Feds will soon be able to prosecute more crimes on a MN reservation


A Minnesota American Indian tribe hopes a new agreement that gives federal officials the ability to prosecute more criminals will help deter crime.

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is now the second tribe in the country to have the federal government assume concurrent jurisdiction over major crimes on the reservation (we'll explain what this means below).

This is good news for the tribe, Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin said in the 32nd annual State of the Band address, noting it means crimes committed on the reservation can be prosecuted in federal court. Those convicted will then be sentenced to federal prison.

That means stronger penalties for violent criminals, which will hopefully deter crime on the reservation, Benjamin says.

“We need this message to go out to drug dealers, gang members and anyone intent on committing violent crimes on our lands: we will catch you, and when we do, you are going to Leavenworth, not Stillwater ... and you are not getting out for a very, very long time. Tell the dealers ... if you don’t want to go to federal prison, get off our lands now, and stay out," Benjamin said, according to an email news release.

The Department of Justice already has jurisdiction to prosecute certain crimes (such as drug trafficking) on reservations and elsewhere in the United States, a DOJ email news release says. But this move will allow federal prosecution of other major crimes as well, including murder, rape, felony assault, and felony child abuse.

“We believe this decision – made after a careful review of the tribe’s application and the facts on the ground – will strengthen public safety and the criminal justice system serving the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates said in the news release. 

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is the second tribe to have its application for assumption of federal jurisdiction under the 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act be approved. The first was the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota in March 2013, a news release notes.

The assumption will take effect on Jan. 1, 2017, with the Department of Justice noting prosecutors and law enforcement agencies on the tribal, state and county level will also continue to have criminal jurisdiction on the reservation.

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