Hoeven Working to Secure Stronger and Safer Native Communities

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Senator Holds Legislative Hearing on Key Tribal Public Safety and Justice

Oct 25, 2017

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today held a legislative hearing to advance three bills to improve public safety in tribal communities, including S. 1870, the Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment (SURVIVE) Act of 2017; S. 1953, the Tribal Law and Order Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2017, and S. 1942, Savanna’s Act.

The bipartisan SURVIVE Act, introduced by Senator Hoeven, expands resources for tribal victim assistance by requiring a 5 percent allocation from the Crime Victims Fund be provided to Indian tribes.

Hoeven’s Tribal Law and Order Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2017 reauthorizes and extends critical tribal justice and law enforcement programs under the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. It also directs the Department of Justice to improve data collection on Native American victims of human trafficking.

Savanna’s Act, introduced by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), requires the Department of Justice to report annually on the numbers of missing and murdered Native women.

The hearing was an opportunity to hear from tribal leaders and administration officials on these important initiatives to strengthen tribal victim services and enhance law enforcement and justice programs that serve Indian Country.

Senator Hoeven’s remarks:

“Today, the committee will examine three bills: S. 1870, the SURVIVE Act, which stands for Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment Act; S. 1953, the Tribal and Law Order Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2017; and S. 1942, Savanna’s Act.

“On September 27, 2017, I introduced S. 1870, the SURVIVE Act. Senators Barrasso, McCain, Daines, Cortez Masto, Franken, Heitkamp, and Tester have joined me as original cosponsors.

“This bill will create a tribal grant program within the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime to improve public safety and strengthen victim services in Indian Country.

“Existing data shows that tribal communities experience some of the highest victimization rates in the country.

“For example, a recent National Institute of Justice report indicated that 49% of Native women and 19.9% of Native men require victim services.

“Those basic crime victim services are generally not available to tribes. In fact, under the Crime Victims Fund annual cap of $3 billion, tribes only receive 0.7% of the funding through states, despite the high victimization rates.

“The SURVIVE Act will help fix that. It would authorize a 5% set aside of that annual cap for Indian tribes, which would equate to $150 million dollars a year to tribes. 

“The SURVIVE Act would provide more flexibility for tribes. The types of services and capacity building authorized would include emergency shelters, medical care, counseling, legal assistance and related services, and child and elder abuse programs.

“In addition, the SURVIVE Act would allow the services to be more tailor-made for tribal communities. Through the SURVIVE Act, tribes can better identify and craft the victim of crime services and resources through a negotiated rule-making with the Department of Justice.

“On October 5, 2017, Senators Barrasso, McCain, and I introduced S. 1953, the Tribal Law and Order Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2017. This bill would reauthorize key tribal public safety programs and provide other key improvements for justice in Indian country, particularly for Indian youth.

“This bill is based on feedback received from a number of hearings, roundtables and listening sessions held with tribes. Many tribal recommendations are included in this bill as well as those from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Justice, and other tribal public safety advocates.

“For example, the Department of Justice began implementing the tribal access program, TAP, to the various criminal data bases as required by the Tribal Law and Order Act. This important program, however, has to have funds in order to keep operating. The bill would authorize the Attorney General to use available and obligated department funds for that purpose.

“In addition, this bill includes recommendations developed by tribes in 2008 to address numerous concerns regarding juvenile justice for Indian youth. These provisions are approaches to collaboration and partnership among the federal, state and tribal governments to reduce recidivism among Indian youth.

“The bill also addresses many other needs including human trafficking, public defense, trespass, and agency accountability.

“On October 5, 2017, Senator Heitkamp introduced S. 1942, Savanna’s Act. The cosponsors are Senators Franken, Heinrich, Merkley, Tester, and Warren.

“The bill, S. 1942, is intended to improve the response of addressing missing and murdered Native women by improving access to federal criminal databases, requiring data collection, and directing the Attorney General to review, revise, and develop law enforcement and justice protocols for investigations.”

The hearing featured testimony from the Honorable R. Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma at the U.S. Department of Justice; Mr. Bryan Rice, director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior; the Honorable Dave Flute, chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation; the Honorable Joel Boyd, Colville Business Councilman for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; and Ms. Carmen O’Leary, director of the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains.

For more information on their testimonies click here.