Tribal sex offender registry remains a subject of indecision
WASHINGTON - The Office of Justice Programs states that an apparent preliminary decision to seek the re-channeling of appropriations for a national tribal sex offender and criminal orders of protection registry is no decision at all, contradicting the account of a key meeting by National Congress of American Indians recording secretary Juana Majel and clouding the purpose of a cautionary assertion by Leslie Hagen of the Department of Justice Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking office.
A March 3 session of the NCAI National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women addressed a $940,000 congressional appropriation intended for the establishment of a national tribal registry of sex offenders and criminal orders of protection under the auspice of the Violence Against Women Act. Over the objection of every participant who addressed the issue, SMART had ;'requested'' (in Majel's word) that the appropriation be re-channeled from the DoJ Office on Violence Against Women to SMART for a national sex offender registry that would include a registry of sex offenders in tribal jurisdictions, but not a criminal orders-of-protection registry. The shortcoming is irremediable in the eyes of many Native women.
The Violence Against Women Act explicitly states that the U.S. Attorney General ''shall contract with any interested Indian tribe, tribal organization, or tribal nonprofit organization to develop and maintain ... a national tribal sex offender registry; and ... a tribal protection order registry containing civil and criminal orders of protection issued by Indian tribes and participating jurisdictions.''
NCAI associate counsel Virginia Davis explained that since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, Congress had enacted the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, authorizing creation of the national sex offender registry. Davis said that if they found significant conflict between the purposes of the two laws (VAWA and AWA for short), DoJ solicitors could make an argument for re-routing the appropriation to the purposes of the more recently enacted law - in this case, by six months, AWA, not VAWA. Davis added emphatically that no such conflict exists, and that DoJ has no reason whatsoever to find one.
More than a half-dozen participants at the meeting expressed objections based on concerns that the distinct tribal registry afforded by the $940,000 appropriation to the DoJ Office on Violence Against Women, in support of the VAWA tribal registry, will be lost if the funding goes instead to include tribes in the national AWA registry.
Task force co-chair Majel described a previous presentation by SMART. ''Well Leslie ... at this meeting in Phoenix, she put it on the table that SMART had made that request to have that money. ... And she lined it all out, you know, and when she was all done, she then asked our opinion. And I simply told her - I said no. There is no way that I will support the Indian budget of VAWA [going] to Adam Walsh. I said you're [AWA] an unfunded mandate. And you're now asking the burden [of funding AWA] to be put on tribes who - if any of you [at the March 3 meeting] are aware of the appropriation period when we got that $940,000, it was a tough haul.''
Hagen, participating on the meeting's second panel, arrived after Majel's remarks and emphasized the advanced nature of SMART's proceedings with regard to the VAWA appropriation. ''I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that this is a planning exercise,'' she cautioned.
After full discussion around the room, Majel returned to the Phoenix meeting. ''I just got shocked inside that you actually had a budget for that $940,000,'' she said to Hagen. ''I got a [budget] breakdown and I'm like, 'This is unreal.'''
Hagen emphasized the preliminary nature of SMART's proceedings with regard to the VAWA appropriation, cautioning twice that the re-channeling ''is not a done deal'' in that contracts have not been signed.
Karen Artichoker, Majel's co-chair on the NCAI task force and management team director of Cangleska Inc.'s Sacred Circle National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women, said at the March 3 meeting that she wasn't sure the re-channeling of funds represented a final decision by DoJ; she said afterward that SMART won't go forward with it. She said the language of the law in VAWA won't allow it.
The DoJ, in an e-mail provided on condition of attribution to the Office of Justice Programs (a branch of DoJ), stated, ''No decision has been made on the expenditure of the $940,000 appropriated to the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women, in FY 2008 as authorized by Sec. 905 (b)'' of VAWA.