Sarah Deer: Protecting Indian women with our justice systems

"In a prior column, I offered my opinion that providing support and advocacy for survivors of violent crime in Indian country. One of the more significant aspects of women’s advocacy in tribal communities during the last few years has been the development of federal legislative reform for tribal criminal justice systems. The Tribal Law and Order Act and the pending Violence Against Women Act are the initial steps in long-overdue process to restore tribal criminal authority after decades of Congressional indifference.

However, one of the biggest challenges in tribal communities remains accountability. If our goal is to improve safety in tribal communities, then we must confront the inevitable question – what should happen to people who are convicted or otherwise found to be culpable of violent and abusive acts in tribal courts?

The American legal system has long relied on incarceration to punish and deter violent crime. Rehabilitative efforts have been uneven at best and often absent entirely. However, most tribal justice systems did not traditionally use jails or prisons in response to violent crime. Traditionally, tribal justice systems utilized restitution-based systems or, in extreme cases, banishment or death."

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Sarah Deer: Punishment and Tribal Law (Indian Country Today 8/30)

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