Congress addresses detention center deficiencies on the Navajo Nation

FLAGSTAFF - On Dec. 26, President Bush paved the way for the U.S. Department of Justice to review the state of tribal detention center facilities on the Navajo Nation. The President signed an omnibus appropriations bill into law (H.R. 2764), which included language addressing the lack of tribal detention facility capacity on the Navajo Nation.

Included in the amended bill is a provision acknowledging that Congress has concerns with the inadequate conditions of the Navajo detention facilities. The bill directs the Department of Justice to review the state of existing tribal detention facilities and the need for new detention capacity. The Department of Justice is to report to the Appropriations Committee no later than 180 days after enactment of the Act on its findings, including recommendations and actions that have been taken, or will be taken, to address these needs.

"I am pleased that Congress has [finally] taken notice of the detention center conditions on the Navajo Nation," said Coconino County District 5 Supervisor Louise Yellowman. "This has been an issue on Coconino County's federal agenda for many years and the assistance is [greatly] needed."

The Coconino County Board of Supervisors has been in contact with Congressional Representatives for many years regarding this issue as well as other issues affecting the Navajo Nation, including the Tuba City boarding school, uranium mining issues and the San Francisco Peaks pumice mine.

The Navajo Nation was forced to relocate their public safety and corrections operations into various modular units after the Tuba City jail was condemned June 29, 2006. The relocation has been a temporary solution to the closure of the Tuba City public safety building. In April 2007, the Chinle public safety facility was closed due to an electrical fire. The Navajo Nation has few beds for the entire Navajo Nation. Due to the lack of available detention facilities on tribal land, many inmates serve only a portion of their sentences.

"I appreciate the efforts of Senator Jon Kyl, Senator John McCain and Representative Rick Renzi, who have always been supportive in bringing this important public safety issue to light and assisting in providing a solution to this problem," said Yellowman.

For more information, contact Coconino County Government Relations Director Joanne Keene at (928) 679-7134, or e-mail jkeene@coconino.az.gov.

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