Obama Signs Bill to Combat Crime on American Indian Reservations
President Obama passed a bill yesterday that expands the authority of tribal law enforcement agencies and strengthens communication between federal, state, and tribal law enforcement bodies. The law, which was passed in the House last week and was introduced by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD), is designed to combat high rates of violent crime and sexual assault on American Indian reservations. Obama has said that the bill addresses the "unique public safety challenges" on tribal lands, according to CBS.
Some of the reforms in the bill include allowing for the appointment of special US Attorneys who prosecute violent crimes on reservations, and increasing the sentencing power of tribal courts from one to three years, according to CBS. The bill also emphasizes the importance of trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) and Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities, according to an Amnesty International Press Release.
A 2007 Amnesty International Report stated that Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from rape and sexual violence than non-native women. Charon Asetoyer, chair of AIUSA's Native Advisory Council says the law will help remedy this and "underscore the importance of the need for medical staff that collect forensic evidence to testify in a court of law. It is a critical step toward ensuring that Native women's human rights are recognized," according to Amnesty International.
During his remarks yesterday, President Obama said, "all of our people -- whether they live in our biggest cities or our most remote reservations -- have the right to feel safe in their own communities, and to raise their children in peace, and enjoy the fullest protection of our laws." He continued, "when one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes, that is an assault on our national conscience; it is an affront to our shared humanity; it is something that we cannot allow to continue."
Media Resources: President Obama Remarks 7/29/10; Amnesty International press release 7/21/10; CBS 7/22/10
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