The Navajo Nation Department of Corrections addressed budget shortfalls this week, announcing that several facilities would be put on hold because of a lack of funding.
The department planned to spend $204.8 million on five new facilities on the Navajo Nation in the next few years, but it has a $185.2 million shortfall.
"They don't have the funding," said Jared Touchin, spokesman for the Navajo Nation Council Office of the Speaker.
The department already completed the Tuba City and Crownpoint facilities, which cost $105.1 million for both. Most of that cost was covered by funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the remainder came from a Key Bank loan.
Chinle's facilities are ready for construction, though the shortfall may stall the process.
The projects in Shiprock, Fort Defiance, Dilkon and Piñon also will be stalled. Chinle, Shiprock, and Fort Defiance's facilities were estimated to cost $47.5 million each. Dilkon's would cost $35 million, and Piñon's $27.3 million.
"The need is serious," said Duane "Chili" Yazzie, Shiprock Chapter president.
Shiprock's jail and court date back to the 1960s and have received few improvements since. The structure is becoming increasingly outdated and needs to be brought up to code, Yazzie said.
Additionally, the Shiprock jail, which has about 50 beds, regularly releases its inmates early because it does not have enough room for those that are incoming.
"They can't have prisoners for very long," Yazzie said.
New buildings for Shiprock alone would cost $47.5 million, which would include a new jail and courthouse. A space would also be designated for juveniles.
The new facilities would mirror the newly built Crownpoint facility, which opened in March. The new Shiprock jail and court would be 111,000 square feet and the jail would have about 150 beds, Touchin said.
Unfortunately, no one knows when the new space will be constructed.
Touchin said he is uncertain why it took the department of corrections so long to announce the halt of the numerous projects.
"They've known for awhile now," he said.
Jenny Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane.