TGB Doubles Their Contribution to Sawyer County Criminal Justice Committee
By Joe Morey
JusticePoint CEO and Co-founder, Nick Sayner, came before the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) on Monday, Nov. 9, to share with them an update on the agreement his non-profit organization has with the Sawyer County Board of Supervisors on providing evidence-informed criminal justice programs, practices, and policies.
The Sawyer County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee (CJCC) oversees the position that Sayner will hold, and the TGB in the past has committed $25,000 annually to operations of the committee, but with the hiring of JusticePoint, the budget is expected to increase significantly to $233,835.
Following discussion with Sayner, the TGB unanimously agreed increasing their contribution to $50,000 annually over the next three years while the county portion will be $183,835. The motion was made by Lorraine Gouge and seconded by Tweed Shuman, both TGB members and members of the CJCC.
Shuman said he believes the funds could come from the Enbridge account because this benefits the entire Tribe.
Sayner recently explained to the Tribe he hopes to see the Tribe’s contribution used towards a tribal representative, “That could act as an advocate for tribal members and a liaison to the Criminal Justice Programs. I’m not 100% sure of the impact of this type of program or position could have but I would expect it to go a long way to ensuring that the disparities that are clearly evident in the criminal justice system are not ignored.”
Shuman told Sayner on Monday that he would like to see Sayner’s role include being a big voice in coordinating between the county and the Tribe’s efforts to expand their courtroom, which is to include a zoom meeting room, a public defender and a scheduling agent for the court. Shuman said the Tribe’s plan includes having Sawyer County Judge Yackel hear cases through our expanded court whether it be in person or via zoom.
LCO Sec-Treasurer Michelle Beaudin also said she wants to see all traffic citations issued within the boundaries of the reservation transferred into LCO Tribal Court. She said this is not happening right now and this would help LCO Tribal Court create revenue for the Tribe.
The TGB heard a report from Sayner at their weekly meeting on June 29, regarding a Sawyer County Jail Assessment done in 2018. The assessment data was presented back then to the county showing those being held and what the risk factors are of those being held and concerning to the TGB at the time was that the report showed a disproportionate number of Natives are incarcerated in the Sawyer County Jail at 67%.
JusticePoint screened 186 pre-trial inmates and 68 post-conviction over a 90-day period in 2018. 64% were male and 36% were female, which Sayner noted was an unusually high number for females.
Sayner told the TGB on Monday his goal is to continue to show the data and raise questions.
“We need this data to show that we need to focus on diversion and reflection,” Sayner stated. “The Tribal-County cooperative partnership in criminal justice programs will help the county achieve more funding from the state as well.”
LCO Vice-Chairwoman stated these criminal justice programs intended for diversion rather than incarceration are important, “And we need to have these programs here and we need to keep moving forward on this to help the county receive more funding from the state.”
Sayner recently told LCO News the issues discovered through the 2018 jail assessment should be viewed as a public health issue and should be kept from the traditional criminal justice system as much as possible.
“The individuals involved should be referred to community or tribe-based programs and services that focus on these issues. The emerging research that is generated from the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion Grant seems to support this notion as well,” Sayner stated.
Sayner told the TGB in June what they found in the assessment was increased felonies, overcrowded jail, the high percentage of drug charges, lack of public defenders and a lot of money being spent shipping inmates to other counties.