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University of N.M. Dean to Discuss Public Safety Crisis in Indian Country


(New Mexico)University Libraries’ Indigenous Nations Library Program will host a lecture and brown bag on Nov. 11 on the topic “Addressing the Public Safety Crisis in Indian Country” presented by Kevin K. Washburn, dean and professor of Law at the UNM School of Law. The brown bag event will begin at noon in the Herzstein Latin American Conference Room on the second floor of Zimmerman Library and the lecture will be 3:30 - 5 p.m. in the Willard Room in Zimmerman Library.

Each decade, the media re-discovers the deplorable state of public safety in Indian country and declares it to be a crisis. The crisis is real and severe and it has gradually been getting worse.

Crisis levels of crime, particularly against women and children, have come to reflect the baseline in Indian country. Washburn will describe the structural problems with the criminal justice system in Indian country and will argue that the crisis may continue as long as tribes must continue to rely on the federal and state governments to provide criminal justice in Indian country.

As in the areas of healthcare and education, the problem will likely only be successfully addressed when other governments recognize tribal self-determination and tribal governments are made primarily responsible for addressing the crime problem.

Washburn is one of the leading experts on criminal justice in Indian country. He has published numerous law review articles on the subject, including American Indians, Crime and the Law, 104 Mich. L. Rev. 709 (2006). He has also lectured widely, and testified often before committees of the U.S. Congress. His work has helped to prompt significant recent attention to the justice in Indian country, including proposed Congressional legislation addressing the problem.

He earned his law degree from the Yale Law School in 1993, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Journal on Regulation. Following law school, Washburn clerked Judge William C. Canby, Jr., of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

As a practicing lawyer, Washburn served as a trial attorney the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and later as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Mexico, where he primarily prosecuted violent crimes arising in Indian country.

Washburn served in 2001-02 on a Native American Advisory Committee to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. He has also served as the General Counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission, an independent federal regulatory agency.

As a law professor, Washburn taught criminal law and Federal Indian law, as well as other subjects at Minnesota, Harvard, and Arizona prior to joining the New Mexico faculty. He is also a member of the Criminal Law and Procedure Drafting Committee of the National Conference of Bar Examiners which produces the Multistate Bar Examination.

With colleagues from UCLA, Washburn is currently a principal investigator on a $1.47 million grant from the NIJ to study the administration of criminal justice in Indian country. Washburn is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, a federally recognized Indian nation, and spent his youth in Oklahoma, mostly within the original boundaries of his tribe's former reservation.

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