For American Indians, tribal justice reform slow processOn South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux reservation, tribal officials worked with the U.S. attorney’s office to create a diversion program to keep juveniles out of trouble.
By: SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, The Associated Press
ACOMA PUEBLO, N.M. — In a desperate attempt to make it to the front door, Robin Sanchez remembers crawling across the living room floor.
Her ex-husband, fresh out of jail and intoxicated, used a wooden slat from one of the kitchen chairs to beat her.
She was about to open the door when a loud crack resonated across her head.
Blood gushed down her face as she heard her 3-year-old daughter cry: “Daddy, don’t be mean to Mommy.”
That September night in 2011 ended outside their home on the Acoma reservation in western New Mexico with tribal police officers, guns drawn, ordering Kirby Sanchez to release the mother of his child from a chokehold.
Scenes like this are far too common in Indian Country, where violent crime rates on some reservations are 20 times the national average.
That’s why hope was high in 2010 when President Barack Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act.
Among other things, the law expanded the sentencing authority of tribal courts and allowed for the appointment of special U.S. attorneys to prosecute violent crimes on reservation land and revamped training for reservation police officers.
Few tribes have put together all the pieces required to boost jail time, but progress is being made on other fronts.
On South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux reservation, tribal officials worked with the U.S. attorney’s office to create a diversion program to keep juveniles out of trouble.