WHO ARE THE NATIVE AMERICANS?
The Native Americans, also known as the American Indians, are the original and the indigenous people of the United States of America. There are about 570 federally recognized native American tribes existing in the united states excluding the Hawaiian territories. These native Americans have lived and thrived in the territory of the united states for over 10,000 years before the Europeans came around to colonize them. This colonization greatly affected the population of these people a lot of them died as a result of biological warfare introduced by the colonizing Americans, disease and more. And even though there has been a significant improvement in the treatment of these native Americans since they were colonized, there are still some issues that still need to be addressed as there have not been any significant improvements on these issues over the years, and one of these issues is the criminal justice system and its relationship with native Americans.
NATIVE AMERICANS AND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
First of all, it is worth noting that in the USA, the native American men are incarcerated at four times the rate at which other American men are incarcerated. This brings some questions to mind, what is the major cause of this high rate of incarceration among Native Americans? Although it can be contemplated that there is a high rate of crime in reservations that have a high population of native Americans, this is not the major reason for this high rate of incarceration among the native Americans. The major cause of the high degree of incarnation in the United States of America is the disparity that exists in the criminal justice system of the country. In the United States, Native Americans get far longer sentences for the same crime compared to other citizens of the country. Native Americans get heavy and more serious punishments for crimes committed on reservations, while the state’s punishments for similar crimes tend to be lighter.
For example, in South Dakota, which has the highest number of native Americans in the united states, Native Americans consist of about 60% of the federal caseload in the state and the total population of Native Americans in the state is only about 8.5%. Also, according to research conducted by the United States sentencing commission, it has been revealed that in the last five years alone, the number of native Americans incarcerated in federal prisons has increased by a staggering amount of 27%. From the information above, it is obvious that there are some irregularities in the criminal justice system as regards the native Americans in the united states.
Below, there is some important information that illustrates the plight of the Native Americans concerning the criminal justice system of the United States.
• Native Americans are convicted at a rate 38% higher than the national average, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
• Native American youths are 30% more likely than withes to be referred to juvenile courts and have their charges dropped when they commit crimes, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
• Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other racial group according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.
• Native American men have been imprisoned four times the rate of white men while native American women are imprisoned six times the rate of white women, according to a report compiled by the Lakota People’s Law Project.
• Native Americans fall victim to violent crimes two times more than the rate at which all other racial groups fall victim. And surprisingly, according to the reports, more than 80% of these crimes are carried out on native Americans most especially native American women are carried out by non-Native perpetrators.
After all these, you might start to wonder if there is anything that is being done to help these native Americans to be treated equally like other withes. There are active efforts that are being put in place to help reduce the overrepresentation of the native Americans in prisons all over the country. Some of these activities are stated below.
The federal government is taking active steps in reducing the overrepresentation of the native Americans in prisons by funding child and family services on reservations and also by funding tribal juvenile and rehabilitation centres as over seventy per cent of the native Americans that have been convicted for various crimes have confessed to being drinking at the time for their arrest.
Also, the federal government has set up a panel to look into the issue of native Americans and the criminal justice system. This panel is saddled with the responsibility of checking if the native Americans living on reservations are dealt harsher punishments than other whites in the country. The implementation of this pane which consists of 22 judges and law enforcement administrators which consists of 11 native Americans has greatly helped in providing more awareness of the plight of the native Americans. This awareness is gradually making people and non-governmental organizations more and more interested in improving the plight of native Americans all over the country.
So as you can see, even though Native Americans have been treated unfairly for quite a long time, there is now more awareness of what these people face in the American society and there are more active efforts to adjust and correct the criminal justice system of the United States of America so that everybody in the country is treated fairly and equally.