For the second time in a year, the Yakama tribal jail is the subject of a federal investigation, this time because of the attempted suicide of a 17-year-old boy who may have been...
TOPPENISH, Yakima County — For the second time in a year, the Yakama tribal jail is the subject of a federal investigation, this time because of the attempted suicide of a 17-year-old boy who may have been held there in violation of regulations.
The boy was in satisfactory condition yesterday at Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center after jailers found him hanging in a cell last Friday.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs operates detention centers and pays for tribal-run jails.
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It was not clear whether the Yakama Nation violated federal regulations by housing the teen in its jail, BIA Special Agent John Oliveira said from Portland. The BIA ordered tribes this year to stop housing juveniles in the same facilities as adults.
“Right now we are going to conduct an investigation and see if proper procedures were followed,” Oliveira said, adding that the FBI also will investigate.
Citing the investigation, federal and tribal officials wouldn’t say why the teen was arrested or how long he had been in the jail.
Tribal Council Vice Chairman Virgil Lewis said a plan to contract with Yakima County fell through over costs, and the tribe has no other place to detain juveniles. “What are we to do?” Lewis asked. “It’s a very difficult situation; somehow we are going to have to find a way to house our juveniles.”
The tribe has operated the jail since the late 1960s, but the BIA could take over operation if the tribe isn’t meeting federal requirements, said Davis Washines, Tribal Council chairman and former tribal police chief.
There was an earlier investigation after an inmate hanged himself in June. The earlier death prompted a critical report of all Indian jails by the Interior Department’s inspector general.
The Yakama lockup was highlighted in the report, which tribal officials called unfair.
Ricky Owens Sampson, 39, used a towel to hang himself from a broken light fixture June 25. His body was not discovered for eight hours because the jail was staffed by only one person.