Punishment in Indian Country: Ironies of Federal Punishment of Native Americans

Jeffery T. Ulmer, Mindy S. Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Native Americans are US citizens, but they are also tribal nationals subject to complex and unique criminal jurisdiction arrangements over Indian lands. Tribal nations typically have tribal court jurisdiction over less serious crimes, but for serious crimes the federal justice system often supersedes tribal authority, exposing Native Americans to more severe punishments. In addition, recent federal programs have attempted to foster greater tribal/federal criminal justice coupling. Yet, examinations of criminal punishment of Native Americans are few, and most are outdated and/or of very limited generalizability. We examine the punishment of Native American defendants in federal court, focusing on 28 federal districts with substantial Indian presence. Using recent US Sentencing Commission data, as well as contextual data from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal courts, we focus on differences in the federal sentencing of Native American defendants, and how these differences are conditioned by indicators of tribal-federal criminal justice coupling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)751-781
Number of pages31
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 29 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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