SCIA Holds Oversight Hearing on Indian Law and Order Commission Report >>

February 14th, 2014

SCIA Holds Oversight Hearing on Indian Law and Order Commission Report

On Wednesday, February 12th, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) held an oversight hearing to examine the November 2013 Report of the Indian Law and Order Commission (ILOC), which made 40 sweeping recommendations to change Federal regulations and laws to improve public safety and justice in Indian Country. The hearing focused on the recommendations to streamline tribal public safety and justice funding by shifting federal law enforcement services and programs from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Questions also focused on the need to reduce the number of Native youth in the federal criminal justice system, and the need to address the dire violent crime problem facing Alaska Native villages.

Federal officials did not directly address the ILOC Recommendations, noting that they plan to consult with tribes first. Federal officials did discuss several pilot programs that they are conducting to address crime. Assistant Secretary Washburn highlighted the BIA’s High Priority Performance Goal program, noting that its focus will shift from reducing crime rates to reducing recidivism. U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon, testifying for DOJ, discussed a variety of U.S. Attorney outreach programs that are working to bring the federal justice system to Indian Country, including mentoring Native youth, and working tribal prosecutors to handle federal cases locally.

The second panel of witnesses testified that the ILOC offers common sense recommendations that will streamline funding and services, and bring justice to Indian Country where the local control works to legitimize the justice system. ILOC Chairman, Troy Eid, stated, “The federal system and the PL 280 system are not working. In America, local justice is what we all trust. Local control and self-government are the goals. Indian Nations must be able to develop the system that works best for their own communities.”

The hearing was Senator Cantwell’s last as Chair of the Indian Affairs Committee. Senator Jon Tester takes over as the next Chairman of the SCIA, as Chairwoman Cantwell moves to lead the Senate Small Business Committee.

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