October 5, 2017

Hoeven Introduces Bill to Strengthen Public Safety in Indian Communities

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, today introduced the Tribal Law and Order Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2017. The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and John Barrasso (R-WY), reauthorizes and extends certain critical programs under the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and adds additional requirements to improve public safety in Indian Country. 
“This bill enhances current law to ensure tribes have the tools to combat crime and keep their citizens safe and secure,” said Hoeven. “It also increases coordination between our tribal, federal and state law enforcement officials, so that we can more effectively improve safety in tribal areas and surrounding communities. In addition, it requires the Justice Department to track and analyze data on human trafficking of Native Americans both in and outside Indian Country.”
Most notably, the bill promotes public safety in Indian Country by:
Improving Department of Justice data collection on Native American victims of human trafficking;
Extending the Bureau of Prisons pilot program, which allows tribally convicted defendants of violent crimes to be housed in federal facilities;
Making permanent the Shadow Wolves program within the Department of Homeland Security;
Directing the Federal Public Defender to designate a tribal liaison for each district that includes Indian Country;
Improving justice for Indian youth by requiring the Interior Secretary, Attorney General, and Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to coordinate and assist tribes in addressing juvenile offenses; to consult with tribes on delinquency prevention; to develop a means for collecting data on Indian youth and notifying tribes when a tribal member youth comes in contact with federal, state, and other local juvenile justice systems; and to conduct certain research and evaluation on Indian juveniles, including drug use and services provided; and
Reauthorizing several Indian tribal grants through Fiscal Year 2022, including programs under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, Indian Tribal Justice Technical and Legal Assistance Act of 2000, Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1968, and Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974.
The bill text can be found here.
Federal data shows that Indian communities experience some of the highest crime rates in the country. In 2010, Congress passed the Tribal Law and Order Act as part of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act Amendments. The law was a first step toward improving the efficiency and effectiveness of criminal justice systems in Indian Country. Continued enhancements are necessary to reduce crime, overcrowded jail conditions, and recidivism.
The Tribal Law and Order Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2017 dovetails with Senator Hoeven’s work to improve public safety and security, particularly for Indian children, in tribal communities.
In April, the senator held a field oversight hearing on Native youth safety and the implementation of the Native American Children’s Safety Act, which was signed into law last year.
In September, Senator Hoeven held an oversight hearing on combating the human trafficking of Native Americans and called for better federal data to evaluate the problem and assist victims.
Hoeven also recently introduced the Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment (SURVIVE) Act of 2017, legislation to extend Crime Victims Fund resources to Indian tribes and ultimately provide greater assistance to Indian victims of crime.