Members of the Riverton Peace Mission presented research last month showing Native Americans are arrested at disproportionate rates in Fremont County.
The numbers vary by jurisdiction, according to the report, with the most disproportionate arrest rates appearing in Riverton, where, between 2016 and 2020, Native Americans made up about 10 percent of the local population but accounted for more than 77 percent of arrests, according to the data.
‘We want that to end’
RPM chair Allison Sage said the numbers demonstrate that the City of Riverton’s policies “are still practicing genocide on our Native people.”
“We want that to end,” he said during an RPM webinar last month.
His statement was backed up by a report from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which “links Native American incarceration rates to the lasting impact of colonial oppression,” according to a radio interview that was played during last month’s webinar.
RPM member Tina Jayroe said the national report “sets the stage” for the local data she compiled, which reveals “exactly” the same issue exists in Riverton and elsewhere in Fremont County.
Jayroe used information from Data USA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Data Explorer to conduct her research, along with local arrest reports published regularly on County 10.
The numbers showed that, although Native Americans only make up about 20 percent of the Fremont County population, they accounted for about 43 percent of arrests through the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office 2016-2020.
In Lander, Native Americans make up almost 7 percent of the population but accounted for almost 45 percent of arrests 2016-2020, according to the report.
Arrests for public intoxication and outstanding warrants were the most prevalent in all three jurisdictions, Jayroe added, noting that many individuals, often unhoused people, are taken into custody for those kinds of offenses “over and over.”
“They go to jail, (and) they’re released,” she said. “This is a pattern.”
Webinar attendee Kathleen Petersen likened the repeat-arrest situation to a “revolving door,” asking why there is “no help being offered, or some treatment, or some something, to have that not be?”
“How can we help that person with whatever’s going on?” Petersen asked, referring to individuals who are arrested multiple times for the same offense. “You would think that somewhere, somebody would say, ‘We need to help out and do something.’”
The RPM has met with local elected officials and law enforcement personnel to discuss the problem in the past, Sage said, but “I don’t think they were really listening or hearing what we were talking about.”
He hoped that Jayroe’s report would help get the message across, because “now we have data – evidence – to prove it, (and) people can see it for themselves.”
“We’ve got lots of work to do,” Sage said, inviting the webinar attendees to get involved with the RPM. “There are so many issues that we’ve got to talk about and research and figure out our strategies. … We need more people to join with us to help us.”
The RPM plans to present their data to the Riverton City Council during a regular meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 7.
Read County 10’s previous reporting on disproportionate sentencing rates here.