A new study released Sunday by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that the number of people in prison within Indian country is on the rise.
Among the self-governing Native American communities across the U.S., the jail population rose to 2,380 inmates in midyear 2014 from 2,287 in midyear 2013. That represents a 4 percent bump.
Since 2004, the number of jail facilities has grown from 68 to 79 by midyear 2014.
The number of people admitted to Indian county prisons in June 2014 was 10,460, which is about five time the average population of 2,170 inmates. Half of those in jail that month were convicted inmates. The average stay of an inmate is 6 days.
Domestic violence and aggravated or simple assault accounted for the majority of the incarcerated inmates.
In a speech in December of 2014, then-Attorney General Eric Holder discussed “epidemic of violence” in Indian country at the White House Tribal Nations Conference. He said that the violent crime rates on tribal lands reached “two, four, and sometimes over ten times the national average” and one in three Native American or Alaskan women would be raped in their lifetime.
In an effort to curb the violence, Holder said he had been working to improve cooperation between the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and tribal leaders to expand Indian country prosecutions.
The BJS study does find some promising statistics.
Three in 10 inmates have been held for a violent offence since 2010, a drop from a peak of 4 in 10 in 2007. Attempted suicide rates are down, along with the percentage of convicted inmates serving time behind bars. The number of individuals jailed for alcohol and drug-related offenses have also declined since 2000.
The report was written by BJS statistician Todd Minton.
According to a Census Bureau count in 2010, only about 22 percent of Native Americans live on reservations and off-reservation land trusts. The Census Bureau Geography Division counted 334 federal and state reservations, excluding the Hawaiian Homelands.
The 2010 findings showed the poverty rate among Indian and American Indians and Native Alaskans at 28.4 percent, far above the national average of 15.3 percent. The median income of native households was $35,000, compared to the $50,000 median income for the rest of the U.S.
As of 2013, the Census counted 5.2 million Native Americans living the U.S. at large, comprising 2 percent of the total population.