A maximum penalty of three years in prison for a murder charge, that's what tribal courts are limited to handing down for convictions within tribal jurisdiction.
It's something Montana Senator Jon Tester says needs to change.
"It is crazy that we are limiting prosecution of people who do heinous crimes in Indian country,” said Tester. “We should be throwing the book at these folks, no ifs ands or buts about it. We need to make sure tribes have the ability to do that."
On any given case, criminals could potentially serve significantly less time than someone who commits the same crime off the reservation.
"This reflects the difficulty tribal courts deal with on a regular basis in trying to address problems within their community,” said University of Montana Law School’s Maylinn Smith. “They have some significant limitations that are placed on them.”
When it comes to crime prevention, Senator Tester says the start to a solution begins close to home.
"It starts on the ground in Indian country, and then it flows to congress, and then congress has to look at the situation, analyze the situation and do what's right," said Tester.
Senator Tester says for all of this to work, law enforcement on the reservation and law enforcement off the reservation need to work together to be able to properly police the area.