After Five Years, Indian Youth Jail Remains Empty
By Andrew Ramonas | March 22, 2010 8:08 am

A $2 million American Indian detention center for youth offenders remains empty and non-functioning five years after it was built using Justice Department grants, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul reported Sunday.

The center was finished in 2005 and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, Minnesota’s most cash-strapped tribe, expected the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to request more than $1 million a year to help run the 13,000-square-foot, 24-bed facility. But the BIA never requested the funding and the tribe said it does not have the money to operate the center. The tribe has now hired lawyers to take the federal government to court.

The plight of the Red Lake Band has caught the attention of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and has frustrated former Minnesota U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger.

Heffelfinger told the Star Tribune that the delay on opening the facility is “ridiculous.”

“Just putting the bricks and mortar up and then walking away doesn’t solve the problem,” Heffelfinger told the newspaper.

A 2004 inspector general report of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was highly critical of efforts to open up more American Indian jails. According to the Star Tribune, the report said the detention program was “a national disgrace” that was hampered by “crisis of inaction, indifference, and mismanagement.”

The DOJ and Bureau of Indian Affairs declined to comment to the newspaper.

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