Montana Native American Reservations
The Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility in Hardin was built in 2007 on hopes it would boost an economically-depressed area of southeast Montana bordering the Crow Indian Reservation. Local officials said they at last have found a legitimate and reliable operator for the 464-bed jail in Emerald Correctional Management, a Louisiana-based private corrections company.
After being vacant for over seven years after construction was completed, the Facility became operational in July 2014 and in August 2014 accepted the first inmate. By early October, the inmate population had increased to almost 60…all Native Americans. Two Rivers has taken in almost 60 inmates in recent weeks from American Indian reservations in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. Most are serving time for alcohol or drug crimes and must go through an intensive rehabilitation program in Hardin
“They should have consulted us beforehand,” Blackfeet Nation Chairman Harry Barnes said. “They showed up on a Friday and said they were going to tear the jail down Monday. …We were only in a position to listen, but we had some concerns with people going all the way to Hardin.”
Barnes said that could present a hardship for family members who want to visit inmates but can’t afford to make the journey.
But according to Bruce Gillette “We’ve sent people to other treatment facilities but there are no locked doors so they can literally walk out of get kicked out … From where I’m at, only God could have sent those guys from Hardin to me.”
The jail is owned by Hardin’s economic development agency, Two Rivers Authority.
Hardin Jail To House Native Americans
Sooooo, let me get this straight…. they have teamed up with Louisiana who is notoriously known for their high incarceration rates and prisons for profit? Louisiana imprisons more people than any country in the world. 1,619 people per 100,000 residents.
Lt. Dee Hutson: ‘It’s a career.’
“You have people who are so invested in maintaining the present system — not just the sheriffs, but judges, prosecutors, other people who have links to it,” said Burk Foster, a former professor at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and an expert on Louisiana prisons. “They don’t want to see the prison system get smaller or the number of people in custody reduced, even though the crime rate is down, because the good old boys are all linked together in the punishment network, which is good for them financially and politically.”
In the early 1990s, when the incarceration rate was half what it is now, Louisiana was at a crossroads. Under a federal court order to reduce overcrowding, the state had two choices: Lock up fewer people or build more prisons.
It achieved the latter, not with new state prisons — there was no money for that — but by encouraging sheriffs to foot the construction bills in return for future profits. The financial incentives were so sweet, and the corrections jobs so sought after, that new prisons sprouted up all over rural Louisiana.
The national prison population was expanding at a rapid clip. Louisiana’s grew even faster. There was no need to rein in the growth by keeping sentencing laws in line with those of other states or by putting minor offenders in alternative programs. The new sheriffs’ beds were ready and waiting. Overcrowding became a thing of the past, even as the inmate population multiplied rapidly.
“If the sheriffs hadn’t built those extra spaces, we’d either have to go to the Legislature and say, ‘Give us more money,’ or we’d have to reduce the sentences, make it easier to get parole and commutation — and get rid of people who shouldn’t be here,” said Richard Crane, former general counsel for the Louisiana Department of Corrections.
The more empty beds, the more an operation sinks into the red. With maximum occupancy and a thrifty touch with expenses, a sheriff can divert the profits to his law enforcement arm, outfitting his deputies with new squad cars, guns and laptops. Inmates spend months or years in 80-man dormitories with nothing to do and few educational opportunities before being released into society with $10 and a bus ticket.
Locking up as many people as possible for as long as possible has enriched a few while making everyone else poorer. Public safety comes second to profits.
Read more Louisiana Is The Worlds Prison Capital
I wanted to see just how much Native Americans represented the Montana Offender Population. This is what I found from Montana Department of Corrections.
Based on self-reporting by offenders, Native Americans continue to be over-represented in the corrections system. Although they make up about 7 percent of Montana’s overall population, Native Americans account for more than 17 percent of the total number of offenders under department supervision. This includes offenders anywhere in the corrections system, from prison to parole and probation. All other minorities represent 5.2 percent of the offender population.
One out of every five incarcerated male offenders is Native American. That is almost three times higher than the rate at which natives are represented in the general Montana population. The proportion of the prison population that is native has changed little since 2008, but increased from 15.1 percent to 20 percent since 1997.
The actual number of Native Americans may likely be higher than those that “self reported” in the DOC document. Given the racial disparities of the system some Native Americans are likely failing to acknowledge their status out of the hope for less stigmatization.
The DOC solution to the staggering numbers of Native Americans . . . a single staff member, The American Indian liaison serves as the department’s authority to provide knowledgeable guidance to department staff on Native American spiritual and cultural issues within the environment of sound correctional practices. The liaison regularly meets with the governor’s Indian affairs coordinator, tribal officials, Indian Alliance Center staffs, Montana- Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council members, and other American Indian representatives to ensure ongoing communication regarding department activities, programs and initiatives. The liaison communicates with American Indian offenders and their families to listen to concerns and develop solutions that take into consideration the cultural and spiritual needs of native offenders. The liaison provides training on American Indian cultural practices and helps recruit prospective employees from within the native community and at state and tribal colleges. Perhaps the most shocking information to be found is the apparent total lack of concern on the part of DOC that its own workforce is clearly not representative of Montana’s ethnic groups, which are most widely represented by Native Americans . . . As is the case with most Montana employers and reflecting the state’s overall population, the Department of Corrections work force is predominantly Caucasian. Minorities account for only 3 percent of the department employees, which is lower than their representation in the state’s total population (emphasis added).
If Native Americans were hired at DOC at their population incidence of 7% there should be 93 Native American workers within the Department of Corrections – not 15.
INDIAN PEOPLE’S ACTION – P.O. BOX 113 BUTTE, MT 59703-0176 – PHONE:406.565.3475 had this to say:
Documented minority-hire within the Montana Department of Corrections is abysmal and a disgrace to our State. That this Department plays such a vital and important role with so many Native Americans and other minorities and their families and yet boasts such an employment record is beyond understanding. The message has gone out to Indian Country loud & clear that DOC is not a place where we are welcome . . . except as inmates. The lame and worn out excuse of, “they don’t apply” does not remove the responsibility of this agency to do a substantially better job of reaching out to the Native American and other Minority communities for workers. As a Native American, when one looks at the incarceration numbers and then at the employment numbers it is impossible to come to any other conclusion than the Montana Department of Corrections is anything but minority-friendly. The other, less gentle, version is that the DOC is rife with institutional racism and oppression and simply refuses to recognize it! There you have it. What comes across is a smug and self-satisfied agency that acknowledges that Native Americans are over-represented, but then shrugs its shoulders and self-congratulates that there is nothing more left to be done. The lack of engagement is staggering and contributes to the reality and perception that the Montana Justice system is stacked against Native Americans.
While considerable amounts of other DOC-related issues were documented in the Report, none provided any delineation of data regarding Native Americans. It is impossible to determine from the Report if there were substantial differences in these other categories between the Native American and general populations. We suspect that there are. From a Native American perspective, the Montana Department of Corrections rightfully appears to be a bastion of gross cultural insensitivity. Their own Report and data confirms that. The over-representation of Native Americans in the prison system is nothing new. It has gone on for decades. What is disheartening and sad to see is that the DOC simply seems to accept this now as the status quo and, after all this time, still doesn’t appear to regard it as an issue worthy of study and understanding much less systemic change or initiative.
We see little in the DOC 2013 Biennial Report that makes us believe that DOC will change anytime soon.
Side note, I looked at the DOC 2015 Biennial Report and the chart and that last statement seemed to be correct. This is what I found.
Scott Crichton of the Montana American Civil Liberties Union has said, “People who claim that racism is not an issue in Montana, have their heads in the clouds. Racism here is real and it is profound, it’s demonstrated in the prison system at each stage of the processing, from profiling and arrests and public defense to probation.”
Montana, you already know what I think on this whole subject. It’s a disgrace. Montana has become and is a prison for profit state. No ifs, ands or buts. That’s the truth. Remember the article I shared on a Native American 10 year old. A Montana Grandmother’s Fight For Her 10 Year Old Grandson Who Was Arrested And Placed On $500,000 Bond.