- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Minot Daily News, Minot, June 8, 2016

FBI provides ND with extra muscle

A visit to North Dakota by the head of the FBI this week was good to see the feds taking a sincere interest in North Dakota.

What was wrong was that it took this long for the Obama administration to react to the type and volume of crime the state’s reservations and other communities in oil country have been facing for years.

FBI Director James Comey was in the state Monday and visited the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and Williston, and took part in the opening of a new FBI office in Williston meant to beef up the FBI’s presence in western North Dakota.

He heard from tribal leaders and law enforcement officials that drugs and violence are prevalent in their communities.

“It’s no secret that we struggle with the advent of crime, over the past seven or eight years we’ve gotten a little bit desperate,” said Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Mark Fox. “The excess of crime on Fort Berthold is literally killing our people and tearing our people apart.”

That is sad, unacceptable and, well, downright criminal. American citizens living in fear of thugs when the richest nation in the world has the means to do better.

But one look around the country tells us that North Dakota is not alone. Violence and lawlessness is the news of the day in most cities these days; certainly in the major cities, and in plenty of towns the size of Williston and New Town, too. And Minot.

There is hope, though. However it involves a new administration. Hopefully the next resident of the White House will find a way to shift Washington’s focus more onto domestic issues and less on problems around the world, problems that other countries need to take greater responsibility for.

That said, we are grateful for the extra muscle being provided by the FBI. We sure can use their help and authority to investigate crimes and make arrests.

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The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, June 8, 2016

Prison right to adopt new approaches

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been making changes in how it operates the state penitentiary and the early indications of the results are positive.

In a series of stories Sunday, reporter Caroline Grueskin explained why the prison has been moving away from the use of solitary confinement. Interviews with prison officials and inmates showed how a willingness to explore alternatives to how things have been done for years has prompted major changes.

When additions and renovations were made at the prison seven years ago increasing the size of the solitary confinement cell block, officially known as the administrative segregation unit, was a priority. When completed, the unit was quickly filled and prison officials realized the system wasn’t working. It was chaotic and confining men for long stretches in small cells didn’t improve behavior.

When prison administrators visited a prison in Norway they were intrigued by the idea that prison should be more like the outside. The penitentiary has been working since then to reduce the number of inmates in solitary. This involves changing the approach used by corrections officers to inmates and working to change the behavior of inmates. The motto has become “behave your way in, behave your way out.”

Some may think the prison is going soft, but it isn’t. The prison and most of the jails in the state are full. Officials have been saying for some time that the state can’t build its way out of the problem. We have to find ways to prepare inmates for a return to society. Solitary confinement can add to a prisoner’s attitude problems.

Solitary confinement hasn’t been dropped, but it’s not as quickly used as in the past. Prison officials should be commended for their willingness to adopt new approaches. Changes are going to be necessary or the state could be overwhelmed by corrections’ costs in the future.

This week legislators are being told if no action is taken the cost of contracting beds for the state’s growing prison population will total $485 million through 2025.

That figure doesn’t include building any new prisons, according to Katie Mosehauer, project manager for the Council of State Governments Justice Center, which is working with lawmakers on a study of the corrections system. The Justice Center hopes to help lawmakers decide on action to ease pressure on the prison system while also reducing recidivism rates and improving overall public safety.

The work of the Legislature combined with the steps being taken by prison officials could put North Dakota on the path of solving its prison and jail problems. It’s an effort that needs to succeed.

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