SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The U.S. Senate has passed a bill giving American Indian tribes more authority to combat crime on their reservations.
The Tribal Law and Order Act, co-sponsored by Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, passed the Senate last month and heads to the House. Thune said he expects the legislation to pass that chamber, too, and be signed by President Barack Obama.
The measure provides for the appointment of special U.S. attorneys to ensure violent crimes on reservations are prosecuted; improves training for reservation police; expands the sentencing authority of tribal courts; and improves the collection and reporting of tribal crime data.
Thune said the legislation would allow U.S. magistrates to hold trials and other proceedings in Indian Country as opposed to having to take defendants to the nearest federal court.
“That actually was something that was requested by the tribes,” he said.
The bill also includes language ensuring that if tribal governments and federal courts enter into agreements allowing for such trials, the U.S. Department of Justice is authorized to provide technical and other assistance.
The new legislation is on top of a U.S. Department of Justice effort to dispatch 30 new prosecutors to jurisdictions that serve Indian Country.