Our criminal justice system is rooted in racism. In Montana, our Indigenous populations make up only 6% of state residents, but 23% of our incarcerated population.
Probation and parole are advertised as necessary, but without the resources to avoid recidivism, parole violations remain a significant stressor for many of those working to rebuild their lives.
Most Native Americans that return to prison are not actually committing new crimes, but are violating impossible parole conditions. The cost and scarcity of treatment programs on reservations means that burdening addictions and mental health problems go unaddressed.
This can negatively affect people’s efforts to meet additional reentry obligations, such as finding a place to live and work. Supervision requirements, such as attending check-ins, taking drug tests, and staying in work release programs are all the responsibility of the individual, and there are not sufficient supports to make that possible.
Our system as-is puts offenders at a lower ability to escape poverty than before they were arrested. Montana should increase investments in mental health and addiction services and expand access to services to reduce recidivism. We need our government to establish tribal reentry programs and holistic defense systems for Native Americans on probation and parole.