Saturday, February 24, 2018

Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility, due to a drop in funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has been forced to relocate the vast majority of its prisoners and place its employees on furlough. Jason Thompson, assistant director for the BIA, said detainee numbers should soon increase, as he expects a new contract with Two Rivers to be organized quickly.

Drop in BIA funding drops Two Rivers detainees to nine

“All of the tribes under the jurisdiction of BIA Corrections were moved until funding is available.” -Warden Ken Keller

Since opening in late August 2014, the Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility has had an average detainee population of about 150. By July, that number had risen to 250. As of Friday, four months later, they were down to nine.

While a fluctuation in detainees is common among private corrections facilities, Warden Ken Keller said this large of a drop was new to him. He spent most of his 25-plus-year career working at corrections facilities in Wyoming.

The reason for the sudden drop in detainees, according to Keller, is a decline in funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Corrections for their contract with Two Rivers.

“All of the numbers dropped as of Oct. 31,” he said. “They had no funding as of Nov. 1.”

According to Jason Thompson, assistant director for the BIA, the contract between his organization and Two Rivers should be renewed quickly, though he admitted to not having control over the timeline. He said the BIA “ran up against the end of the year” in approving a new contract and he expressed a desire not to repeat the delay in the future.

“The new contract is at the contracting office now,” he said. “I don’t really know how long it will take, but it shouldn’t be too much longer.”

Thompson said many tribes remained “pretty eager” to use the Two Rivers facilities, as they had programs that helped people recover from issues including substance abuse. Rumors stating that American Indian tribes had decided to discontinue using Two Rivers, Keller said, were untrue.

“None of the tribes have pulled out of Two Rivers,” Keller said. “All of the tribes under the jurisdiction of BIA Corrections were moved until funding is available.”

To help refill the facility, Keller has been coordinating with self-governing tribes, called “638s” based on Public Law 93-638: the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.

Tribes utilizing this act have more flexibility in the control or management of federal programs affecting their members.

Two Rivers employees have been furloughed in the meantime while funding is down, Keller said, to preserve their jobs. Under the furlough, staff are required to take an additional day off per week to help lower the cost of running the facility. According to Keller, none of the building’s staff have been laid off.

“Furloughing is much better than layoffs, because we’ve invested a lot in our staff,” he said. “They’re an important part of the company and facility.”

Despite rumors circulating to the contrary, Director Nedra Darling of the BIA Office of Public Affairs said the facility is not currently under investigation.