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If you’re an American Indian in Montana, you have a good chance of going to prison.
In 2008, 20 percent of the men in Montana prisons were Native, while 27 percent of women inmates were Native. The imprisonment is happening in a state where Natives only make up about 7 percent of the state population, according a Montana Department of Corrections biennial report.
If state officials continue to imprison Native men and women at rates three to four times above the state’s white population, more should be done to ensure American Indians have adequate representation before they end up behind bars. And if that doesn’t work, at least give them a voice in prison such as white inmates have.
Montana is among a handful of states where Indians are disproportionately sent to prison, including North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and South Dakota. Consider these statistics from a 1999 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, American Indians and Crime: