Ariz. tribe boosts jail time for reservation crime

Sep 6, 2012, 1:06 AM

Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) – The Hopi will be one of the earliest tribes to increase criminal sentences under a landmark federal law meant to improve public safety on American Indian reservations _ where a historic gap in the U.S. justice system has left tribes with little authority over offenders on their lands.

The Hopi tribe recently updated its criminal code for the first time since 1972 with changes that comply with provisions of the Tribal Law and Order Act passed two years ago. Regardless of whether the crime was murder or something far less severe, all were considered misdemeanors with a maximum punishment in tribal court of a year in jail.

The changes that go into effect later this month create a class of felonies that could send convicted offenders to jail for up to three years for a single crime or nine years with stacked sentences for multiple offenses. Few tribes, including the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, have put together all the pieces to boost jail time under tribal laws.

“The main thing is it will improve our law and order on the reservation, so we have a better way of protecting any victims,” Hopi Chairman Le Roy Shingoitewa said Wednesday. “If something happens, we now have stronger teeth in making sure the perpetrators are punished. It’s a huge step forward for us.”

The changes place the Hopi in a position of leadership, as the first Arizona tribe to implement the longer sentences. Tribes around the country also will be watching to see if the Hopi’s changes stand up to scrutiny and if they help deter crime on the reservation, said John Tuchi, the tribal liaison for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona.

The tribe’s new sentencing guidelines don’t preclude longer or stricter federal sentences for major crimes like murder.

“The biggest advantage of it is it allows them to make determinations about serious offenders without having to worry about what the federal government does or how fast it acts,” Tuchi said. “It gives the tribes the opportunity to take more control of public safety.”

The Hopi worked for 18 months to update the code, which includes an expansion of what had been one sex crime listed under tribal law and addresses stalking, disturbance of religious ceremonies, bootlegging and illegal drug use. It also needed to have at least one law-trained judge to handle the felony cases and provide public defenders to meet the requirements under the Tribal Law and Order Act.

Crimes against women, assaults resulting in serious bodily injury and domestic offenses have plagued the reservation. Tribal members told Hopi lawmakers before a vote on updating the code how they and their families suffered as victims of crime. One man who recently was released from jail even acknowledged his wrongdoing and praised the Tribal Council for moving toward stiffer sentences, Shingoitewa said.

What needs to be communicated to the public now is to “start reporting the perpetrators, instead of protecting them,” said Wayne Kuwanhyoima, chairman of the Hopi Tribal Council’s Law Enforcement Task Team.

On the Umatilla reservation, some crimes already have been charged under a list of about 50 felonies. Everyone there is entitled to a public defender regardless of whether they’re indigent, and a judge who has been on the bench for 30 years is law trained.

“It’s been working great so far,” said Brent Leonhard, an attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel. “Certainly as with all tribes, we could use more resources. There’s always a concern with being able to afford jail space when we do sentence to an extended period of time.”

The lack of funding to implement the federal law has been a major concern for tribes considering longer sentences. Nearly all of the 109 tribes that were surveyed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said they needed more money and technical help from the federal government, according to a report released in May.

The federal Bureau of Prisons has space for up to 100 offenders convicted of felonies in tribal courts who are sentenced to at least two years, but justice officials say those spaces are expected to fill up quickly as more tribes take advantage of the enhanced sentencing authority.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi acknowledges the audience applause after addressing the 77th sess...
Associated Press

China on Taiwan: ‘External interference’ won’t be tolerated

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — China underscored its commitment Saturday to its claim on Taiwan, telling assembled world leaders that anyone who gets in the way of its determination to reunify with the self-governing island would be “crushed by the wheels of history.” The language was forceful but, for Chinese leadership, well within the realm of […]
21 hours ago
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan announces a new federal office of envir...
Associated Press

Biden administration launches environmental justice office

WARRENTON, N.C. (AP) — President Joe Biden’s top environment official visited what is widely considered the birthplace of the environmental justice movement Saturday to unveil a national office that will distribute $3 billion in block grants to underserved communities burdened by pollution. Forty years after a predominantly Black community in Warren County, North Carolina, rallied […]
21 hours ago
People watch a news program showing a file image of a missile launch by North Korea at the Seoul Ra...
Associated Press

South Korea says North Korea test-fired missile toward sea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile Sunday toward its eastern seas, extending a provocative streak in weapons testing as a U.S. aircraft carrier visits South Korea for joint military exercises in response to the North’s growing nuclear threat. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile launched from […]
21 hours ago
Arizona Secretary of State Latie Hobbs, left, the Democratic nominee for governor, and Kris Mayes, ...
Associated Press

GOP quiet as Arizona Democrats condemn abortion ruling

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Democrats vowed Saturday to fight for women’s rights after a court reinstated a law first enacted during the Civil War that bans abortion in nearly all circumstances, looking to capitalize on an issue they hope will have a major impact on the midterm elections. Republican candidates were silent a day after […]
21 hours ago
In this photo released by United Launch Alliance, a classified satellite for the U.S. National Reco...
Associated Press

US spy satellite launched into orbit from California

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) — A classified satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office launched into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket on Saturday. The NROL-91 spy satellite lifted off at 3:25 p.m. from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California’s Santa Barbara County. It was the last launch of […]
21 hours ago
A model of the house where a precision counterterrorism operation killed al-Qaida's leader Ayman al...
Associated Press

CIA unveils model of al-Qaida leader al-Zawahri’s hideout

McLEAN, Virginia (AP) — The CIA has revealed a model of Ayman al-Zawahri’s safe house, used to brief President Joe Biden about the al-Qaida leader’s whereabouts before the agency killed him in a drone strike in Afghanistan. Shortly after al-Zawahri’s death, White House officials released a photo showing Biden talking to CIA Director William Burns […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Ariz. tribe boosts jail time for reservation crime