The “Obama Answer This” Project is the initiative of an incarcerated father and if he can reach the people out there then we hope we can count on you to spread the word because with 2.3 million behind bars we can no longer afford to turn a blind eye.
It is time to push something real out. Let's go hard for our people behind the wall, let's go hard for our kids out there that may face what is coming back their way, let's go hard together collectively because for the bottom there is no “agenda” and he has to answer to what is happening on our inner city streets and behind barbed wires.
Equal justice is everyone's concern, but why should Indians care?
JURISDICTION--In 1883, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Dakota Territory court had no jurisdiction in a case in which a member of the Lakota nation killed a fellow member on tribal land. The decision overturned a death sentence and effectively gave exclusive jurisdiction for crimes to tribes. Congress wasn't happy with this outcome, however, and passed the Major Crimes Act in 1885, taking away the tribes' authority to prosecute serious crimes committed by Indians on reservations. Such crimes can be prosecuted only by the federal government.
RIGHT TO COUNSEL--The right of defendants to legal counsel is guaranteed by the Constitution, right? Not for some. Due to a little-known quirk in federal law, reservation Indians aren't assured this protection. Indian tribes are sovereign nations and are not subject to all privileges afforded by the Bill of Rights. In creating the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, Congress gave individual tribe members some protections, such as the right to a speedy trial and the right to a trial by jury. But it didn't provide the right to counsel for defendants too poor to hire attorneys. And accused criminals often end up representing themselves. As a result, many plead guilty (whether guilty or not) and risk exposing themselves to additionl charges at the federal and state levels. In some instances, they may be subject to two trials, sentences and punishments for the same crime. Recent legislation was expected to correct this terrible wrong, but public defender services on reservations are discretionary and, further, are unfunded.
PROSECUTION--According to a 2003 study commissioned by the US Sentencing Commission, Indian offenses amount to less than 5% of the overall federal caseload, but constitute a significant portion of the violent crime prosecuted in federal courts. "Over 80% of the manslaughter cases and over 60% of sexual abuse cases arise from Indian jurisdiction and nearly half of all the murders and assaults arise from Indian jurisdiction," said the report. What's wrong with this picture?
SENTENCING--Native Americans who end up being prosecuted for serious crimes face penalties far more severe than those handed out by states. This is due to mandatory minimum sentences and no parole in the federal system. The result is there are situations where tribal members have received life sentences in the federal system when the crimes they committed would have resulted in as little as two and a half years had they occurred in state jurisdiction.
PRISONERS--Currently, there are 3,821 American Indians serving time in the federal prison system. That's more, proportionately, than ANY other racial group. According to census and Bureau of Prisons data, tribal members living on reservations are incarcerated at a rate of more than 249 per 100,000 residents. The next group is African Americans, who are imprisoned at a rate of 198 per 100,000.
So, brothers and sisters, it's not just their problem. It's our problem.
So, Obama? Answer this...