CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, November 15, 2007

CrimProf Kevin Washburn Discusses Criminal Justice in Indian County

Washburn University of Minnesota and now Visiting Harvard Law School Crimprof Professor Kevin Washburn has noted the following update on criminal justice in Indian country:

"This week the Denver Post ran a series of four articles on criminal justice in Indian country.  It documents serious law enforcement problems in Indian country, including the significant logistical problems that arise in these cases in which trial often occur hundreds of miles from the scene of the crime, the US Attorney scandal (several of the fired U.S. Attorneys were allegedly fired for pursuing their Indian country agendas too vigorously), homicides uninvestigated or poorly investigated, assaults unprosecuted in which the assault suspect later committed rapes or homicides.
It also mentions the "cavalry effect," the historical dynamic that causes tribal communities to turn against their own crime victims when victims summon federal authorities onto the reservation for investigations.  A serious problem highlighted in the series is that, as Congress has doubled the federal budget allocations for Indian country offenses, federal law enforcement agencies have shifted the resources to other priorities.  The series also highlights the challenges in determining how to address these difficult problems. 

Washburn adds: "I spent many hours on the phone with the Denver Post reporter (Mike Riley) over the course of the past year and he had read most of my work very closely even before our first conversation.  The reporter quickly internalized my analysis and then brought his own tremendous insight.  I feel like my law scholarship has come alive through real world examples of many of the problems I have raised.  I understand that the series will be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in investigative journalism and I hope that it wins.  The timing of the story is important because the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is developing legislation that will attempt to address some of these problems." 

Washburn testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in June, shortly after the release of an Amnesty International report came out criticizing the United States for the dysfunctional American criminal justice system on Indian reservations that has allowed an epidemic of sexual violence against women.

Amnesty Report. . . Denver Post Articles. . . [Mark Godsey]

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