Content warning: This document contains redacted accounts of the events leading up to 16 deaths in BIA custody.
In 2021, The Cruzan Group was hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to conduct a three-month review of 16 deaths in custody from fiscal years 2016 through 2020. The BIA commissioned the report to take a hard look at how effective their policies and standards were around investigating deaths in custody.
The report details the deaths of these 16 individuals. Ten of the 16 deaths occurred within the first 72 hours in BIA custody. The review found that the BIA’s internal administrative investigations were often missing documentation, and there were “multiple instances of no administrative investigation report prepared.” Additionally, it found there was “no centralized investigative review and approval process within the BIA” and “no record of supervisory case review or guidance.” The report recommended a number of reforms to improve the efficacy of these investigations.
In February 2022, the BIA released a statement announcing more than two dozen policy reforms as part of a renewed commitment to better the conditions in detention centers funded and operated by the BIA. The statement credits the Cruzan report recommendations for these reforms.