Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Modern Day Banishment

On Indian Reservations, Higher Crime & Fewer Prosecutions:

Indian reservations across the United States have grappled for years with chronic rates of crime higher than all but a handful 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 country’s 310 Indian reservations have violent crime rates that are more than two and a half times higher than the national average, according to data compiled by the Justice Department. American Indian women are 10 times as 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.

Federal prosecutors in 2011 declined to file charges in 52 percent of cases involving the most serious crimes committed on Indian reservations, according to figures compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which uses the Freedom of Information Act to recover and examine federal data.

The government did not pursue rape charges on reservations 65 percent of the time last year and rejected 61 percent of cases involving charges of sexual abuse of children, the federal data showed.

Ironic, isn't it? If you are suspected of being in the country illegally, the Justice Department will move heaven and earth to get you arrested, detained and deported (400,000 a year and counting), but if you're Native American and are raped, molested or murdered? No interest.

As we discuss in my 3150 punishment class, the reservations serve as a form of modern day banishment. The intent was never to "give back land" or create reparations as much as it was to banish Native Americans to an impoverished and crime-infested existence within our own borders. Not only is violent crime higher on the reservations, but so is alcoholism, suicide, depression and virtually every other social pathology we can measure.

Also, their sovereign status, which allows many Native American law violators to be punished by their tribal laws and by federal laws, serves as a form of double jeopardy. Unless, of course, you commit a violent crime. Then you get a maximum of three years in tribal prison and no prosecution whatsoever in the federal system.

At a time when our federal prisons are teeming with non-violent, low-level drug offenders, it's astonishing that violent offenders on the reservations are getting a hall pass for their behavior from the federal government. And the victims who are being denied justice (talk about a cruel spin on "women and children first") are left to suffer further.

Bravo, Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department. Between dropping the ball on white-collar mortgage/foreclosure fraud and this, it makes you wonder what, precisely, they do up there all day long.

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