For Native American communities across the US, a new poll adds more context to the troubling relationship between high rates of violence and a systemic distrust of law enforcement agencies.
NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health reported that over one-third of Native Americans living in majority Native American communities claimed they had avoided calling the police or other authorities for fear that they or their family would face discrimination on account of their race.
Additionally, 50% of members in these communities said that they believed that they, or someone in their family, had been unfairly treated in the courts because they were Native American.
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Whether perceived or real, discrimination against ethnic or racial groups in the court system is a dangerous trend that could lead to millions of vulnerable people failing to receive proper protection under the law.
Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and ensuring equitable access to the justice system is inherent in goal number ten, reducing inequalities. You can take action on this issue here.
As Global Citizen has reported extensively in the past, Native communities across the US face extremely high rates of violent crimes, especially against women. It’s estimated that 85% of Native women have experienced violence in their lives, and over half of Native women have experienced sexual assault.
Violence is so entrenched in many of these communities that up to 40% of Native children will witness two or more violent acts by the time they are 18.
These trends are made all the more troubling in light of the strained relationships that exist between Native communities and the law enforcement agencies tasked with ensuring their safety.
A report from the National Congress of American Indians found that US Department of Justice declined to prosecute more than half of all cases of violence occurring on Native reservations. Of those cases, 67% involved accusations of sexual abuse.
When those cases do go to trial, they often do not lead to an arrest. According to studies, only 13% of tried cases resulted in arrests.
Last year’s protests against the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as the violent police crackdown against advocates of Native communities, served as a visceral example of the perceived disconnect between the interests of Native people and the response of the federal government.
In Native communities where poverty, addiction, and violence stem from a long history of oppression, the justice system should be hyper-vigilant in working to protect vulnerable members of society.
But the most recent statistics suggest that, tragically, this is still far too often not the case.