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Watchdog report finds persistent issues inside federally run jails in AZ Indian County

A government watchdog advisory released at the end of April finds persistent safety issues with federally run detention centers on tribal land. 

The  advisorycomes from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Interior. 

That’s the parent agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which runs and maintains federal adult and juvenile detention centers in tribal land.

The watchdog says it found significant health and safety issues at the San Carlos Apache Adult/Juvenile Detention Center, the Tohono O’odham Adult Detention facility and the White Mountain Apache Adult Detention Center in 2015. The new report says an audit carried out in the fall of 2022 showed conditions at the facilities have not improved and in some cases, have worsened.

It cites conditions like leaky pipes and non-working toilets. Auditors also found the women’s ward at one facility did not have working air conditioning. 

Congressman Raúl Grijalva said the report highlights how consistent underfunding has impacted the Bureau of Indian Affairs and said the persistent problems cited undercut trust between the federal government and Indian Country.

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.