MACHIAS (AP) – The Passamaquoddy Tribe is looking at allegations that jailed members of the Pleasant Point Reservation have been subjected to discrimination and criminal abuse.

The allegations, spelled out last week in a presentation by the tribe’s Criminal Justice Committee and an outside criminologist from a peace organization, focus on activities by tribal police and state and county corrections officials.

The most dramatic case cited was that of Peter Gabriel, a father of six who died in 2002 at Down East Community Hospital after being held at the Washington County Jail. A drug user with advanced diabetes and an amputated leg, Gabriel, believed to be 40, had asked repeatedly for medical attention while at the jail for his leg, which had become gangrenous.

“The requests were ignored. By the time (Gabriel) was taken to the hospital, it was too late,” said a statement from the Pleasant Point Reservation.

Washington County Sheriff Joseph Tibbetts said he was unaware of the allegations and had no comment on them.

The Feb. 22 presentation was made by Denise Altwater of Pleasant Point and Jamie Bissonnette of Cambridge, Mass., a criminologist from the American Friends Service Committee’s Criminal Justice Program.

The two women said Pleasant Point members held in the Washington County Jail face conditions that include extreme overcrowding, intrusive strip searches and sexual abuse of women. Three women told Bissonnette of sexual harassment at the hands of guards, and two of those women spoke of rape.

They cited statistics showing that 7.2 percent of the 500 tribal members at Pleasant Point have been sentenced to state prison terms within the last two years. That compares to 1.5 percent of the general population serving time, according to the women’s study.

Altwater and Bissonette said their findings reflect more than 18 months of research and interviews with tribal members who have cycled in and out of the county jail and the state prison in the last two years.

“They have been severely traumatized by their experience,” Bissonnette said during the presentation. “Many of these young people will carry the effects of this experience within them throughout their lives.”

Tribal Gov. Melvin Francis announced the appointment of a special council to investigate how drug addiction, crime and the criminal justice system are adversely affecting tribal members, particularly young people.

AP-ES-03-02-05 1234EST



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