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PRESS RELEASE: Access to Prison Creates a Path Home for Indigenous Inmates

October 25, 2022

Chris Wright Communications Office
DOC Secretary Cheryl Strange and Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin, center, and other DOC officials after signing the agreement Oct. 25.

DOC Secretary Cheryl Strange, Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin, center, and other DOC officials after signing the agreement on Oct. 25. (Photo courtesy of Communications Office)

MARYSVILLE – At a signing ceremony today, the Tulalip Tribes and the Department of Corrections officially entered into a historic agreement, the first of its kind, that will allow individuals convicted in tribal court to serve their sentences in DOC jurisdiction. The agreement is the result of SHB 5694, which was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 31, 2022. It allows individuals sentenced in tribal courts for longer sentence terms to access the services the Department of Corrections offers that local jail settings cannot provide.

“This agreement provides tribal members with access to services that will contribute to their successful reentry into their community,” said DOC Secretary Cheryl Strange. “It will further shape efforts to reduce recidivism and provide more access to those that we serve.”

Restorative justice is integral to the Tulalip Tribes' past, present and future. Indigenous people are uniquely tied to place, culture and community. Addressing and healing the root causes of criminal tendencies, rather than relying merely on punishment to deter future criminal behavior, is a top priority for the tribe.

"When our people come home, we need them to come home better than when they were first incarcerated,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “Jail settings are not ideal for long-term care or rehabilitation. We needed another tool in the toolbox. Accessing both Department of Corrections prisons and local jails means we can provide people with the environment that best meets their needs."

Tulalip, like most tribes, has relied on jails to house those convicted in their jurisdiction; jails that do not offer spiritual/religious ceremonies, behavioral health care, educational and vocational programming, or reentry services. By partnering with DOC, these individuals will now have access to all of the rehabilitative programs that are provided in state facilities.

"We find that most crimes our citizens commit are related to addiction," Chairwoman Gobin continued. "Addiction is the epidemic of our time, and so often it's driven by trauma, lack of mental health services, or unmet medical needs. Prison offers health care services, programs that allow our people to connect or reconnect with their culture, and education programs."

The Tulalip (pronounced Tuh’-lay-lup) Tribes, are the direct descendants of and the successors in interest to the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, and other allied bands signatory to the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott. Tulalip is a sovereign nation with the inherent right to govern our people. Tulalip funds 92% of our services with tribal hard dollars from gaming, natural resources and business ventures. These services included tribal member general welfare, family and senior housing, education, health, dental, and mental health services, as well as roads, planning and infrastructure. Tulalip provides law and justice programs, fire protection, infrastructure improvements, and economic growth to the Reservation. Tulalip has over 5,100 citizens, 2,700 of which reside on the 22,000 acres Tulalip Indian Reservation.

Washington State Department of Corrections works to improve public safety by positively changing the lives of over 13,000 individuals across 12 prison facilities and 12 reentry centers. We are committed to operating a safe and humane correctional system and partner with others to transform lives for a better Washington.