Law | National

CNN: American Indians overrepresented in prison populations

"Whoever wins the 2012 U.S. presidential election faces multiple, serious problems in the U.S. prison system. One issue is the soaring prison population and its rising costs; but another is the issue over who makes up that population.

The problem in Todd County, South Dakota, is that too many of their young men end up behind bars.

"I think every family on this reservation has (a family member) in prison," Rose Bear Robe, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, told CNN. "It's beginning to be normal now, when people used to be ashamed of it."

The Rosebud Sioux reservation occupies all of Todd County on the southern border of South Dakota. It spans hundreds of miles of sweeping grassland spilling into four other counties in the state, and is covered with small canyons and winding creeks. That beauty contrasts with small clusters of homes in need of repair and a community clearly in need of jobs.

Bear Robe says the rest of the country, outside the reservation, does not realize the serious problems that exist on tribal lands. Huge numbers of a critical group, men, aged 18-30, are in prison rather than trying to build the community and their families, she said."

Get the Story:
Problems of liberty and justice on the Plains (CNN 8/10)

Join the Conversation