At least 19 men and women have died since 2016 in tribal detention centers overseen by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. This comes 17 years after a federal investigation found widespread deaths, inmate abuse, attempted suicides, inhumane conditions and other issues in many of the more than 70 detention centers scattered throughout the U.S., a new investigation has found, reports NPR. Among the findings: poor staff training and neglect led to several inmate deaths that could have been prevented; correctional officers at several detention centers often violated federal policy and standards by not checking on inmates regularly or ensuring that they received medical care; and in one instance, a 22-year-old man died in a holding cell, but his body wasn’t discovered for nearly three hours.
One in five correctional officers assigned to the detention centers as of April has not completed the required basic training, which includes CPR, first aid and suicide prevention. Several of the detention centers have been in disrepair for years, with overflowing toilets, broken pipes and rust in the water. At least one facility lacked potable drinking water, forcing jail administrators to turn to charities for bottled drinking water. Congress has chronically underfunded the detention centers, despite repeated investigations. A survey last year found that 42 percent of correctional facilities are understaffed.