March 20, 2014

Finding the straight and narrow

By Jerry W. Kram

Growing up on the Fort Berthold Reservation has never been easy. With the influx of unfamiliar people and oil money, the temptations and risks for youth on the reservation have never been greater.

Members of the Three Affiliated Tribes juvenile justice system work to help young tribal members stay on the straight and narrow. A group that includes correctional workers, court and police officers came to Edwin Loe Elementary School Tuesday in the first of what they hope will be presentations to every classroom on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Jordan Dionne and Jennifer Lenning from the Gerald "Tex" Fox Justice Center, JoAnn Baker with TAT Tribal Court and Officer Cris Cruz of the TAT Police Force were the presenters for the inaugural round of school visits.

"We have an antibullying program in our school," said Elementary Principal Dan Anderson. "To have community resources provide that instruction is very beneficial. They can go home and share that connection that we have with all the groups in the community. The more communication we have with the juvenile justice system, the better the children can understand how the system works and come to trust it and use it to keep their family safe."

Baker, who recently returned to working for the courts after several years away, said the number of youth entering the juvenile justice system on the reservation has skyrocketed since the oil boom has come to the reservation. She felt there was a need for more interaction between the system and reservation schools to work together to keep young people out of trouble.

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