April 26, 2011

The Red Road Home program

Minn. program uses American Indian culture to target prison recidivism

By Tom RobertsonIn a purification ritual, eight men in a garage huddle around a drum, as a haze of burnt sage hangs in the air. The drummers, all of whom have done time in prison, sing a song that honors the pipe and tobacco used in traditional ceremonies.

The group is part of Red Road Home, a pilot program based in Bemidji that aims to help former inmates from the White Earth, Red Lake and Leech Lake reservations stay out of prison.

American Indians make up less than 2 percent of Minnesota's total population, but they account for more than 8 percent of adult offenders in the state's prison system. In January, 789 of 9,429 state inmates were American Indians. Indians are also more likely to reoffend and get sent back to prison.

The Red Road Home program in northern Minnesota aims to slow down the revolving door, through American Indian cultural and spiritual practices. There are early signs of success, but the program may soon run out of funding.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Prison "Medicine Man" Ad Canceled and Art Empowers Native Prisoners.

Below:  "Drummers sing a traditional song in a garage on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. All of the men are ex-offenders participating in the Red Road home, a program designed to lower recidivism rates among American Indians. The program focuses on teaching traditional Indian values through culture and spiritual tradition." (MPR Photo/Tom Robertson)

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