LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Let courtroom flags serve as a constant reminder
We applaud the district court for accepting the flags of the Leech Lake Band and Red Lake Nation into the Beltrami County Courtrooms. Census figures show that American Indians represent approximately 21 percent of the population in Beltrami County, many of whom are members of the Leech Lake Band and Red Lake Nation. The symbolism of this measure is an important step toward achieving justice for Native people in the court system.
However, if this is viewed as the culmination of a process rather than a beginning, racial justice will remain an illusion. Statistics from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission show that Native American defendants in Beltrami County are frequently treated more harshly than their white counterparts. One startling statistic gathered by the Minnesota Sentencing Guideline Commission shows that 40 percent of Native Americans placed on felony probation between 2001 and 2012 were eventually sent to prison. Only 24 percent of similarly situated white probationers were eventually sent to prison. The statistic excludes people who were convicted of a new felony offense.