Understanding Indian Reservation Jails and Detention Centers
Because the legal system in ‘Indian County’ operates outside of the legal jurisdiction of the cities, counties and states where the individual Indian Reservations are located, and the land is wholly owned and governed by the Tribes, the jails and detention centers on those lands are maintained and run by the individual Tribes. The police that provide the security and enforce the laws and the courts that mete out justice are also controlled by the individual Tribes.
There are over 90 jails and detention centers throughout Indian Country, of which, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Office of Justice Services (OJS) staffs and operates a quarter of these facilities. The remainder are operated by Tribes through the PL 93-638, Self-Governance Compacts and a few are fully funded and operated by a tribe. Each jail is unique in operation and location.
Indian Reservation and Tribal laws also fall under the legal jurisdiction of the federal government. If a federal law has been broken, the Department of Justice may get involved. In that case, a convicted person from a crime committed on Indian Lands may be required to serve their time within the BOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons).