Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A snowstorm swirls around Two Rivers Detention Facility on Monday morning. According to Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Bryan Rice, the facility should be reopened in 90 days after nearly two years of the building remaining vacant.

Is it for real?

Opening date for Two Rivers facility could be ‘fast-tracked’ to January
By January 2018, the Two Rivers Detention Facility in Hardin may be ready to take prisoners once again, according to Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Bryan Rice. Speaking with U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. during an Oct. 25 meeting of the Committee on Indian Affairs, Rice said the BIA plans to prepare a contract and reopen the 464-bed facility in 90 days.
 
“We see it as a critical thing that needs to get done,” Rice told Daines. “There’s an expectation that it will be fast-tracked and moved through [the process].”
 
Thanking Rice for his help, Daines told him, “There are a lot of eyes watching us…especially the folks out there in Big Horn County.”
 
Daines was alerted to the contract issue, he said, by a May 8 letter from Crow Tribal Court Judge Leroy Not Afraid. In the letter, Not Afraid stated Crow detainees were being “illegally overcrowded” in facilities “across this state and Wyoming.”
 
At the time, Not Afraid wrote that 26 Crow members and 63 Northern Cheyenne were being detained at a BIA facility in Lame Deer, “designed to accommodate only 19 persons.” These numbers certainly had changed, he said Tuesday, but the overcrowding remained.
 
In addition, he wrote in the letter, the BIA had failed to deliver Crow prisoners to court for their arraignments, hearings and trials which – due to Crow Speedy Trial Code – could require “the court to release dangerous criminals into the public pre-trial.”
 
Four instances of late prisoners had occurred, according to Rice – due to icy roads and poor driving conditions. Crow court officials believe the acual number is between 20 and 25.
 
If the Two Rivers facility is available, Not Afraid said, it would alleviate the overcrowding situation and allow detainees to be located closer to Crow Tribal Court. Usually, “the buck stops” at the Interior secretary’s office, he continued, and taking the issue to the senate committee level could get the facility opened.
 
“That has never happened before this time,” Not Afraid said. “I think the Committee on Indian Affairs is going to see action.”
 
The Two Rivers facility had opened previously on Aug. 27, 2014, bolstered by a contract between the BIA and Emerald Correctional Management. Once the BIA declined to renew its contract with Emerald, however, the facility dropped from an average of 150 prisoners before the Nov. 1, 2015 cutoff date to zero in January 2016.
 
Prior to Rice’s statement, claims that a BIA contract was in progress for the facility weren’t new. Jason Thompson, assistant director of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services, told the News the wait “shouldn’t be too much longer” back in November 2015.
 
In this case, the BIA offers more than quotes – namely, an opening for potential correctional officers on the USAJobs website. According to the announcement, the BIA is offering “many vacancies” for full-time correctional officers in Hardin, with the hiring period scheduled from Nov. 6-20. The appointment type is “permanent,” the site states, and salaries are between $31,383 and $50,370 per year.
 
“Do you have experience or aspirations to work in the corrections field, which includes supervising, caring for and transporting inmates in Indian Country?” the site states. “If so, this job could be for you!”
 
Hiring preference will be given to American Indian candidates, the site states, “in accordance with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.”
 
Chairman Jon Darr Matovich of the Two Rivers Trade Port Authority – founded to promote economic development in Hardin – said he will know the facility is ready for operations once the lease is signed. Federal processes, he continued, require a significant amount of “rules and regulations and checklists.”
 
“When you have a facility of this size, it isn’t a split-second decision,” Matovich said. “It takes a lot of time, especially when dealing with the government.”
 
This lease may arrive soon, according to BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling.
 
In a recent email, Darling  stated that “Indian Affairs has submitted a lease package” for the Two Rivers facility to the General Services Administration, an independent federal agency who helps manage basic government functions.
GSA asked for additional documentation to review, she continued, though she could not discuss contract details until it was finalized.
 
In the meantime, those seeking jobs as local corrections officers may go online to www.usajobs.gov. On the USAJobs homepage, type in “Correctional Officer” as the keyword and “Hardin” as the location. 
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