US Congress Deals Major Setback to Tribal Justice Programs
Cuts to funding sets back projected tribal law enforcement gains
Washington, DC -- The US Congress has leveled a major setback to Indian tribes in need of critical resources to combat the highest crime rates in the country. A decision by Congress to cut over $90 million from proposed funding for essential Department of Justice measures in Indian Country leaves tribal law enforcement and federal personnel with far too few resources to fight crime on tribal lands. Signed into law last year with bipartisan support, The Tribal Law & Order Act (TLOA) set out to reduce crime in Indian Country by making improvements to the way criminal justice is administered on tribal lands and reauthorizing critical tribal justice programs. The recent funding cut will make the Act’s intended goals very difficult to attain.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the nation’s leading tribal advocacy organization, is calling this a failure of significant proportions.
“We understand these are tight budget times but this is a failure of the worst kind. Tribes and the federal government were finally working together to tackle major crime and security issues. Now the House and Senate have irresponsibly cut crime fighting efforts in communities that need it the most,” said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI and a member of the Indian Law and Order Commission – an independent commission established by the TLOA. “NCAI urges Congress to immediately restore tribal law enforcement funding levels and reinstate the 7% tribal set-aside of OJP programs.”
Indian reservations nationwide face violent crime rates more than 2.5 times the national rate, and some reservations face more than 20 times the national rate of violence. Non-Native offenders, immune to tribal prosecution, are many times responsible for violent crimes, gang activity, and drug trafficking on tribal lands. The TLOA provides tribal and federal law enforcement officials the tools to work together to combat crime and prosecute these offenders. Initial programs are beginning to make significant reductions in crime but implementation of the law is in its early stages. These cuts slash core funding at a critical time and chip away at the gains made since the TLOA was passed.
On late Monday evening of this week, Congress released the FY2012 Appropriations Conference Report for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS), which includes all Department of Justice (DOJ) tribal programs. The report drastically cut funding for tribal justice programs across the board and did not include the proposed 7% tribal set-aside for all discretionary Office of Justice Programs (OJP) programs—which has previously been supported by both the House and Senate CJS Subcommittees (the House in FY 2011 and the Senate in FY 2012). The Conference Report proposes $15 million cuts to both the COPS Tribal Resources Grant Program and the Tribal Youth Program. Funding for tribal assistance within OJP was also decimated, receiving only $38 million—a mere fraction of the approximate $100 million initially proposed in the President’s FY2012 budget request.
Background document on this issue: http://www.ncai.org/fileadmin/broadcasts/2011/November/Background%20on%20Tribal%20Justice%20and%20Law%20Enforcement_NOV.pdf
About The National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit http://www.ncai.org .