New jails helping, but more needed

LOS ANGELES

Who would have thought that the national economic downturn in 2009 would have such a big effect on the jails on the Navajo Reservation?

But because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Navajo Nation is now able to house more prisoners for a longer period of time than they have had been able to since 1992, according to Delores Greyeyes, director of the Department of Corrections.

The last several years have seen the tribe spend more than $150 million in federal stimulus money to build new facilities in Crownpoint, Tuba City, Chinle and Kayenta. To understand how important these facilities were to the Navajo Nation, you have to go back to the early 1990s and listen to anyone who had to spend any time in a tribal jail.

There were complaints about overcrowding, inadequate plumbing and heating, along with conditions that some prisoners said were worse than those found in Third World countries.

These complaints finally brought in attorneys for DNA who filed suit against the tribe. Realizing that if the matter went to a hearing they would lose, the tribe signed a consent decree, which set limits on how many prisoners could be housed at any facility and required upgrades.


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About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.