Locked Up: Fear, Racism, Prison Economics, and the Incarceration of Native Youth

40 American Indian Culture and Research Journal 55, 2016

UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper

38 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2016

See all articles by Addie Rolnick

Addie Rolnick

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law

Date Written: 2016

Abstract

Native youth are disproportionately incarcerated, often for relatively minor offenses. One potential solution is to move more Native youth out of federal and state courts and invest in tribal juvenile justice systems. Tribal systems are assumed to be less punitive than nontribal ones, so greater tribal control should mean less incarceration. Little is known, however, about the role of incarceration in tribally run systems. This article examines available information on Native youth in tribal juvenile justice systems from 1998 to 2013. At least sixteen new secure juvenile facilities were built to house youth under tribal court jurisdiction, with federal investment in incarceration far outpacing investment in alternative programs. The total number of juveniles housed in these facilities remained constant or declined, suggesting that new construction was not driven by a need for more bed space. Of the juveniles incarcerated in these facilities, a minority had committed violent offenses, suggesting that incarceration was used by tribes as a tool to address drug, alcohol, property, and other nonviolent offenses. By critically examining the central role played by incarceration in tribal juvenile systems and situating it against the backdrop of the national trend toward mass incarceration, this article seeks to help tribes avoid replicating mistakes made by other jurisdictions.

Keywords: juvenile justice, incarceration, tribal juvenile justice, prison overcrowding, tribal jurisdiction, criminal justice, nonviolent offenses

Suggested Citation

Rolnick, Addie, Locked Up: Fear, Racism, Prison Economics, and the Incarceration of Native Youth (2016). 40 American Indian Culture and Research Journal 55, 2016; UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2810386

Addie Rolnick (Contact Author)

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )

4505 South Maryland Parkway
Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154
United States

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