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BIA neglect causing crisis in juvenile detention for tribes throughout Arizona
October 15, 2006

There is a crisis in Indian Country, but amazingly, no one with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) seems to care.

The federal department, charged with overseeing so many aspects of Native American life, is mired in a dangerous, incompetent juvenile detention approach that is devastating tribal youth and budgets throughout Arizona.

At least seven tribes - the Havasupai, Hualapai, White Mountain Apache, Tonto-Payson, Yavapai-Apache, Yavapai-Prescott and CRIT - believe the efforts are being managed so bizarrely and incompetently that they have no choice but to speak up and to ask for immediate assistance from Arizona's congressional delegation.

The BIA has removed juveniles from tribal detention facilities, forcing them to be transported to multiple states. Using tribal law enforcement officers for these long trips means fewer officers remaining on duty to protect citizens on the reservation.

Such transport also removes officers from adult detention centers which can create unsafe conditions for detainees and officers alike. And locating juveniles extreme distances from their communities decreases the ability of families to visit and tribal rehabilitation services to be deployed - a situation that ultimately increases recidivism, sometimes dramatically.

Despite its legal obligation to fund and oversee tribal juvenile detention programs, the BIA has failed to pay for the extraordinary transports and radical changes in the program, denying tribes of precious resources they otherwise need for health care and education.

Not only that, but the BIA has refused to respond to repeated letters and entreaties on this subject throughout 2006.

CRIT is currently working to address the problem by building its own juvenile detention center. The Tribes have received a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for about half the cost of construction. CRIT tax revenue will be utilized for the project.

But the facility is currently in the planning phases - CRIT recently selected an architecture firm to design the building - and is not expected to be open for at least a year to 18 months from now.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs' unbelievable abdication of responsibility is unacceptable. CRIT and other Arizona tribes need help with this problem, and they need it now.

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