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The Champion

November 2007 , Page 59 

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Committee Briefing

By Tova Indritz

A Two-Legged Stool: Native Americans Need Funding for Criminal Defense in Tribal Courts

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24.3 percent of our 2.1 million Native Americans live at or below the federal poverty level. For the 400,000 or so Indians who live on reservations, where opportunities are few and unemployment high, the percentage of people living in poverty is much higher. Like anywhere else, where the level of misery and hopelessness goes up, so do problems such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and crime.

Misdemeanor crimes occurring in Indian Country are prosecuted in tribal courts, according to tribal law, and under the limitations set by federal law. While Congress provides some money for tribal judges and prosecutors, year after year, poor defendants often face the judge and the prosecutor, and potential jail sentences, completely alone, with no champion to defend them.

Congress can remedy this injustice by balancing distribution of resourc

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