New Tribal Jail On the Way to Navajo Nation

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 Coming soon to a Navajo Nation community near you - a new tribal jail.

Construction of new jails - the first in more than 30 years - is underway in Tuba City and Kayenta with plans to build more in the next year or two in other areas of the reservation.

The construction is being financed with a combination of federal stimulus money and loans taken out by the Navajo Nation. All told, more than $100 million will be spent in the next two years on facilities to handle the growing number of Navajos being locked up for violent crimes, officials said.

Existing jails are overcrowded and decrepit, and the tribe is under a consent decree imposed by the Navajo Nation courts after DNA People's Legal Services Inc. filed suit almost 20 years ago to demand improvements.

Currently, corrections officials and prosecutors meet almost daily to decide which prisoners to release in order to make space for new arrivals. The question is always who poses the least threat to society, and the answer is not always clear, officials say.

But those days will soon be over as the new jails will provide hundreds of additional beds.

"We are now doing ground work on the new jail in Tuba City," said Delores Greyeyes, director of corrections for the tribe.

This will become the biggest jail on the reservation with 132 beds. The 144,000-square-foot facility will cost $61 million and will include space for the courts and law enforcement programs serving the Tuba City District.

The facility will also include space for programs to help the inmates deal with issues such as alcoholism and violent behavior, Greyeyes said.