Indian Country jails see increased numbers
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The percentage growth of prisoners housed in Indian Country jails outpaced the inmate population nationwide even as state prisons saw a decrease for the first time in nearly three decades, a Justice Department study released on Sunday has found.

Jails in Indian Country housed 1,775 inmates at the end of the 2000, according to the study. Compared to statistics from 1999, the Indian prison population grew by about 4.6 percent.

The growth surpassed the number of prisoners in federal and state facilities. From 1999 to 2000, the nation's prison population grew by just 1.3 percent.

Indian Country prisons saw an jump in numbers while state facilities saw a decline for the first time since 1972. In the last six months of 2000, the state prison population fell by 0.5 percent.

The numbers point to a growing trend of incarceration of American Indian and Alaska Natives. Tribal jails are already overcrowded, with most operating beyond capacity.

According to the Justice Department, over half of tribal jails during 1998 to 1999 were operating at 100 percent above capacity at any given time. Jails on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the Fort Berthold Reservation were the most overcrowded.

In addition to overcrowding, tribal jails also suffer from lack of funding and understaffing. Of the 69 jails in Indian Country, 67 said they needed more training and 66 said they needed more correctional officers.

But incarceration of Natives extends beyond jails on reservations. A study conducted by the Foundation for National Progress, an umbrella organization for the magazine Mother Jones, showed that American Indians and Alaska Natives are being put behind bars in state prisons at increasingly higher rates.

In a number of states, Natives are also disproportionately represented in the state prison population. In North Dakota, for instance, 19 percent of prisoners were American Indian and Alaska Native compared to just 5 percent of the general population.

In South Dakota, some 21 percent of the prison population was Native. Only 8 percent of the state population is American Indian or Alaska Native.

Although the statistics released yesterday point to a leveling off of state prison populations, the rate of incarceration of Americans has increased dramatically over the past decade. In 2000, there were 478 sentenced inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents -- up from 292 in 1990.

The average annual inmate growth rate has been 6 percent since 1990.

Of the states, 13 reported decreases in population. Five states had increases of 10 percent or more.

Get the Study:
PDF [104k] | Text [43k]

Relevant Links:
Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Justice -

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