Colville correctional facility now open

Jack McNeel
1/25/06

NESPELEM, Wash. -- Friday, Jan. 13, was a lucky day for the Colville
Confederated Tribes. A dedication and open house that day marked the
opening of a new correctional facility and the first time in many years
that the tribe has had its own facility.

John Dick, the tribe's former chief of police, is the facility
administrator in charge of the minimum security facility. He commented that
the old jail was closed in the mid-1980s when the tribal court issued a
closure order because it didn't meet certain standards. "We've been hauling
all our inmates to Okanogan County since then. That's a long time and a lot
of money," he said.

The building's financing and completion came about slowly. The tribe was
near the top of the list for BIA funding in the early 1990s when that
source of money dried up. When it applied through the Department of Justice
a few years later, the request was approved and the initial grant received
in 1999. A year later, a subsequent grant brought the total to $7.2
million. Planning began and construction started in 2003 with a projected
completion date of August 2004. But construction problems postponed
completion and opening until now.

The 28,400-square-foot building contains both juvenile and adult facilities
that are divided down the middle. "We can house 31 juveniles and 29
adults," Dick said. "We have five cells for adult women and 13 cells for
juvenile girls," he added. The building is modeled after one at Towaoc in
southern Utah.

The building may have been worth the wait. It is modern and designed as
much for correction as for incarceration. During opening remarks, speaker
after speaker commented on the need to provide help and instruction to the
inmates, not simply lock them up and ignore them. Cultural as well as
classroom education will be provided to help make the inmates productive
members of the community so they can resume normal lives. There are
classroom facilities and a teacher will be on-staff full time. Computers
are available for classroom instruction as well.

"We're going to try to bring traditional teaching inside the facility and
teach our young ones about their traditional ways. They're not violent
ways; they're not drinking or drug abuse ways. We built two sweat lodges
for them, one for juveniles and one for adults," Dick commented. The lodges
are located in a small fenced area behind the facility. "Our goal is to
turn them around in rehabilitation, rather than just punishment," he added.

John Dick received money last spring to begin hiring personnel. "I had to
send them down to the BIA Academy in Artesia, N.M. for training," he said.
"I sent 21 down in August and 20 graduated, then I sent three more down and
they graduated in November. So I have a staff that's pretty well trained
right now and we're ready to open; we've met all BIA requirements, so we're
all set."

The staff was all on hand at the dedication, first conducting flag-raising
ceremonies, then serving as guides for visitors on tours through the
building; even helping serve lunch to the crowd, which numbered upwards of
100 people. Mary Marchand offered an opening prayer and Brian Phillips
played a flute song. After opening remarks by John Dick, Sgt. Tony Atkins
served as master of ceremonies.

Chief Judge Steve Aycock received laughter when he said, "Anyone who wants
to stay here has to come to me for a reservation," but added how glad he
was that it had finally come to fruition. Jamie Edmonds, from the tribal
attorney's office, said, "This is an important milestone for the tribe. The
potential benefits to the community are limitless." Others who spoke
included Colville Business Council Chairman Harvey Moses Jr.; BIA Detention
Specialist Deidre Wilson from Billings, Mont.; Chief of Police Rory
Gilliland; and many others. The common thread was to give respect to the
inmates and to have them leave here as better people than when they came
in. The mission statement was frequently referred to in a positive way.

On the wall behind the podium hung a banner with the mission stated. "The
mission of the Colville Tribal Correctional Facilities is to provide a
safe, secure, rehabilitative and culturally relevant environment for those
tribal members who are in this Colville tribal facility to ensure a
positive transition and re-entry into the community."

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