Corrections Presents at the Centennial Accord for the First Time Since 2009
December 1, 2021By Jacque Coe Department of Corrections
(Left to right) Gabe Galanda, Cheryl Strange and Willie Frank III stand together to discuss needs of incarcerated Native men and women. (Jeremy Barclay, Engagement & Outreach)
Throughout Washington State, correctional facilities, offices, and operations of the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) exist on the ancestral lands and customary territories of Indigenous Peoples, Tribes, and Nations. So ingrained is the history of the Tribes and Native culture that the agency’s recent role in the state’s Centennial Accord was an honor and an opportunity to discuss important issues of programming, religious freedoms, COVID-19 response, and other areas of mutual interest to the 29 federally recognized Tribes and the Department of Corrections.
Secretary Strange, along with Indigenous rights attorney Gabe Galanda and chairman of the Nisqually Tribal Council Willie Frank III, who is the son of legendary Nisqually Tribal leader Billy Frank Jr., presented at the Centennial Accord together discussing issues related to Tribal members under the custody and jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections.
“There is an opportunity to further involve Tribal members in the lives of incarcerated Natives to ensure a clear and strong cultural link of support to return to their Tribal communities after release,” says Strange. “By strengthening this relationship during incarceration through the transition to release, the population of 736 incarcerated American Indian/Alaska Native men and women have a greater chance of success. The department’s long-standing Office of Tribal Relations has built foundational practices with Tribes to encourage success and continues to work with incarcerated Native men and women to enhance those services,” said Secretary Strange.
American Indians/Alaskan Natives have a 45% rate of recidivism, a rate that is far too high. Tribal leaders and Secretary Strange felt the only way to impact the high rate of recidivism among the Native population was through a strong partnership, honoring our state’s government-to-government relationship with the Tribes.
In conversations between Tribal leaders and Secretary Strange as part of the Governor’s Tribal Leader Social Services Council (GTLSSC), Tribal leaders agreed to work with the department to create a formalized venue for conducting government-to-government business between the Tribes and the agency. In a work session a day before the Accord, there was consensus to create the Correctional Indian Policy Advisory Committee (CIPAC), a formal committee consisting of all 29 federally recognized Tribes in Washington. Tribes will have delegated representatives appointed by their Tribal councils to represent them on behalf of their issues and concerns with the Washington State Department of Corrections.