Problems of liberty and justice on the Plains

Problems of liberty and justice on the Plains

Foggy Mount Rushmore: Leaders and residents alike believe the cycle of crime, accusations and prison time is costing them yet another generation of Native Americans. And they believe no one has noticed, including the candidates running for president of the United States.

The problem in Todd County, South Dakota, is that too many of their young men end up behind bars.

There are many well-documented underlying factors leading to crime and imprisonment, that minorities have higher poverty rates than whites. The broken trailer windows and cars in disrepair on the Rosebud Sioux reservation give a clue that the lack of an economy is inextricably woven into the culture and society of the area.

The United States currently leads the world in incarcerations, both in sheer number and in rate. And those numbers have been going up. The number of people in U.S. prisons nearly doubled in the 1990s, according to the Census Bureau. It has continued to go up, though by less sharp of an increase, in the past decade.
It’s gone up more than 2½ times in South Dakota in that time.

“I think every family on this reservation has (a family member) in prison. It’s beginning to be normal now, when people used to be ashamed of it.”
–Rose Bear Robe

“Tribal leaders have been raising this concern of the use of over-incarceration,” said John Dossett, general counsel to the National Congress of American Indians. “They really want to find other solutions to what is actually social dysfunction.”

At an average cost for all prisons state and federal, of $30,000 per inmate per year, according to data from the Justice Department, the inmate surge is adding pressure to already tight federal and state budgets.

But in places like Rosebud, South Dakota, the costs of incarcerations are even higher. Leaders and residents alike believe the cycle of crime, accusations and prison time is costing them yet another generation of Native Americans.

And they believe no one has noticed, including the candidates running for president of the United States.
From a CNN report, December 13, 2012.

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