U.S. Senate addresses tribal detention center inadequacies

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Coconino County District 5 Supervisor Louise Yellowman is commending the efforts of the United States Senate and the Arizona congressional delegation for their efforts to fund public safety on tribal lands. The U.S. Congress recently approved legislation to address the inadequate detention center facilities on the Navajo Nation.

In tribal communities across the nation, the poor conditions of tribal jails and detention centers has caused overcrowding and created safety concerns for tribal residents. In June 2006, when the Tuba City public safety building was condemned, the Navajo Nation was forced to temporarily relocate their public safety operations, as well as their corrections operations, into various modular units. In April 2007, the Chinle facility was closed due to an electrical fire. The closure of these facilities has created a demand for more beds than the Navajo Nation has available. As a result, many inmates serve only a portion of their sentences.

In deliberations in the U.S. Senate on Senate Bill 2731, language was added by Sen. Jon Kyl and Sen. Jon Thune to provide $2 billion in funding for Native American public safety and water projects. Of the $2 billion, $1 billion will be used for law enforcement and health care on tribal lands. The additional $1 billion will be used for water projects.

The language included in S.B. 2731 authorizes $750 million in public safety funding that will be used to fund detention center facility construction, tribal police and tribal courts, and investigations and prosecutions of crimes on tribal lands. Also, pending approval of tribal and local governments, a portion of the funding may be used to cross-deputize officers between jurisdictions.

"I would like to thank Arizona's congressional delegation and the administration for their attention in addressing the substandard condition of detention center facilities on the Navajo Nation, which has led to a lack of justice for the Navajo people," Yellowman said. "I would also like to thank the Tribal Council and the tribal people for their work on this important issue."

The Coconino County Board of Supervisors has continued to advocate for funding for tribal detention center facilities on the Navajo Nation to address public safety needs.

For more information, call Coconino County Government Relations Director Joanne Keene at (928) 679-7134 or toll-free at (800) 559-9289.

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