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Attorney General Long Unveils Facts, Invalidating Years of Relied Upon Research

Attorney General Long Unveils Facts, Invalidating Years of Relied Upon Research

PIERRE, S.D.-   Attorney General Larry Long announces that his study entitled “Jurisdictional Variation in American Indian Criminal Justice: An Argument for Stronger Understanding and Better Methods” has been accepted for publication in the fall issue of the American Indian Research and Culture Journal, Volume 32, Number 4. The study was co-authored by Dr. Richard Braunstein, Brenda Manning, and Dr. William Anderson. The research repudiates two Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) studies that focus on crime and victimization across American Indian communities.

The new study began because Long’s experience did not comport with the BJS findings.  Long’s study focused on victimization trends in intentional homicide cases from 1993 through 2002 and forcible rape cases from 2000 through 2004, in order to bridge the gap between BJS findings and his state-level observations. “We suspected from the outset of the research that the BJS studies may be generally accurate at the national level, yet too broad to reflect the reality of violent crime in the context of the northern plains in and near reservation communities where many American Indians live and work,” says Long.

The two specific BJS studies which Long’s paper invalidates were released in 1999 and in 2004. The BJS studies found that approximately 70 percent of all violent crimes against American Indians had non-Indian assailants. Within this percentage, the BJS reports maintained that 40 percent of homicides and 80 percent of sexual assaults against American Indian victims were committed by non-Indians.

The BJS studies’ findings, however, deviate from the facts in South Dakota. The collaborative efforts of Long’s study clearly show that South Dakota violent crimes in the American Indian community tend to be intra-racial. This suggests that the BJS studies simply do not reflect the conditions found in communities throughout Indian country. In addition, the BJS study is not consistent with other academic literature describing violent crime victimization within and outside Indian county.

An unexpected finding was that the BJS omitted federal case data from their two reports on American Indian crime. “The absence of federal data in these studies of American Indian crime is a very serious problem,” Long said. The lack of federal data provides an incomplete picture of crime involving American Indians. As a result, efforts to address American Indian crime are misguided because of faulty perceptions generated by inaccurate studies. The omission of all federal case data by the BJS exposes their failure to appreciate the jurisdictional complexity that accompanies American Indian crime. Long states, “The role of jurisdictional authority is key to understanding American Indian criminal justice.” Long further suggests that, “it is likely the BJS research is also incorrect with regard to other rural contexts where tribal-federal jurisdiction is practiced.”

The gravity of the paper to be published is far-reaching. Long states, “We now know that the BJS studies are flawed, but, more importantly, they potentially have fueled misconceptions.” The two incorrect BJS studies have been relied upon in hundreds of discussions of possible remedies to Indian Country criminal justice concerns.

According to Long, “Hopefully, this research will open the door to a complete revision of the way state and national trends of victimization and criminal behavior in Indian country are studied.”

A copy of the study can be accessed by contacting the Attorney General’s Office at 605-773-3215.

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