Recent Press Releases

Thune Continues Effort to Fight Crime on Reservations

Introduces Amendment to Bolster Resources of Prosecutors

October 16, 2007

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune introduced an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill last night that would allocate another $20 million to United States Attorneys to prosecute violations of the Major Crimes Act of 1885 and the Indian Country Crimes Act of 1834.

"It is essential that the federal government make resources available to US Attorneys that will allow them to prosecute the growing number of crimes on our reservations," said Thune. "Right now the violent crime rate on our reservations is significantly higher than the national rate, partly because those committing the crime have little fear of prosecution. This is not an acceptable situation and this lack of prosecution is compounding other systemic problems plaguing these areas. My amendment is a step toward addressing these problems."

A recent Wall Street Journal article about crime in Indian Country reported that federal prosecutors often do not intervene in cases involving serious crimes due to lack of resources, the long distances involved, and the cost of transporting witnesses and defendants to federal court. The same article also reports that in the past two decades, only 30 percent of tribal-land crimes referred to U.S. attorneys were prosecuted, according to Justice Department data compiled by Syracuse University. That compares with 56 percent for all other cases.

The Department of Justice has reported that from 1992 to 2001 the average rate of violent crime among American Indians was two-and-one-half times the national rate. The FBI estimates that forty to fifty percent of Indian country violent crime is now methamphetamine related. According to Chris Chaney, the BIA Deputy Director of the Office of Justice Services, meth distribution on tribal lands often occurs because it is believed to be less likely to be prosecuted for committing a crime in Indian Country.

"The breakdown of basic law and order in Indian communities has reached alarming rates. It is long-past time for action," Thune said.

In recent weeks, Senator Thune also cosponsored an amendment with Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) to increase the law enforcement presence in Indian Country. Senator Thune has also championed the COPS program and has been a strong advocate of measures to combat the growing menace of methamphetamine on Indian reservations.