Report shows increase in Indian jail population
The number of inmates housed in Indian Country jail facilities has increased 24 percent since 2004, the Department of Justice said in a new study.

As of midyear 2007, 83 facilities confined 2,163 inmates. That's up from 1,745 inmates in 68 facilities in 2004, when the last study was conducted.

Despite the increase in inmates, the number of new beds increased by 34 percent. Overall, the facilities can house a total of 2,900 inmates, far larger than the current jail population.

At the same time, some facilities remain overcrowded. On the most crowded day in June 2007, 31 percent were operating above capacity, according to the study.

The facility on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, for example, was 575 percent above its capacity. It was holding 138 inmates on its most crowded day in June 2007, far greater than the 24 it was designed to hold.

Other overcrowded facilities include ones on the Tohono O'odham Nation (391 percent); the Navajo Nation (367 percent) and the Fort Apache Reservation (287 percent). All three are located in Arizona, a state with six jails on the above capacity list, the most of any state.

The report included a facility-by-facility breakdown of population and jail capacity.

Adult males continue to make up the overwhelming percentage of the Indian jail population. They comprised 71 percent of the inmate numbers in midyear 2007.

Male and female juveniles make up 13 percent of the population, about the same rate as prior years. Of this group, 8 percent were male juveniles.

According to the data, about 4 in 10 inmates were being housed for some type of violent crime. Domestic violence (20 percent) accounted for the largest group of violent offenders, followed by simple or aggravated assault (13 percent) and rape or sexual assault (2 percent).

DUI/DWI incidents accounted for 8 percent of the population, with another 7 percent for drug offenses. Most of the remaining inmates, 44 percent, were housed for "other" offenses.

The report included data on the total number of Indian inmates in tribal, federal and state facilities. This figure jumped from 68,177 in 2004 to 71,274 in 2007, an increase of 4.5 percent.

Of the 27,674 American Indians and Alaska Natives held in custody at midyear 2007, 50.4 percent were in state prison. Only 7.8 percent were in Indian Country facilities.

Indian Country facilities have been the focus of Interior Department investigations. Inspector General Earl E. Devaney said conditions were worse than expected, with a large number of deaths, suicides, attempted suicides and prisoner escapes that were never reported until he looked into the issue.

One of Devaney's report blamed top Bureau of Indian Affairs officials for conditions that contributed to the death of 16-year-old Cindy Gilbert in a holding facility at the Chemawa Indian School in Oregon.

Department of Justice Report:
Jails in Indian Country, 2007 (November 2007)

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