to help combat an increase in violent crime impacting Tribes.

The report states that United States attorneys prosecuted about 69 percent of the 3,145 criminal cases referred to their offices from Tribes last year — an improvement over 2011, when the federal government tried 63 percent of 2,840 criminal cases in Indian country.

The report is partly a response to criticism of the Justice Department by tribal officials who say United States attorneys pursue far too few violent criminal cases on reservations. Prosecutors say they must decline many Tribal cases — about 60 percent of the total — because of a lack of evidence.

Federal prosecutions of crime on Indian lands rose by nearly 54 percent from the 2008 fiscal year, when the Justice Department prosecuted 1,091 cases, to the 2012 fiscal year, when it prosecuted 1,677 cases, the report said.  However, the information on violent crimes presented a more pessimistic picture: the Justice Department files charges in only about half of reservation murder investigations and one-third of sexual assault cases. The data also showed the number of prosecutions by United States attorneys of violent crimes fell by 3 percent from 2000 to 2010, even as crime on some reservations increased by 50 percent or more. The report released this week does not separate the number of federal prosecutions for violent crimes. Instead, the report groups them with drug cases and white-collar crime.
 

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