Monday, March 27, 2023

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Letters | No justice in child sex prosecutions

In the Aug. 21, 2021, article from Indian Country Today titled “Little justice for child sex abuse victims in Indian Country,” the author highlights the legal issues that hinder the successful prosecution of accused child sex abusers.

The end result being that there were no results. Just failed altogether. The abuser is still in close proximity to the victim with no justice for the victim.

Sexual child abuse is part of the list in the Major Crimes Act and prosecuted by federal prosecutors. The problem I have with this scenario is that, since 2011, the FBI “administratively closed” 1,900 cases because they “fail to meet evidentiary or statutory requirements.”

Most of these cases took five years or more and then dismissed. That means victims came forward and identified their abuser but the abuser walked free because case was dismissed. This continues to traumatize the victim and the family.

Justice did not prevail.

The 1,900 cases dismissed in a 10-year period. That’s 190 cases per year. That’s 15.8 per month for 10 years!

Those are the ones that had the courage to report – no justice!

We should allow our tribal courts to handle these types of cases so that families can receive some justice in a timely manner and the perpetrators can be punished.

Our Navajo courts can handle prosecution. I have confidence in their ability.

Navajo Nation courts has its FY 2022 first quarter statistics online for caseloads for each judicial district. The types of cases are categorized with the number of cases filed, pending and closed. You can see how your judicial district is doing. They even have the number of fines collected.

I encourage you to read the Navajo Nation judicial reports and the article. The conclusion I gather is that Navajo Nation has the means to take on new jurisdictional responsibilities and the federal courts are failing.

In the federal system, it seems that it is rare that proper justice is delivered to violators of the law. In fact, once the case is dismissed then the abuser in some cases is allowed back into the house. That should not happen!

President Nez and 24th Navajo Nation Council, you have the authority to enforce and strengthen the laws. Which one of you will pick up the torch and carry it forward?

Carry this thought: Abusers are allowed to roam freely on the Navajo Nation with no fear of prosecution because the jurisdiction that handles these cases is failing.

There is the statement from the article from Dr. Renee Ornealas, from Tséhootsooí Medical Center in Fort Defiance, when she says, “And there’s a lot of offenders out there who get to re-offend and move on to other children in the family.”

President and 24th Navajo Nation Council, you have the authority to ask why did 1,900 cases get dismissed or fall through the cracks?

Voters need to hear from our leaders about the actual changes and enforcement in the law that allow for better protection for our kids.

I can tell you what I want to hear. The first change I want to hear is that the Navajo Nation has taken a stronger step and taken the jurisdiction to prosecute from the feds and brought it back home.

Then, I want see the nation taking the lead in prosecuting these abusers and keep them away from their victim.

Change the law! Strengthen the law! Our kids need protection!

Need better prosecutors? Allocate more funds. Do better recruiting. Give the prosecutors’ confidence in the law they will be defending.

Need more money for better prosecutors? Then generate more revenue or eliminate the positions that been left vacant for a number of months. Reallocate those dollars for a higher salary for prosecutors.

We have new jails and courtrooms coming (federal dollars). There are Navajo communities that can prosecute locally with local tax dollars. There are tangible results that can be had if you try.

No change in the law? Then you’re not trying. Keep going till you find the right combination.

The next time the author writes a follow up on the article, “Little justice for child sex abuse victims in Indian Country,” the article should read, “Justice prevails as Navajo Nation takes huge step to protect kids.”

Voters, if we want to be a strong Navajo Nation then let’s be a strong Navajo Nation. Hold your elected leaders accountable.

I don’t want a weak navajo nation (non-capitalization intended) that looks to their great white father all the time. What will you do to protect our kids?

Jarvis Williams
Kayenta, Ariz.

Start volunteer tax program for Diné

This is not the first time I write this letter, yet, here I am again expressing my concern to Navajo Nation leadership who reads the Navajo Times or the Diné who rely on Navajo leaders to provide better opportunities for them.

Over the last several years, I’ve worked for an Indian community in the Phoenix Valley. In my employment, I’ve been told to assist with the community’s IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. The VITA program is a free tax service developed and provided by the IRS for low-income taxpayers.

Volunteers are trained by IRS staff and use the IRS software. Of course, this program is not free to provide. It needs a sponsor. A sponsor who can provide equipment (like computers, printers, copy machine, Internet service, etc.), human volunteers (at least two who are advanced tax preparers), space (for the equipment and staff to work), and supplies like paper, staplers and file room.

Over these several years, I’ve seen this program grow each year in number of clients served and total refunds processed to the point that we processed over 2,000 income tax returns last year with over $4 million in refunds. For 13 volunteers, that’s an incredible accomplishment not just for the sponsor program but also the community.

This community has seen the need to provide this service to save their people and their employees the cost of having their tax returns processed by paid providers. As mentioned, the VITA serves low-income clients. Low-income clients who need every dollar from their tax refund.

Much of the refunds processed by the VITA office come from the earned income credits and child tax credits. This is needed money for the clients, our people. So, this free service helps keep the money in the client’s pocket and not going to the paid tax preparer.

The IRS would love to have this service fully operational on the Navajo Nation. Yes, there are a few entities in which VITA has been provided but to very limited clientele. I could easily see any fully operational VITA site on the Navajo Nation processing over 5,000 tax returns and processing over $9 million in federal refunds in year one. And grow every year from there.

And that’s just with federal returns. VITA also does state tax returns as the software uses all the same information for both returns. Just imagine how much of a savings that is to our Diné — $100 to $400, money that could go back into their pockets for gas, food, utilities, etc.

Yes, there is some work involved to get this going but it’s not rocket science. Navajo Nation could develop an office or designate an office to take the lead in the creation of this office. That office can find office space, gather volunteers and equipment, and get the volunteers certified. The office would then be open for operation.

I encourage the Navajo Nation leadership to consider developing this initiative to help its people with their taxes. I’m available to assist if needed.

Mark C. Graham
Gilbert, Ariz.

Move toward a cleaner future

As gas prices spiked, families such as mine are paying the cost. Reminding our leaders that renewable energy is not only cheaper than fossil fuels and has more stable outlooks.

Recently, SRPannounced plans to spend billions of dollars on building another methane gas plant. This sends us backward in high-energy costs that are impactful economically and socially.

As consumers, we can count on low stable costs over time because energy from the wind and sun is regenerative — no purchased fuel is necessary.

If the Senate passes the Build Back Better Act, the United States can reliably deliver 90% clean electricity nationwide by 2035 at no additional cost to consumers based on an analysis conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley and Energy Innovation.

For decades, our communities have provided cheap power to the rest of Arizona through coal mining, which caused real damage to our water supply. At this time we now have an opportunity to simultaneously transition to clean energy and lower our energy costs.

I urge both senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, to vote for the Build Back Better Act, and move our country toward a cleaner future for our families and future generations to come.

Wilda Anagal
Black Mesa, Ariz.


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