Federal investigators have found abuse, neglect, and inhumane conditions in the Native American prison system that could have contributed to some deaths, Interior Department officials said yesterday, reports USA Today. An undisclosed number of deaths are being investigated by the department’s Inspector General’s Office in a check on run-down prisons on tribal lands across the nation, said Dave Anderson, Interior’s assistant secretary for Indian affairs. He would not discuss the number of deaths being investigated, how victims were killed, or whether they included employees as well as inmates.
Anderson said investigators have found that some juvenile offenders have been forced to share cell blocks with adult inmates. The prison system in 2002 held 2,006 inmates in 74 prisons across 55 million acres of Indian lands.
The probe has found that some guards routinely have been put at risk because of staffing shortages in 30-year-old facilities where some cell doors no longer can be locked. Several facilities with no running water, heat, or working toilets are depicted in a videotape that was prepared by a retired law enforcement official with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Anderson said the tape added “a sense of urgency” to efforts to fix the prisons.