The country’s 310 Indian reservations have violent crime rates that are more than two and a half times higher than the national average. 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, the New York Times reports.
The cases that are turned down by the Department of Justice range from murder to rape and child abuse. United States attorneys say they turn down most reservation cases because of a lack of admissible evidence.
According to the Times, American Indian women are 10 times as likely to be murdered than other Americans and more than one in three have either been raped or experienced an attempted rape but more often than not little is done to prosecute suspects. More details from the NY Times:
The Justice Department said it has made headway in resolving conflicts with tribes, pointing to a directive to United States attorneys to work more closely with tribal leaders and to the Tribal Law and Order Act, approved by Congress in 2010, which sought to strengthen tribal law enforcement systems.
But Tao Etpison, former chief judge of the Tonto Apaches in Arizona, said federal prosecutors typically live, work and try cases hundreds of miles from Indian Country. And at times, according to federal data, the Justice Department declines to prosecute violent reservation crime because local United States attorneys have said they lack sufficient resources. “These crimes are very serious for the reservation, but the prosecutors really don’t see it from a reservation perspective,” Mr. Etpison said.
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. In contrast, the Justice Department declined 20 percent of drug trafficking cases nationwide, according to the federal figures.