Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

'More Respect and Dignity': New Prison Reform Initiative Aims to Lower Indigenous Incarceration


Men incarcerated in a prison unit supported by the nonprofit-led Restoring Promise initiative sit together in a common area at Cheshire Correctional Institution in Cheshire, Conn. (Photo/Restoring Promise)

In North Dakota, a new partnership between the state's Department of Corrections and a grassroots organization led by formerly incarcerated Native Americans plans to transform the prison system with one core principle: dignity.

Beginning in January 2022, North Dakota's four prisons will undergo change ranging from reinventing solitary confinement cells into bright and open living quarters, training staff in cultural awareness and historic trauma, mentoring youth workshops led by formerly incarcerated people of color, and softening policy to allow inmates agency to perform basic human tasks, like turning off and on lights in their rooms and allowing visiting family into their rooms.

The partnership is aimed at reducing a staggering statistic: Native American in North Dakota are 4.7 times as likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts, according to statistics from the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.


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