On Wednesday, February 10, a group of bipartisan senators introduced S. 3623, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization Act of 2022. The bill, which would reauthorize VAWA through 2027, includes provisions that restore critical categories of Tribal criminal jurisdiction necessary to protect Native women and children, including sexual assault, stalking, sex trafficking, child violence, obstruction of justice, and assault of Tribal justice personnel.
This bipartisan bill also establishes an Alaska pilot project, which will enable a limited number of Tribes in the state to exercise special Tribal criminal jurisdiction (STCJ), and clarifies that Tribes in Maine are also eligible to exercise STCJ.
In addition to restoring Tribal jurisdiction over certain crimes, the bill would:
- Codify the Tribal Access Program (TAP) to enhance Tribes’ ability to access and obtain information from national criminal information databases;
- Establish a reimbursement program, through which the U.S. Attorney General may reimburse Tribal governments for expenses incurred in exercising STCJ;
- Permanently reestablish the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Tribal Prisoner Program to allow Indian Tribes to place offenders convicted in Tribal Courts of violent crimes in federal facilities if the sentence includes a term of imprisonment for one or more years; and
- Increase resources to Tribal governments exercising STCJ.
In March 2021, the House passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021 (H.R. 1620). This bill builds on the progress of the 2013 VAWA reauthorization by reaffirming the inherent sovereign authority of Tribal Nations to hold non-Indian perpetrators accountable in cases involving child abuse, elder abuse, sexual assault, stalking, sex trafficking, and assault on Tribal law enforcement officers. H.R. 1620, which was developed in partnership with national and Tribal advocacy organizations, also includes critical resources for Tribes to implement VAWA.