BJS Report: Jail Population Increases in Indian Country
Jails on Indian reservations across the U.S. are housing more offenders despite a decline in violent crimes, according to a report released last year.
The most recent annual Survey of Jails in Indian Country by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported that 2,364 prisoners were confined in 79 Indian country jails at midyear 2012 – a 5.6% increase in the jail population over the previous year.
The June 2013 survey noted, however, that only 32% of prisoners in those jails were incarcerated for a violent crime – a decrease of almost 10% from a high in 2007. Most violent offenses were for domestic violence and assault.
A majority of the total Indian country jail population (51%) was incarcerated in just 14 facilities, with nearly half of those located in Arizona. While several Indian country jails saw a decrease in incarceration rates, the Tohono O’odham Adult Detention Center in Arizona – with the largest Indian country jail population – held 229 offenders in 2012, an increase of 17.4% from the previous year.
Sixteen facilities were operating above 15% of their rated capacity as of June 2012. Indian country jails admitted a total of 12,502 people during 2012; the average length of stay was 5.4 days.
Sadly, higher jail populations have not resulted in increases in programming, treatment and educational services. According to the BJS’s 2011 Survey of Jails in Indian Country, almost half of Indian country jails lacked GED programs, over 75% did not provide vocational or job skills programs, 64% did not offer life skills and around 46% did not have domestic violence counseling. Sex offender treatment was available at just eight Indian country jails. However, almost all of the jails offered drug or alcohol abuse treatment programs.
Most Native American prisoners are housed in correctional facilities outside Indian country reservations. Nationally, the BJS reported that 27,500 Native Americans and Alaska Natives were incarcerated in federal or state prisons and local jails in 2011; another 49,000 were on probation or parole.
Sources: “Jails in Indian Country, 2012,” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (June 2013); “Jails in Indian Country, 2011,” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (Sept. 2012)
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