4 Untold Truths About The Mass Incarceration Of Native Americans

In recent years, news and media alike covered the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. They are an organization that shined light on the mass incarceration of African Americans. Unfortunately, while BLM got much-needed attention, one specific ethnicity was left out from that light… Native Americans— ignorantly called “Indians.” Native Americans are often forgotten and thought to have “died off” or totally assimilated into the United States, but believe me, they’re very much alive, and their abject struggle is just as real. You may or may not know about the mass incarceration of Native Americans— if you do kudos to you. But for those who didn’t know before clicking on this article, keep reading to better understand the mass incarceration of Native Americans.

Where Did They Go?

People often believe that Native Americans are “gone” — they’re not. I believe this is mostly a result of what we are taught in US education system.

United States history literature is infamous for misleading people. The books explain that our pioneering ancestors committed unnecessary genocide against the Native Americans. However, the books either stop there or continue to say that remaining were forcibly put on land during the Indian Removal Act.

Whichever way they proceed, they all fail to mention the ongoing list of nefarious aftermaths that Native Americans faced in the United States. On a list too extensive to write out, there is one of many that impacts communities to this day — the untold mass incarceration of Native Americans.

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The Great Falls Tribune reports in their article — Survey: People think Native Americans don’t exist/aren’t discriminated against — that 64 percent of people surveyed don’t think Native Americans are discriminated against. And that 64 percent alone is the reason why Native Americans are grossly incarcerated — no one knows.


Incarceration Statistics

Now, when looking at the statistics of things like incarceration, it is essential to realize that the total number of Native Americans will be lower than that of Black and White constituents. You must understand the proportionality of the number of inmates in comparison to the total US population of Native Americans.

Of the approximately 300 million total people in the United States, there are about 5 million Native Americans.

Of the 5 million Native Americans, 34,500 of them are incarcerated. In the United States, there are a total of 2.3 million incarcerated people. Which means Native Americans make up 1.5 percent of prison populations. But only 0.9 percent of the country’s total population.

  • 2.3 million total US incarcerated population
  • 1.5% of total incarcerated population ins Native American
  • Native American US population is 5 million
  • 34,500 Native Americans incarcerated total in the US

This means that 0.7 percent of the Native American population in the United States is incarcerated. 

Mass Incarceration In Montana

In my research, I found that Montana is one of the worst for perpetuating the mass incarceration of Native Americans. Within the state, Native Americans comprise 6.5 percent of the population yet make up 20 percent of the state’s prison population.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports the various reasons why Native Americans make up 20 percent of the prison population

  • Most Native Americans are arrested for violating their parole and probation.
  • As a first time offender you are more likely to become a reoffender
  • Montana is home to 13 federal reservations.
  • Most indigenous people have trouble trekking back and forth to visitation.
  • For most Native Americans, it is almost impossible to meet parole and probation requirements due to a nearly 60-mile trip to check in with their officers.

This is a system that’s supposed to be rehabilitating and able to reintegrate offenders back into society. But instead, this justice system is marginalizing, oppressing, and discriminating.

United States Justice Systems

Unfortunately, this isn’t unique to Montana. Around the United States, once you’re in the justice system, it’s more or less like a Chinese finger trap. The harder you try, the more you struggle.

The United States justice is a trap for those who enter. Now that’s not to say that you can’t make it in the free society, or that no one ever has, but it certainly isn’t easy.

 In the United States, approximately 44 percent of first-time offenders are going to become reoffenders. In the United States, .8 percent of the 300 million people are prisoners, and nearly 45 percent of that .8 percent will commit another crime.

These numbers may warrant much more context, but I’ll leave that for another article.

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