Plan would reduce Native American women prisoners
By Nora Hertel
PIERRE (AP) — A criminal justice oversight council in South Dakota unanimously endorsed a proposal Monday to apply for a grant from the federal government to help reduce the disproportionate number of Native American women from Pennington County in the prison system.
Of the women in the prison system, about 30 percent are from Pennington County, where Rapid City is located. Native women constitute a large portion of that group.
The council oversees the implementation of the Public Safety Improvement Act. The act took effect in July, and its oversight council met Monday in Rapid City.
The council granted support for state staff to apply for a federal grant to fund a program to help high risk women in Pennington County.
Jim Seward, the chair of the council, said the program would not be only for Native Americans. But, he said, "the data suggest that population to be in high need."
Seward said the award could be up to $1.75 million over three years, depending on the parameters of the project and whether or not the application to the federal government is successful. The effort could help women with housing and other needs in order to reduce their risk of offending.
At the meeting, Department of Corrections staff announced that South Dakota has signed an agreement with Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribal officials for a pilot program to allow Native American parolees to serve their parole on tribal land, where the state does not have jurisdiction. State and tribal law enforcement will work together to ensure supervision of the parolees.
In the past, corrections officials have said some Native Americans have gone back to reservations rather than serve their full parole time in other communities. At Monday's meeting officials added that serving parole on the reservation encourages social integration.