Lack Of Jail Space Creates Law Enforcement Crisis
WINDOW ROCK -- Getting arrested on the Navajo Nation is like being handed a "get-out-of-jail-free" card, Public Safety Committee Chairperson Hope MacDonald-LoneTree told federal officials this week.
MacDonald-LoneTree testified at a conference in Minneapolis before members of five federal agencies which have united to form the Tribal Training and Technical Assistance (TT&TA) program to address tribal justice issues.
Navajo facilities have deteriorated so severely prisoners can be kept overnight in only three of the six adult detention facilities. Many inmates serve only a portion of their sentences due to the lack of jails.
"Congress must restore federal funding for prison construction in this year's budget and immediately address the crisis facing Navajo Nation," MacDonald-LoneTree said.
"Currently, criminals who are arrested in Navajo Nation are essentially getting a 'get-out-of-jail free' card. Since December, 1,163 individuals have been booked into the Tuba City facility, but because of dilapidated facilities and a mere 82 prison beds, only nine criminals are actually still serving time.
"This is unacceptable. The federal government has a moral obligation to work with us to ensure the families in Navajo Nation are safe. I urge Congress to take the first step by restoring prison construction funding within the Department of Justice budget," she said.
According to Navajo Nation records, 1,163 individuals have been booked into the Tuba City facility since Dec. 1, 2006, with all but 53 of them released. Those 53 prisoners were housed at other facilities. Only nine are currently serving time.
"The bottom line is that facilities in Navajo Nation aren't fit to house humans," MacDonald-LoneTree said. "Congress must restore funding for prison construction in Indian Country.
"Congress must also retain flexibility to address immediate needs. And in Navajo Nation, we're facing a prison construction crisis. I am anxious to continue working with other tribal leaders to tell Congress that the tribal line items in DOJ budget must be kept," she said.
DOJ officials invited MacDonald-LoneTree to serve on a panel of leaders in Indian Country Public Safety to discuss ways for tribes to partner with other tribal, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
The TT&TA is made up of representatives of the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, DOJ and the Office of Justice programs.
MacDonald-LoneTree asked DOJ officials: "How is the Navajo criminal justice system ever to adequately partner with other jurisdictions when all we do is release our criminals back into Navajo and neighboring communities?"
With a population of more than 250,000 spread over an area larger than West Virginia, the Navajo Nation makes up more than one-third of the national on-reservation population of Indian Country.
The Navajo Nation has recognized the lack of detention facilities as a paramount priority, and recently enacted a 1 percent sales tax dedicated for detention and other public safety facilities.
"We have raised our own taxes -- despite the poor economic situation in Navajo Nation -- to address this vital issue," MacDonald-LoneTree said. "It is time for the federal government to fulfill its trust responsibility and join us in providing funding for new detention facilities."
The Nation's Fiscal Year 2009 budget request to DOI's Secretary Dirk Kempthorn shows Public Safety and Justice the Nation's second priority behind Education, a position it has held for the last three years.
President Bush's 2008 DOJ budget proposes to create four large grant programs to replace more than 70 existing grant programs. The Tribal Prison Construction program is one of those slated for elimination.
The DOJ consolidation proposal also does not provide any indication or surety that Indian programs will receive any funding or that Indian tribes will receive a fair portion of the broad and largely undefined block grant programs.
BIA and DOJ have worked together to build 23 new detention facilities in Indian Country in the last decade. None of those were built on Navajo.
Three Navajo facilities on DOJ's priority list have not received funding, while every other facility ahead of them has been built. Moreover, several facilities ranking below those for Navajo also have been constructed, MacDonald-LoneTree said.
"Hopefully, the U.S. Congress and the Department of Justice will preserve elements of the Tribal Law Enforcement grant programs, especially the Tribal Prison Construction program, so that the federal government can honor its trust responsibility to assist Navajo Nation with the unacceptable lack of detention facilities," she said.
Straight To The Source -
Submitted by The Western Shoshone Defense Project
Supremes say upgrading coal plants without reducing pollution a no-no
We love the Supreme Court this week. In a unanimous decision yesterday, Big Justice overturned a lower court ruling and declared that Duke Energy did indeed violate the Clean Air Act when it modernized coal plants without paying for pollution-reduction equipment. Duke had claimed it wasn't required to consult the U.S.
EPA when upgrading eight plants between 1988 and 2000, as it did not increase their hourly emissions; green groups had sued, arguing that modifications increased the number of hours the plants were in operation, thus increasing annual emissions, thus necessitating a permit
Right you are, said the Supremes, in a ruling that may have a green-colored ripple effect. The case now heads back down to district court. SCOTUS chose not to rule on Duke's backup argument, that federal clean-air requirements should not be triggered by "routine maintenance." And a complete overhaul of a plant is totally routine maintenance, right?
The Engine On The Bus Goes 'Plug, Plug, Plug'
U.S. states beginning to invest in plug-in hybrid school buses
Once upon a time, someone had an idea: let's transport U.S. schoolkids in big yellow buses that spew diesel fumes and have no seatbelts. The nation embraced the idea -- though oddly, the plan to dangle a knife above each seat was scrapped -- but now it's having second thoughts. Enter the plug-in hybrid school bus, soon to be used in 11 states. Still no seatbelts, as far as we know, but the cleaner ride can get nearly twice the mileage of its predecessor (12-plus miles per gallon vs. seven-ish) while potentially halving fuel use.
"When we first talked about this [in 2002], manufacturers acted as if we were asking them to build flying cars," says Ewan Pritchard, the engineer behind the design. But Navistar, the nation's biggest yellow-bus-maker, has made plug-ins a reality. "There is a huge shift going on -- a seismic shift in mindset and in technology," says a company marketing rep. The buses cost over $200,000 -- more than twice as much as the old models -- but demand should drive prices down.
Get The Chertoff Off My Back!
U.S.States worry as Homeland Security issues chemical-plant rules
Funny story: Of the 15,000 U.S. chemical plants, as many as 7,000 are in highly populated areas and at high risk for an accident or attack.
Ha! Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security released the first comprehensive federal rules for tracking the security of such sites. Which seems good, until you realize many states have already enacted even tougher chemical-security laws and are freaking out about whether their laws -- or any future versions -- will be pre-empted by this one.
While Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said the new rules would ensure that the U.S. is "systematically driving down the risk of the most dangerous chemicals," the rules set no timetable for changes and don't require a shift to safer chemicals or technology.
Said Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, which has one of the toughest laws in place, "The department continues to crawl toward the goal of stronger security, while many of the states know that we should be running toward it."
Then, There's The Short Term
Long-term radiation risks lower than some daily hazards, study finds
Living in fear of a nuclear meltdown? Now you can relax! A new study says the long-term risks faced by survivors of two of the world's most notorious nuclear episodes -- the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the 1945 bombings of Japan -- are lower than the risks caused by urban air pollution, obesity, and smoking.
For instance, the study found, while radiation exposure at Chernobyl may mean a 1 percent chance of contracting cancer later in life, living with a smoker increases mortality 1.7 percent. Those still living near the doomed reactor might have "a lower health risk from radiation than ... if they were exposed to air pollution in a large city, such as nearby Kiev," says study author Jim Smith of Britain's Center for Ecology and Hydrology.
"Our understandable fear of radiation needs to be placed in the context of other risks we encounter in our daily lives" to help shape the response to future incidents, he says. Some say it's not a fair comparison, but we say -- hang on, gotta light this butt.
How Many Queens Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?
Britain's Queen Elizabeth studying how to green her palaces
Word on the street is HRH the Queen of England Her Majesty With the Breath of Baby's Breath Elizabeth is looking at ways to lessen the impact of her palaces.
Proposals being floated include switching Buckingham Palace's 40,000 lights to efficient bulbs, building a turbine in the Thames to generate power for Windsor Castle, cooling the royal wine cellars with boreholes instead of air conditioning, and flying less. Last year, Lil and Prince Phil took 425 plane trips, including 45 overseas; they used the royal train (!) just 14 times.
Reportedly the household carbon footprint of the Queen -- who is rumored to wander corridors turning off lights, maybe the best image ever -- is 3,751 tons a year. That's just a skosh above the English average of 10 tons per person.
"The management of energy has been an integral part of royal households for many years and we are now taking a look at where we are at," said a spokesperson. Here's one idea: fewer palaces!
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