Mary Annette Pember: Native girls in custody at sky-high rates

Cover image for the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story report from the Human Rights Project for Girls. Photo by Richard Ross / Juvenile in Justice

Independent journalist Mary Annette Pember shares the alarming findings from a new report that shows Native American girls are in residential placements at a rate of 179 per 100,000, by far the highest rate in the United States:
Native American girls are at the highest risk of imprisonment in the U.S. According to the report 179 of every 100,000 Native girls end up in prison. The report also states that girls in the juvenile justice system are disproportionately victims of sexual violence. The 2007 Amnesty International report Maze of Injustice found that Native American women and girls are also 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than any other women in the U.S.

For those working with Native women and girls, the data from the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline comes as no surprise.

“Native girls have the highest rates of poverty and exposure to childhood sexual violence in the nation,” notes Sandi Pierce, president of Otayonih Research in Minnesota. Pierce is a long time researcher on sex trafficking especially among Native women and girls.

Perversely girls, especially girls of color, who experience sexual abuse and violence are routed into the juvenile justice system because of their response to these traumatic experiences, according to the report. Girls’ common reactions to such trauma often include running away from home, substance abuse and truancy. These status violations top the list of crimes for which girls are most likely incarcerated.

“The Report’s findings regarding Native girls are very illuminating, but are also somewhat intuitive, given what we already know about trauma,” Sarah Deer remarked. Deer, of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, is a long time legal scholar and advocate and is best known for her work focusing attention on the pervasive inequalities of the law regarding sexual and domestic violence for Native American women living on reservations. She is professor of law at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.

Get the Story:
Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline Report: A Native Perspective (Indian Country Today 8/10)

Human Rights Project for Girls Report:
Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story (July 2015)

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