June 14th, 2009
Throughout history, American Indian cultures handled criminal matters in widely diverse ways and, of course, did not practice Anglo-American style incarceration. In the modern era, tribal governments are also seeking alternative methods for dealing with criminal issues.
For example, the American Indian Justice Conference was held this week on the Southern Ute Reservation in Colorado.
Participants representing 40 tribes, attended the event. They discussed ways to improve the justice systems in Indian Country, with a focus on alternative methods of incarceration and punishment.
Tribes have already developed drug courts, wellness courts, and substance abuse treatment programs to deal with offenders. The Southern Ute Tribe has allows offenders to write letters of apology, participate in work or fitness programs, and sit in sweat lodges, The Durango Herald reported.
“We are seeing some positive outcomes,” associate judge Scott Moore said.
As a result of the alternatives, Moore said the number of juvenile cases on the reservation has decreased from 107 in 2006, to 95 in 2007 and to 68 in 2008. There are only 18 cases so far this year.
Tribal criminal-justice officials work at alternatives to prison (The Durango Herald 6/11)