Navajo Nation Lacks Funding To Complete Jails

April 03, 2013

Photo by Laurel Morales
Tuba City corrections supervisor Robbin Preston shows off the new jail. He needs funding for 110 officers and staff to run the facility.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation has one of the highest crime rates of any Indian reservation in the country. The tribe is trying to address the problem. One of the critical issues it faces right now is lack of funding for much-needed new jails.

The tribe has completed two of seven planned jails, mostly with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars. Builders are supposed to begin a third this month. Construction is now on hold for four remaining jails.

The Navajo Nation Department of Corrections plans to spend about $204.8 million to finish them, but has a budget shortfall of $185.2 million, according to a department presentation. In Tuba City the new 136-bed facility replaced the tiny jail that could only hold a few prisoners at a time.

Even with the new jail there’s not enough money to hire the needed staff, so many of the cells remain empty. Tribal leaders are looking at various funding sources, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs.